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Union-Fire Preview

By MATT BEARDMORE

STATS Writer

(AP) -- The Chicago Fire just missed a chance to take over the top spot in the Eastern Conference. Nonetheless, the club still has an opportunity to earn that position.

Continuing its push for a first playoff berth since 2009, Chicago will try to match a single-season franchise record with a seventh consecutive home win Wednesday night when it faces the Philadelphia Union for the third and final time this year.

With a chance to claim the No. 1 position in the East – and win five consecutive league matches for the first time since 2000 - the Fire (16-9-5) lost 2-0 at conference-leading Kansas City on Friday.

Chicago had scored two or more goals in each of its previous eight games.

"We are going to attack and play our game next time," forward Patrick Nyarko said. "We know we can score goals. We are going to take it to our opponents."

If the Fire can do that, they could break their tie with New York and move within two points of Sporting with three matches left for all three clubs.

Chicago has to like its chances of inching closer to Kansas City and to a playoff spot. The Fire, who lead sixth-place Columbus by five points, have won six straight at home for the first since reeling off seven straight May 20-July 1, 1998, during their inaugural MLS season.

Chicago won a club-best eight in a row at home bridging the 2000 and 2001 seasons.

The Union (8-15-6) arrive in Bridgeview, Ill., for the second time this season – they lost 1-0 on March 24 – on a franchise-worst 0-3-3 road skid.

Philadelphia was knocked out of playoff contention for the second time in its three-year existence with Saturday's 3-2 loss at Columbus. The Union would have been eliminated for the postseason even had they won since fifth-place Houston defeated New England later Saturday, but rallying from two down before losing on Milovan Mirosevic's goal in the 87th minute was tough to swallow.

"It's a heartbreaker that way for us to fight that hard and be that brave, then lose that way," Union coach John Hackworth told the team's official website of what he thought was a missed offsides call on Mirosevic. "We've been on the bad end of a lot of that this season. It's frustrating."

The Union, though, still have a league-high five matches to "build toward next year," as Hackworth said.

Philadelphia might find additional motivation for Wednesday's match after the Fire snapped its franchise-record four-game home winning streak with a 3-1 victory Aug. 12.

Chicago will be without midfielder Alvaro Fernandez, who will also miss Saturday's match at New York after being selected by Uruguay for World Cup qualifying. Fire coach Frank Klopas and defender Gonzalo Segares will also be absent Wednesday after both were ejected in second-half stoppage time Friday.

The Fire are 2-0-1 at home in this series.

Updated October 1, 2012

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