Weak record vs. playoff contenders has Chicago Fire mulling "nasty, ugly" approach in rugged stretch

BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. – Dilly Duka had a quizzical look on his face when presented with a glaring stat that the Chicago Fire hope is more of an anomaly than a predictor of their season.

Despite going on a nine-game unbeaten streak across all competitions from late May to early July, the Fire have only one win against a team currently in the playoff race.

“We didn't beat any other [playoff] teams?” Duka said. “Wow, I never thought of that.”

That the stat sounds surprising to Duka is understandable, because Chicago seemed as if they had turned a corner after acquiring Mike Magee and Bakary Soumare. Before losses to Sporting Kansas City and Vancouver, the Fire were squarely in the Eastern Conference playoff hunt, and they can close to within two points of the fifth-place Dynamo with a win in Houston on Saturday (9 pm ET, NBCSN).

But if they can't manage to beat quality teams, they'll find themselves well out of the playoff race when September rolls around. Each their next six games comes against one of the six teams ahead of them in the Eastern Conference.

Against those teams, the Fire are 1-6-1.

“It's a time to look forward, you know it's not anymore that we win one and we lose two or something,” Joel Lindpere told MLSsoccer.com. “It's not about that. It's about to get these points. It's like a survival time.”

If the Men in Red want to survive, they'll also have to turn around another glaring statistic: On the road, they're 1-5-2.

The last time the Fire played in Houston, they almost hung on for a tie, with an 81st-minute goal from Brad Davis preventing them from earning a point. If they want to reverse their two troubling trends, says Lindpere, they may have to play a game that isn't easy on the eyes.

“I think we, as a team, need to realize that we need to spread our energy and that we can last the whole game,” Lindpere said. “I think we just need to be strong enough and maybe take some of the things that we love to do here, leave them backstage, and grab from a nasty, ugly game, some points to stay in a fight for the playoff situation for the rest of the season.”