Are the Fire a playoff team? They looked like it in win over Minnesota

SHARE Are the Fire a playoff team? They looked like it in win over Minnesota

Aleksandar Katai scores during Saturday night’s game. | Courtesy of Chicago Fire Soccer Club

Many questions continue to swirl around the Fire. Their long-term home is uncertain, and even their future name is up in the air.

But one thing is pretty obvious: President and general manager Nelson Rodriguez expects this team to make the playoffs.

“I think we’re deep,’’ Rodriguez said Wednesday. ‘‘We have a deeper roster. We have more variety. I like us. Now, time will tell, and we’ll see how it all goes, but I do think we’re a playoff team, and I think we’re a darn good team.”

On Saturday, the Fire did look good.

Shooting for a third consecutive positive result, the Fire beat Minnesota United 2-0. After blanking Los Angeles FC in a draw, then routing New England 5-0, the Fire were coming off two of their best performances. This one wasn’t too shabby, either.

The victory might’ve been costly, however.

The Fire took a 1-0 lead in the 21st minute on Nicolas Gaitan’s second goal of the season. On the counter after a Minnesota United corner kick, captain Dax McCarty chipped into space for Przemyslaw Frankowski, whose centering pass for Gaitan was walked into an open net.

Unfortunately for the Fire, Gaitan’s night ended in the 33rd minute after he pulled a hamstring. A minute later, Aleksandar Katai scored to double the Fire’s lead.

In the second half, the Fire effectively locked down the game for their second straight victory and third straight shutout. The last time the Fire had won consecutive league games was during a four-game run from June 10 to July 1, 2017.

Coach Veljko Paunovic said Gaitan was having an MRI exam and would miss games. But other than that, it was another encouraging night.

“It’s a good feeling when you put together three consecutive good performances,” McCarty said. “Then you can feel like you’ve built some momentum heading into an important summer.”

Since last season, the Fire (4-4-4, 16 points) have added Gaitan, Frankowski, David Ousted, C.J. Sapong and Francisco Calvo to a roster that needed reinforcements. Through 12 games, the results have been inconsistent but closer to the 2017 playoff team than last year’s group that bottomed out.

With all that in mind, Rodriguez said he’s “willing to give time to the team and the coaching staff to put it all together.”

But progress isn’t measured in style or entertainment or the reputations of the players who join the club. It’s determined by the standings.

“It always will be,’’ Rodriguez said. ‘‘It’s the ultimate measure. We don’t hide from that. The difference is we’re not caught up in just the last result. There’s a process to building a team, to building a culture. Our competitive level within the group is better than it’s ever been. Our ability to play in different ways is better than it’s ever been. Over 34 games, I’ll be proven right or I’ll be proven wrong.”

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