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domWith the victory last night at Rio Tinto Stadium, the Chicago Fire sit just 3 points out of the final playoff spot - sort of. Technically, DC United is only only 1 point out, and they have two more games than both Chicago and New York remaining. But, for the purposes of this conversation we will consider the Fire where they currently are - three points out of the tenth and final playoff spot. This team has been impressive lately. Very impressive. Think back to August 7th. The Fire had just gotten stomped on in Vancouver, losing 4-2 to the expansion side in an embarassing match. The league season was all but over, and we had nothing but the Open Cup to look forward to the rest of the way. Now fast forward to this morning. The Fire have won 4 ouf their last 5 league matches, sit 3 points out in the playoff race and are preparing for a USOC Final next week. Things can happen quickly in this league, and they certainly seem to be - for the moment - lining up for the Fire. But what happens if the Fire do make the playoffs? I'm here to tell you, if they get in - NO ONE will want to play them.

Every sports fan knows that playoffs can change the whole course of a season. Any season that ends in playoffs can also end with a mediocre team as league champion. Winning a playoff championship isn't about how you performed during the regular season, it's about how you perform in the playoffs. The best teams in the playoffs will often be the teams that had to fight and scratch and claw to get their way in.

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This is how I feel about the Fire. If they can somehow sneak into the playoffs, they have a legitimate shot at making a run. If they do manage to get in, they will more than likely have to run the table to do so. Pardon my poor play on words, but they'll be on fire. Last night was a huge statement. They proved that they can go into a sold out stadium, one where they've had a poor history - and win. They proved that they can play on the road without one of their key players - and win. They proved that they can have a goalless outing by their leading scorer - and win. This team proved last night that it has the ability to adapt and overcome adversity. All they have to do is get their ticket to the dance punched, once they're in - who knows? Those teams that have been playing playoff caliber [insert sport here] for the last month or two - they will be the hottest team. Once they're in, the records are erased and it's anyone's championship.

When we interviewed former Fire midfielder/defender Jared Montz a little while back we asked him about the playoffs and the Fire, and he gave a great answer. He said, "Playoffs? Wouldn't surprise me if we made it and had a strong run in the playoffs.  The table is so close that anything can happen. The past two MLS Cup winners have been teams who had a average season and turned it up in the playoffs. Hopefully we can be third team in a row to do that!"

I agree with his sentiment, and I truly believe that if they get into the playoffs, the Fire can do some real damage.