Things are looking as good as they have in many years for the Chicago Fire.
The Fire have won three games in a row, something the club has done just one other time dating back to 2014. The team’s 6-3-3 record has it sitting in second place in the Eastern Conference after missing the playoffs each of the last four years and six of the last seven.
A deeper look shows the team’s schedule so far has paved the way for this positive start and current hot stretch. The Fire’s 12 games have featured just four games against teams currently in playoffs spots, which 12 of the league’s 22 teams qualify for.
The Fire are 5-1-2 against the teams currently in the bottom 10 of the league and 1-2-1 in those four games against playoff teams. The win and the draw against teams in playoff spots both came against Columbus.
Half of the Fire’s six wins, including each of the last two, so far have come against teams in the bottom four of the league standings (Real Salt Lake, Colorado, D.C.). Of the seven teams with 14 points of fewer currently, the Fire have played six of those teams (throw in a win against Seattle, a draw against Montreal and a draw at LA onto the three aforementioned teams).
So what does this mean?
It doesn’t necessarily mean the Fire are going to come crashing down to earth, but it does mean that the Fire have consistently beaten bad teams like a good team is supposed to do. Last year (or probably even the past few years) that wasn’t the case so in that way it’s marked improvement.
It also means that tougher tests are ahead. The first one is Thursday against FC Dallas, which won last year’s U.S. Open Cup and Supporters’ Shield and was the last undefeated team in MLS before losing to San Jose on Saturday.
Including the Dallas game, seven of the Fire’s next nine are against teams in playoff spots. Five of those games are against teams among the top seven records in MLS (Dallas, Orlando twice, Kansas City, New York City FC).
May 25 vs. Dallas (5-1-4, 19 points)
June 4 at Orlando (6-4-2, 20 points)
June 10 vs. Atlanta (4-4-3, 15 points)
June 17 vs. New England (4-4-4, 16 points)
June 24 vs. Orlando (6-4-2, 20 points)
July 1 vs. Vancouver (5-5-1, 16 points)
July 5 at Portland (5-4-3, 18 points)
July 22 at New York City FC (6-4-2, 20 points)
July 29 at Kansas City (6-3-4, 22 points)
The Fire have proven to be a much improved team this year and one that figures to be in contention for a playoff spot all year. The next two months should go a long way towards showing just how improved the Fire are.