The Fire’s margin of error is gone.
Entering Wednesday night’s game against first-place D.C. United, the Fire are last in the 20-team MLS and have lost three straight league games. Sure, there’s 20 games remaining in the season, but every point lost means it’ll be that much tougher for the Fire to return to the playoffs.
They know this, and to their credit the Fire have begun to acknowledge their situation.
“In fact, there’s no more time,” defender Adailton said. “We cannot say that we have still 20 games to the end of the regular season. We have to think that each victory is very important for us, especially because we are not in a good spot in the table and we really need to wake up now.
“We count on the help from the supporters and also the new mentality that has to be inside of this group.”
The Fire might get some help from their (increasingly impatient) fans Wednesday night, but they’ll be without three key pieces. David Accam (left hamstring) and Shaun Maloney (back) are out, and midfielder Matt Polster is suspended after an accumulation of yellow cards.
But because of their recent form and dropped points earlier, the Fire (4-8-2, 14 points) have to find ways to get results.
“We have a good squad, so it’s not like it’s dropping off any,” coach Frank Yallop said. “Yes, we have your better players if you like, or your marquee players are not playing, but it’s time for our club as a group to go and win this game.”
Even with their best players, the Fire haven’t been able to do that consistently. Though there have been some decent performances, they’ve been deficient in front of both nets and turned winnable games into losses.
Now the Fire will have to make something of their match with D.C. United (9-5-4, 31 points), which is 17 points ahead of them and looking like the class of the Eastern Conference. Of course, the Fire haven’t looked like the class of anything, and are once again staring at a struggle to make the playoffs.
Having Accam, Maloney and Polster would help their cause Wednesday, but the Fire won’t get any breaks because they’re a struggling team without three important players. After all, these points could be big later.
“Now the mentality has absolutely to change. We need these three points tomorrow anyhow,” Adailton said. “We’re working hard this week and have been working hard to get this changing and re-start winning the games.”
NOTE: Sean Johnson said he’ll be “between the sticks” Wednesday night. If he does start as expected, Johnson would be in the Fire lineup for the first time in an MLS game since May 15 at New York City FC.