The Fire finally clinched their spot in the playoffs tonight, earning the second seed in the Eastern Conference [with a 1-0 win at a rain-soaked Toyota Park over Western Conference leaders Chivas USA](http://www.chicagotribune.com/sports/soccer/fire/chi-23-fire-chicago-oct23,0,4467014.story).
The Fire, who took the lead in the 67th minute when Chivas forward Eduardo Lillingston put a Cuauhtemoc Blanco corner kick in the back of the net for an own goal, snapped a six game winless streak with the loss and now enters the postseason with a little bit of momentum.
"We've had a lot of adversity this season and it shows a lot of strength on the team's part to come through that," said Fire defender Brandon Prideaux. "Coming down to the wire is good. We get to play these important games - that for us was a playoff game - and now we come into next week with that playoff mentality already."
The shutout was the second consecutive for the Fire, who has gotten solid defensive efforts from a makeshift back four in their last two games.
"You have to credit guys like C.J. [Brown], Dasan [Robinson], Mike Banner and Brandon Prideaux," said Fire Head Coach Denis Hamlett. "They didn't get as much playing time [in the first part of the season] and now when their number is called upon they've stepped up to the plate and have done well."
The Fire will now have to wait and see who they'll take on in the first round of the playoffs - which begin next Thursday. The Fire knows that they will be taking on the Eastern Conference's third seed and they are looking forward to relaxing this weekend and finding out who that will be.
"It's great, now we can enjoy the weekend," said Fire midfielder Chris Rolfe - who played his final regular season match with the Fire tonight. "We could've been sitting there biting our fingernails waiting to see what happens."
That's all I have for the match recap, but (as always) I would like to ask a few questions/provide a few random updates for you guys...
**1 - Blanco Update**
Fire forward Cuautemoc Blanco (who was believed to be healthy...) sat out the opening 64 minutes of the match before coming in and sparking the Fire's victory. The Fire sat Blanco for the start of the game in an effort to be cautious with his hamstring injury that hasn't quite gone away.
"He still feels his hamstring and given the week that he had with the Mexican National team and then [the extensive travel before the New England game], we thought it was best to use him late in the game," Hamlett said. "Tonight was important. We made the decision to bring him on as a sub because the last thing we wanted to do was put a guy on the field that wasn't 100%."
**2 - Did tonight's win give your hopes for the team a boost?**
I thought tonight's game could very well serve as a turning point for the Fire. I thought they played very well on both ends all night and if the weather wasn't so bad they likely would have put away a couple more of their chances. I think that the defensive effort in the past few games has been stellar and I actually feel like the Fire should be able to make a deep run (Eastern Conference finals at the very least...) in the playoffs.
**3 - What did you think of that weather?**
It was nuts. I thought it really hurt the flow of the game and obviously the footing was treacherous all night long. It was kind of cool to see the players literally sliding 10 yards across the field with every slide tackle, but I'll take a dry, free-flowing game over tonight's soak-fest anytime.
**4 - What did you think of Armas's induction into the Ring of Fire?**
Not sure if ESPN2 showed this on TV, but the induction of former Fire midfielder Chris Armas into the "Ring of Fire" Hall of Fame was very nicely done. It was cool to see Chris reunited with his former teammates and coaches and you could tell that he had a very nice return to Chicago.