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Struggling NYCFC host Fire vying for MLS Cup playoffs
New York City FC is going to try to make the most of a second chance to clinch a berth in the MLS Cup playoffs when they host the Chicago Fire Wednesday night at Yankee Stadium.
It is the middle contest in a span of three games in eight days for NYCFC (14-8-8), which squandered their first chance Saturday night. Needing a win against the Montreal Impact on Saturday, they were forced to settle for a 1-1 draw.
That result eliminated NYCFC from Supporters' Shield contention, but coach Dome Torrent took positives from the draw, which extended the club's winless streak to six straight matches.
It was part of what Torrent called a stretch of improved performances, even though the team hasn't been rewarded with three points at the end.
"It's much better because they know, and I know as well we played better than the last four or five games, but we need already to win a game," Torrent said. "In Yankee Stadium, we need to win against Chicago. It's very important because after that, at the end when you play well you need to win."
NYCFC is now 4-7-4 away from home this season, but Torrent saw a noticeable difference in the 1-1 draw with Montreal than the club's last two road games -- a 2-0 loss in Philadelphia and a 2-1 defeat at Columbus.
"I'm happy with the performance, especially the last three games because we were able to keep the ball, to have control of the games, but we need already to win, especially for our fans in Yankee Stadium," Torrent said. "They deserve to win the game, our players, because they play much better the last three or four games."
The biggest issue for NYCFC, which is in third place in the Eastern Conference, just three points ahead of Crew SC, has been finishing chances. Over the last three games, NYCFC has two goals -- one on a free kick by David Villa and the other an own goal by Impact defender Rudy Camacho.
Their last goal in the run of play came in the Crew loss, a run of 307 consecutive minutes.
"I think our mentality really hasn't changed over the past few games," NYCFC goalkeeper Sean Johnson said. "We've been trying to stay strong and stay committed to the principles we've been given and keep trying to improve. The results haven't been there over the past handful of games, we're well aware of that, but the improvement, the last game especially for me in Montreal, with how we're playing the ball, the ball is going to hit the back of the net."
After winning 10 of their first 11 games at home -- the other a 1-1 draw against Atlanta United -- NYCFC is winless in their last four games at Yankee Stadium. The match against Chicago is the penultimate home game of the regular season.
"We've got four games to really figure it out before going into the playoffs and I think that's got to be the most important message -- every game is really important for us, but also the opportunities are there for us now," Johnson said. "We can't look back and say we didn't take advantage of them."
Chicago (7-15-7) has just one win in its last 11 games, but after eight consecutive losses, the Fire are unbeaten in their last three, including a 2-2 draw against the New England Revolution at Gillette Stadium Sunday.
"I'm satisfied with the point, completely satisfied with the team play and performance so far," Fire coach Veljko Paunovic said. "Our team, our boys did a fantastic game. In difficult moments also, we were capable of coming back and I think the team improved a lot since the last couple of months and I'm happy with the spirit we have right now."
The Fire won the first meeting between the clubs this season, 3-2, at Toyota Park on June 30 with Aleksandar Katai scoring twice in a five-minute span in the second half.
"The key man for me is Katai and (Nemanja Nikolic)," Torrent said. "(Katai) is able to score two goals against us and they defend deep normally, they use the counterattack especially with (Nikolic) and Katai."
Updated September 25, 2018