As the Fire struggled in July and August it may have seemed that the world was collapsing around them. The team was struggling and the chasing pack in the Eastern Conference were almost all putting positive runs together.
This weekend will feel like a nice change of pace for Fire fans after the forecast for the team's playoff position seemed to be getting worse with each week. Not only did the Fire pick up a 3-0 win against D.C. on Saturday, but the four other teams the Fire (14-9-6, 48 points) is jockeying for playoff position with all failed to win. Here's a look at how everything seemed to break the Fire's way this weekend.
Atlanta 3, Orlando 3
Atlanta's record: 12-8-7 (43 points)
Games remaining: 7 (5 home, 2 away)
The national media is going to focus on the league-record crowd of 70,425 that showed up to Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Saturday, but the home team couldn't use the crowd to pick up a win. With Leandro Gonzalez Pirez suspended due to yellow card accumulation, the Atlanta defense struggled. Only another Josef Martinez hat trick, his second in a row, kept Atlanta from losing.
Atlanta is five points behind the Fire, but has two games in hand and five more at the Benz. Atlanta still controls its destiny as far as passing the Fire and the next five games are all against teams outside the playoffs, but the Fire did get some extra breathing room.
Vancouver 2, Columbus 2
Columbus' record: 13-12-5 (44 points)
Games remaining: 4 (2 home, 2 away)
The Crew's draw in Vancouver is actually a positive result on its own. Vancouver took the Western Conference lead on Wednesday and had won three in a row entering Saturday's game.
However, Columbus blew a lead in the 92nd minute, meaning the point probably feels more like a missed opportunity than a solid result. The Crew have the fewest games remaining of the Eastern Conference playoff contenders, but does host the New York Red Bulls in a game next Saturday.
Colorado 1, New York City FC 1
NYCFC's record: 15-8-6 (51 points)
Games remaining: 5 (2 home, 3 away)
NYCFC led for most of the game at last-place Colorado, but, like Columbus, blew the lead late. Dominique Badji tied the game in the 88th minute, allowing the Fire to move within three points of second place.
The Fire host NYCFC on Sept. 30 in a game which now could move the Fire into second place if the standings hold for another week. That game will also be the third in eight days for both teams.
New York Red Bulls 0, Philadelphia 0
Red Bulls' record: 12-10-6 (42 points)
Games remaining: 6 (3 home, 3 away)
Of the four draws this weekend, the Red Bulls will probably be the most disappointed. New York hosted a Philadelphia team that is out of the race on Sunday, but couldn't score despite peppering the Union goal. Andre Blake came up with eight saves for Philly, which hosts the Fire next Saturday.
Key players Bradley Wright-Phillips, Sacha Kljestan and Tyler Adams came off the bench in an effort to keep them rested for Wednesday's U.S. Open Cup final in Kansas City. A trip to Columbus three days later is a big one for playoff seeding.
Elsewhere, Montreal and New England lost to significantly dent their fading playoff hopes. Montreal wasn't likely to catch the Fire even before losing at home to Minnesota, but the Impact would have been within three points of the Red Bulls with a win. Unless multiple shocking things happen, the six-team playoff field in the Eastern Conference appears set. It's all about finding out how teams 2-6 rank.
The reason the top seed isn't in question is because Toronto FC is in another stratosphere right now. The Reds traveled to LA without Sebastian Giovinco and Jozy Altidore (28 goals and 11 assists this season between them) and won 4-0 at the Galaxy anyway. Toronto is 11 points clear of NYCFC in the Supporters' Shield race and could clinch a first-round bye Wednesday against struggling Montreal.