Fire hope to maintain form after back-to-back wins

The Fire recovered from a potentially season-ending loss to Columbus and pulled to within four points of a playoff spot.

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Gabriel Slonina and the Fire are four points out of a playoff spot.

Courtesy of the Fire

The Fire are back in playoff contention.

Entering the game Saturday at the Vancouver Whitecaps, they’re four points out of an Eastern Conference playoff spot. After squandering a 2-0 halftime lead in a 3-2 loss to the Columbus Crew to start their three-game homestand, the Fire (6-10-5, 23 points) responded by beating Toronto and the Seattle Sounders to keep their postseason hopes alive.

While coach Ezra Hendrickson was proud of his players’ reaction after the potentially devastating Crew game, he knows they have to reproduce the Toronto and Seattle performances more consistently to reach their goals.

“Once we get over that [playoff] line, which I think we will, we just have to maintain this type of performance,” Hendrickson said.

“Stick within the game plan, and we’ll be fine, we’ll be successful. And they believe in that. They believe when we talk to them and when we tell them, and they believe in what it is that we’re doing. So when that happens and you get that consistency, good things will happen.”

Consistency has been hard to achieve during a season that has had a roller-coaster feel.

The Fire began the year with eight points through four games and looked like one of the most improved teams in the league. Then they went on a 10-game winless streak that wiped out the promising start, finding creative yet familiar ways to drop points.

The loss to Columbus looked like the finishing blow after the Fire capitulated in the second half after dominating the first 45 minutes on their home field.

But to their credit and with their season on the brink of disaster, they rebounded for two victories with a resilience they hadn’t displayed all year.

“It can go two ways: You can put your arms down and say we’ve had a tough season, things haven’t gone our way, we gave a game away,” defender Jonathan Bornstein said. “Or you can go the opposite way and say, look, we played 45 minutes of great soccer and 45 minutes of bad soccer [against Columbus]. We need to have some more consistency and then the group will be a lot better. So I think, as a group, we came out thinking the positive way.”

Wearing a wrap on his left wrist after getting accidentally stepped on by teammate Federico Navarro during the victory against the Sounders, goalkeeper Gabriel Slonina had a similar view.

“I think it’s just that we are fighters,’’ Slonina said. ‘‘We didn’t want our season to be over. So I think that losing 3-2 against Columbus at home, that hurt a lot. It meant a lot, and I think we added it as fuel to our fire. We didn’t sit back and let it hurt us. We used it as an advantage, so I think that’s how we bounced back.”

The Fire hope to maintain that bounce the rest of the season.

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