The Fire aren't playing this weekend but there is still plenty of MLS action taking place that can or will affect the Fire's playoff position. The Eastern Conference stretch run is shaping up to be an entertaining one with only thirteen points separating spots 1 through 7 in the table. The statistical favorites to claim the 5 available playoff spots are currently occupying those positions. Sporting Kansas City, Houston, New York, DC United, and Chicago seem to be in position to claim post-season berths barring minor collapses and incredible finishes by either Columbus and/or Montreal.
Here's a look at the weekend action affecting Chicago:
DC at Montreal, Sat. 3pm
DC will have Dudar and Boskovic back from suspension but this will be their third match in 6 days. Montreal is in a "must win" situation in every match from here on out. Not only does every Eastern Conference contender hold at least two games in hand on the Impact but Jesse Marsch's club has already racked up 13 defeats this season. Montreal has won their last 5 home matches and sport a 9-3-2 this season when hosting. United is 3-7-1 on the road. The Fire couldn't take advantage of a weak DC back line in Washington but they have struggled mightily one the road. That's not a good match-up for a Montreal team that has outscored visiting teams by 10 goals this season. Look for the Impact to win this one, keeping their faint playoff hopes alive.
Columbus at New England, Sat. 6:30pm
The Revolution are done and Columbus seems to have found something in Federico Higuain and Christian Arrieta. The Crew are the most likely team to sneak into the top 5 as they currently hold two games in hand on Chicago and one on DC. Revs are 5-4-3 at home and Crew are 3-5-4 on the road. Higuain seems to be an impact player that some have compared to Guillermo Barros Schelotto and he's already contributed 1 goal and 2 assists in his first 2 appearances. Can the Revolution do the Fire another favor by beating Columbus? I doubt it.
Toronto FC at Houston, Sat. 7:30pm
The Dynamo are 8-0-3 playing at home this season and they're riding a streak of 20 consecutive games without a home loss going back to last season. TFC is improved under Paul Mariner but this looks to be a no-brainer for the Dynamo. Toronto is 2-8-2 on the road. Don't expect any help here. Houston does have a CCL match against Olimpia in Honduras on Thursday before facing the Fire on September 2.
New York at Sporting Kansas City, Sun. 8:00pm
ESPN2 will carry this one. The top 2 teams in the East facing off with first place on the line. The Red Bulls are 4-7-2 on the road and the former Wizards boast a solid 7-2-3 record at Livestrong Sporting Park. As far as rooting interests go, it's probably best to hope for a draw in this one keeping both clubs relatively close to the idle Fire.
Combined with the start of the new Euro season there's still plenty of football to keep everyone occupied despite the lack of red-shirts with Quaker logos on the pitch. MLS Live, MatchDay, and Direct Kick are getting a workout for me in the next few days.