Bridgeview, IL (SportsNetwork.com) - The Chicago Fire will look to take another step toward a postseason berth on Saturday at Toyota Park as the club hosts struggling Toronto FC.
With two games to play the Fire can secure a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference with wins in both matches as the team faces Red Bull New York on the final weekend of the season.
But first Chicago must take three points from Toronto, a team that is winless against the Fire in its last seven matches.
After enduring the worst start in club history with a 2-7-1 mark through 10 games, the Fire has turned things around and is now in position to reach the playoffs, which seemed unlikely a few months into the campaign.
"You never count yourself out," said midfielder Jeff Larentowicz after his team's poor start. "Through experience you see often times it'll come down to the last weekend. I think this year will be the same, you just have to convince yourself that if you get three points the story is going to change and I think it has week after week."
That positive approach has paid off for Chicago, which has won its last two games to move into the top five in the East and into a playoff position.
A 3-0 win over D.C. United two weeks ago was a good result, but a 3-2 victory over FC Dallas last weekend was a bigger step as the team built a three-goal lead early in the second half before holding on for the win.
"We've had a lot of opportunities this year to put ourselves above the red line," defender Bakary Soumare said. "Every time we've had the opportunity to do so, we haven't gotten the job done. This is one of the first times where we're under pressure and got it done - it was great. Then some of the other results go our way and we control our own destiny."
The Fire could clinch a playoff berth with a win over Toronto and two other results going the right way. But for now the team is just focused on picking up three points and letting the rest take care of itself, as Larentowicz said.
Toronto has been eliminated from postseason contention for a while now, and with three losses from its last four games, the team has shown no signs of a positive finish to the current season.
TFC will be able to turn its attention to another important offseason in a few weeks, but midfielder Bobby Convey did his best to take something positive away from another tough campaign.
"We have some good young players here and this was a good season for them to get games under their belts," Convey said. "Hopefully we can add more experience for next year to make this team a lot better. I think this offseason is extremely important because there will be cap space to add players who really understand MLS and who are willing to play for certain salaries and who will want to be part of TFC."
It's hard not to look to the future for Toronto after the way this season played out.