After two road wins, Fire looking to ride momentum

Before victories at Portland and Kansas City, the Fire’s 2023 season resembled their usual slog, one that was destined to end at the final whistle of the regular season.

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The Fire play Saturday night at Orlando City.

Courtesy of the Fire

The Fire are in a somewhat unfamiliar place entering the game Saturday at Orlando City.

They have actual momentum.

With consecutive road victories at the Portland Timbers and Sporting Kansas City, the Fire have reignited their season. Before those two wins, the Fire’s 2023 season resembled their usual slog, one that was destined to end at the final whistle of the regular season.

At least now — and with three home games coming up after the trip to Florida — the Fire (5-6-8, 23 points) have an opportunity.

“It’s just about confidence and belief within the group, and that’s always important, knowing that you can go in difficult places and get results. That’s going to help,” coach Frank Klopas said. “But I just always stress that we’ve got to be even-keeled and really continue to focus on the preparation and work hard, which will give us the confidence, and we’ll continue to grow and get better within every match.

“It’s a confidence boost for sure, anytime you go on the road and win back-to-back games. It’s huge for the team and for the mentality of the guys.”

As Klopas and the Fire know, they still have a lot of work to do. Even with the recent uptick, the Fire are 12th in the East and three points out of ninth place and the conference’s last playoff spot.

Midfielder Fabian Herbers was philosophical about where the Fire stand. Calling soccer a “binary” sport in which there can only be one of three results from a game, Herbers recalled when the Fire played well early in the season but didn’t pick up the points they perhaps deserved.

Now their luck might be changing. Bounces are going their way now, and more of their shots are finding the back of the net.

“It’s a fine line in those games,’’ Herbers said, ‘‘and it really helps the morale of the team, especially at this point of the season. The excitement of the first games of the season is gone, and now you kind of get in the rhythm, playing week in, week out, sometimes three games a week, and it’s really important that those results bounced our way. It gives us a push and the momentum, hopefully, to go forward and have more of those results bouncing our way and collect those points that we need.”

They also have some hope. After their 2-1 home loss to Columbus on June 10, the Fire could’ve come apart. But instead of letting that defeat crush them, they used their 11-day break between games to re-energize, which served them well on the road.

“That should give us hope for the last spell here for the last 15 games to try to do everything to get into [a] playoff spot,” Herbers said. “We’re still battling for points. We still have to make up points to get over the line, but I think those two games are really a statement that we don’t give up and that we want to keep pushing for the rest of the season.”

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