The Chicago Fire haven't been playing particularly well over the past month heading into the final stretch of the regular season, but they're still very much alive in the fight for an Eastern Conference playoff berth.
The Montreal Impact's spot is seemingly secure, but they're hardly satisfied with the way they've played lately.
With just one home game left after Saturday's visit from slumping Montreal, walking away with three points is nearly a must for a Chicago team on the outside looking in.
"These games are so important, we have to win and we have to figure out a way to get points on the road," Fire center midfielder Jeff Larentowicz told the team's official website. "Luckily this weekend is a home game and we can put ourselves back into a feeling of being right back into it. We have to move on and get three points at home."
The Fire (11-12-6) will hit the road for three of their final four matches after this one, and they fell to 1-2-2 in their past five contests - and out of playoff position - with last Saturday's 3-0 loss at Columbus.
They played short-handed for more than half of the game after defender Bakary Soumare was sent off in the 29th minute with his team already down a goal.
"I really thought we did alright to get to halftime 1-0," Larentowicz said. "We were able to regroup, and we knew we were in it. But when that second goal came, it became especially difficult."
With Soumare out Saturday, Chicago will have to do some lineup shuffling at center back.
Coach Frank Klopas moved Larentowicz back to fill the void against Columbus, and he'll likely either have Larentowicz or reserve Hunter Jumper there against the Impact (13-9-6).
Whichever player gets the call will have to help contain MLS leading scorer Marco Di Vaio.
Di Vaio came off the bench in the 55th minute and failed to score in Chicago's 2-1 home win over Montreal on Aug. 10 - one of the two league games he hasn't started - but the Italian has scored seven goals in the six games since.
The Impact won three of the first four in that stretch, but they've dropped their last two at home to clubs currently on the outside of the postseason bubble. After falling 2-1 to Columbus on Sept. 14, Montreal came up empty offensively in a 3-0 loss to Vancouver last Saturday.
"We cannot continue this way so we have to start thinking about our play," Di Vaio said after the loss to the Whitecaps. "The first half we didn't play well and we didn't have a lot of opportunities."
It hasn't just been about creating scoring chances. The Impact have given up seven goals in three matches and lost consecutive league dates for just the second time this year.
Still, the Impact's 45 points have them third in the East. It's the Fire in a position of urgency as part of a four-team cluster competing for the last spot.
The absence of Felipe could help Chicago's chances. The Montreal midfielder will miss the match due to yellow-card accumulation.
Though he has started 25 league matches, he came on as a substitute against the Fire on Aug. 10 and scored one of his five goals.
The Impact are 0-3 in matches Felipe hasn't started this year.
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