KANSAS CITY, Kansas- The Chicago Fire saw their bid for first place in the Eastern Conference batted away on Friday night, with Sporting Kansas City posting a 2-0 victory that extended their lead on the second-place Fire to five points.
The loss might seem to put an end to the Fire's chance of overtaking KC for the top spot in the East, but a game in hand means the race isn't quite over.
The mood in the FIre locker room was one of optimism and resolve to recover and finish the regular season on a strong note.
"We have to learn from this game, but it's okay to lose sometimes," said veteran German defender Arne Friedrich. "We shouldn't be scared going into the playoffs. We have to be confident."
The remainder of Chicago's schedule is favorable, as the Fire only have to face teams below them in the Eastern Conference standings. That has the Fire feeling confident and they plan on approaching the upcoming matches differently.
"We learned a lot from this game and going forward we're not going to give as much respect to other teams," Patrick Nyarko said after the loss. "We are going to attack and play our game next time. We know we can score goals, we're going to take it to our opponents."'
One thing Chicago has shown the ability to do throughout the 2012 season is bounce back after a tough loss. They have suffered consecutive losses just once this season.
Logan Pause stated after the loss to Sporting KC that the Fire are staying focused and not letting the failure to pick up a result at Livestrong Sporing Park deter them as they see out the rest of the season.
"It doesn't change anything, said Pause. "We know that we control our own destiny in terms of getting into the playoffs. Of course we want to be top of the table, and tonight was an opportunity. Sporting Kansas City got the best of us but we have a game on Wednesday that we're looking forward to."
Head coach Frank Klopas has instilled that attitude in his players, and isn't worrying about the bigger picture just yet.
"We have got to make sure that what we feel right now stays with us tonight, but tomorrow is a new day and there is a new team coming," said Klopas after Friday's game. "We need to refocus, regroup, and get ready for the next match."
The Fire's remaining schedule bookends two final home games around two matches on the East Coast. Against their remaining opponents, the Fire are 4-3-0 in the 2012 season and two of the four teams are currently residing with them in the tight Eastern Conference playoff standings.
Chicago returns home to face Philadelphia Union on Wednesday, before a quick turnaround sends them to face the New York Red Bulls on the road on Saturday afternoon. After a bye week, Chicago will face New England on the road before closing out the regular season at home against D.C. United, meaning Chicago can still battle Sporting KC for the top spot with the solid play that has earned them 35 points since the international break in June.