Life is good at Toyota Park these days, and the Chicago Fire players are enjoying it.
The Fire earned its sixth victory in its last seven games, coming from behind to beat expansion Montreal 3-1 Saturday night in front of 17,691 fans in Bridgeview.
The Fire (15-8-5) hit a milestone with the win, reaching 50 points in the standings. Not bad for a team that missed the playoffs the past two years.
“It’s definitely exciting,” veteran midfielder Patrick Nyarko said. “We set some goals (in the preseason) about the total number of points that we wanted to attain, and when we came up with that number, a lot of us said it’s a little bit ridiculous because the Galaxy won the Supporters Shield with the same number of points last year, so I think we were overexpectant.
“But it’s becoming a reality right now. Over the course of the season guys have known what it takes to get that winning mentality.
“I was telling one of the guys, last year it would’ve been hard to come back from goals down and stuff like that. We’d let our heads drop. It’s different this year. The confidence rises above all the confidence we have inside us, especially when we go a goal down. Today was one of those. We showed character.”
That ridiculous number the players talked about in the preseason? Sixty points.
“We’ve got 10 more (points) to go and six more games,” Nyarko said, smiling at how ludicrous the idea must’ve seemed in the preseason. “Eighteen points? Ten out of 18? It’s very possible. We’re going to go for it.”
The victory also kept the Fire in second place in the Eastern Conference, just a point behind front-runner Sporting Kansas City. The team has gone from just hoping to make the playoffs to aiming to finish in first place.
“Absolutely,” Nyarko said. “It’s up there. It’s up there. The main goal is to make the playoffs, but if the top spot is in sight we want to win it to host the conference final. We want to host the conference championship game here, to have homefield advantage.”
“It’s definitely there,” rookie defender Austin Berry added. “We know we can reach it. We’ve just got to keep doing what we’ve been doing the last few weeks, the last few months.”
The victory showed just how well coach Frank Klopas and the Fire front office did at midseason, with newcomers Sherjill MacDonald, Alex and Alvaro Fernandez each scoring after Montreal took the lead in the 20th minute on a Marco Di Vaio goal.
“We’re not where we want to be right now,” said Klopas, not surprisingly taking a more sober view of the rest of the regular season, “and we just need to keep going because obviously if we reach the goals that the players set for themselves, which are pretty high, then I feel confident that we will be in the playoffs. We’re not there yet, and they know that.”
The Fire played without midfielder Pavel Pardo because of right hamstring tightness. Central defender Arne Friedrich left the match in the 41st minute due to neck stiffness.
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