The Fire looked like a dominant team Wednesday night. They beat the Dynamo 4-0 and could’ve scored six times if reviews hadn’t reversed a goal and a penalty decision.
But this Fire group has enjoyed spasms of success before, only to fall back quickly or suffer costly lapses. That’s what they hope to avoid Sunday when they host Atlanta United (4-7-2, 14 points).
“I’d rather win four times 1-0, than win one time 4-0,” Fire attacker Fabian Herbers said. “But now we got to keep it going, the momentum was good. We showed what the team is capable of if we stay engaged, and stay positive, with good energy on the field and be better on both ends of the field. I think we can get another three points against Atlanta and then we can really make a playoff push in the last final games, final nine games that we have in the season.”
If the Fire produce even remotely close to Wednesday, getting into the postseason shouldn’t be a problem. Ten teams from the Eastern Conference will advance to the playoffs, and there’s no way the Fire would miss out if they mimic Wednesday’s rout.
However, the Fire (3-7-3, 12 points) still haven’t proven they’re able to string together results necessary to make even an expanded playoff field. On Aug. 25, they beat FC Cincinnati 3-0 only to follow up with a 3-1 loss at New York City FC four days later. That was even an issue at the MLS is Back tournament, where the Fire opened by beating reigning-champion Seattle before falling flat with losses in their next two games.
For the Fire to reach the postseason, they must get points to match what they feel are strong performances.
“Sometimes we lost, and we played really good,” Fire captain Francisco Calvo said. “Just because we lost 2-0, you guys think that we play really bad. No, because then you go and watch the videos, and you can watch the game and maybe you manage the game really well. You have a lot of opportunities and that’s why I say: we were not the worst team before, now we are not the best.”
Perhaps, but the Fire know they need to carry over everything that made Wednesday their best outing of the year.
Their finishing in front of goal, which has been a topic of discussion all year, was on point. After going into halftime up 3-0, they played a smart and controlled game over the full 90 minutes, not allowing Houston any undeserved opportunities to make the match competitive.
Yet for how impressive the Fire were Wednesday, there have been other false positives this season. They want the latest performance to be a building block.
“(The result) gives confidence,” Fire coach Raphael Wicky said. “The players rewarded themselves for the whole work they put in every day, they put in in the games, and actually (Wednesday), rewarded themselves with scoring goals and not conceding goals, not making easy mistakes, not giving up easy chances. So that’s good.”