The last time the Fire made the playoffs was 2012 and there are a few striking similarities between that year’s Fire team and the 2017 version.
In 2012, the Fire had a second-year coach (Frank Klopas) and were coming off consecutive years of missing the playoffs. The Fire missed the postseason in 2010 and 2011, but stormed through the regular season with 17-11-6 mark. That was the best points per game record since the Fire’s Supporters’ Shield-winning 2003 team.
The ‘12 Fire began the season with a so-so record, going 5-5-3 to start the season. During that period, the Fire lost on the road to a minor-league team, the Michigan Bucks, in extra time in the U.S. Open Cup.
Then the team got hot with an 11-3-2 run through summer and into the early fall. The Fire were as high as second in the Eastern Conference standings, but lost a big showdown with conference-leading Kansas City before dropping a home match to a Philadelphia team well out of the race the following match.
The Fire went 1-3-1 in the final five matches of the regular season and fell to fourth in the standings, just missing out on a first-round bye (this is when five teams made the playoffs from each conference so there were three byes on each side as opposed to the two now). In the playoffs, the Fire hosted a Houston team in the first round that had lots of playoff experience and had made the MLS Cup final the year before. Houston won 2-1, ending the Fire’s season earlier than expected.
Entering this year, the Fire had a second-year coach (Veljko Paunovic) and were coming off missing the postseason for the previous four years, but easily qualified for the playoffs with a 16-11-7 record. That’s the best record since that 2012 season.
This year’s Fire began the season with a so-so record, going 3-3-3 to start the season. Then the team got hot with an 8-0-2 run through late spring and into the middle of summer. During that period, the Fire lost on the road to a minor-league team, FC Cincinnati, in penalty kicks in the U.S. Open Cup. The Fire were leading MLS at the peak, but dropped off a bit and lost a big showdown with league-leading Toronto before dropping a home match to a Minnesota team well out of the race the following match.
The Fire went 5-8-2 in the final 15 matches of the regular season and fell to third in the standings, just missing out on a first-round bye. In the playoffs, the Fire host a New York Red Bulls team in the first round that has lost of playoffs experience, having made it to now eight straight postseasons.
Will the end result be the same?