Mike Magee (@ChicagoFire)
It doesn’t take a statistical genius to tell that with the season closing in on its last games, both the Houston Dynamo and Chicago Fire needed a win. Badly. With the New England Revolution and Philadelphia Union both playing consistent soccer for the past month, a few skeptics feared that maybe the playoff picture in the east had already been drawn…and the Fire and Dynamo weren’t in the frame.
Then Saturday night happened. Houston, coming off a home loss to the New York Red Bulls, rallied with stellar play from the back line and enough production from the attack to pull away with a 1-0 victory in Philly. In Chicago, the Men in Red were looking to score their first goal against New England this season. They tripled that, coming back from a 1-0 defecit to emerge 3-2 after a 86′ goal put the game away.
Prior to Saturday, Houston and Chicago were sitting in 6th and 7th respectively. With 3 points gained by both and 0 points salvaged by Philly and the Revs, Houston slides into the #4 spot while Chicago cracks the top 5 for the 1st time this year. Despite this feat, Chicago defender Jalil Anibaba warned against complacency, saying it would be “the worst outlook we could take at this point in time”. Coming from a team that has allowed a goal during the last 10 minutes of their last three games, complacency has definitely been a glaring problem for Chicago.
In Houston, the Dynamo back line once again “parked the bus in front of the goal”, only allowing a single shot on target despite 29 crosses from the Union. Such convincing play from one of the MLS’s best back lines is enough to prove that the thrashing at the hands of the Red Bulls was merely a fluke. Two weeks ago, Houston was able to prevent Chicago from putting the game away as well, holding them to one goal in the first half before Adam Moffatt (now a member of Seattle Sounders FC) scored a 90th minute equalizer.
the Eastern Conference’s playoff race will continue to heat up next week, especially for the middle of the pack. The Union take on Sporting KC on the 27th, while Houston hosts Chivas USA on the 21st. Chicago and New England both look ahead to in conference games versus Columbus Crew and D.C. United respectively.