As the Fire's losing streak continued, the chasing playoff pack got closer and closer in the standings.
The Fire entered Saturday’s match in Montreal in fourth place in the Eastern Conference and only five points ahead of the Impact, currently in seventh place, and Montreal had a game in hand. Simply earning a draw on the road to prevent a close playoff rival from gaining ground would have been a very positive result for the Fire. The 1-0 win they got? That’s the most important one of the season so far.
Bastian Schweinsteiger came up with the goal less than 10 minutes after Montreal’s Deian Boldor was given a red card, which required video review. Matt Polster, who made his first appearance since Aug. 12, had the assist on the play.
“It’s massive for us to get back into the flow of things and get back on that right path of winning and trying to hit (our) stride in the playoffs,” Polster said on the CSN+ broadcast.
It wasn't a pretty performance. The Fire's issues in the attack were still present with just two shots on target, but the defense held up, even surviving an 80th minute shot off the post by Ignacio Piatti.
The Fire ended a four-game losing streak, leaped ahead of Columbus to take over third place again and are now eight points above the playoff line. Another big one is at Toyota Park next week when the fifth-place New York Red Bulls come to town, but, for now, the Fire are back in the win column and have some separation above the teams below them.
This is the third road win of the year for the Fire and it is the best team the Fire have beaten away from home.
Polster wasn’t the only player to return. Brandon Vincent came on as a sub in the 89th minute to replace a cramping Patrick Doody. Vincent hadn’t played since July 5.
David Accam missed the match with an ankle injury. Accam has been nursing a hip injury in recent weeks and has been leaving training early in an effort to ease the workload on his body.
With no Accam, Dax McCarty (national team duty), Joao Meira and Vincent still only coming off the bench, the Fire delivered three points against an also shorthanded Montreal team which was missing six players due to international call-ups.
The Fire still may not catch New York City FC, which is three points ahead of the Fire with a game in hand, for second place and a first-round bye. At least now, the Fire’s playoff spot once again appears secure and a home playoff game in the first round is more likely than it was before tonight.