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Fire playing for pride against K.C.

BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. -- The Chicago Fire have been out of realistic postseason contention for quite some time. Over the weekend they officially were eliminated, so the focus from here on out is to finish strong and build toward next season.

The Fire (8-11-8) host the Kansas City Wizards (9-12-6) on Tuesday at Toyota Park, and a win would boost Chicago over K.C. in points.

The Fire are coming off a 2-0 victory against Eastern Conference rival Columbus Crew on Saturday -- an uplifting moment for a team that has not had too many high points.

"It's come down to the point where we've got nothing to lose," Fire goalkeeper Andrew Dykstra said. "You go out there and you come with the attitude of 'I'm going to get it done today.' That's kind of what we did [on Saturday], and that's how it looked."

Dykstra will be in the net once again for the Fire on Tuesday. Rookie Sean Johnson (hyphema) missed Monday's training and was not available over the past weekend against Columbus. But Dykstra and the defense maintained a clean sheet without Johnson, who had taken over the No. 1 goalkeeper slot from Dykstra ever since SuperLiga.

"It's tough when you start early in the year and then get pulled out, then come back," Fire assistant coach Mike Matkovich said of Dykstra. "I give the kid a lot of credit."

Naturally, the vibe among the Fire players both during the game and in the locker room on Saturday was upbeat and active.

"It almost feels like the guys are just playing because they like to play," Fire defender C.J. Brown said. "And that's how it should be every game."

Injuries continue to plague the Fire, but midfielder Bratislav Ristic has been an important stopgap in the defensive end, while still maintaining the desire to push up. He also preserved the Fire's clean sheet with a clutch clearance in the goal box.

"Ristic is doing well," Brown said. "He's coming along. He's not really a left back and he's handling it well. He's been up for every game and willing to do whatever it takes to help out. You've got to appreciate that."

"He's a good soccer player. He's a smart soccer player," Dykstra said. "Sticking him anywhere, he knows the game and he adapts from there. So I was very proud of him, and he saved my butt on one occasion. I was glad to have him back there."

The Fire defense is without Dasan Robinson, who suffered a quad injury during the early stages of the Crew match. Midfielder Mike Banner is out (bilateral Achilles tendinitis) and John Thorrington is questionable (quad soreness).

Chicago also will be without midfielder Marco Pappa, who is with his Guatemalan national team as it faces Honduras on Tuesday.

The Wizards enter the match needing to win out and get a bunch of help to keep their slim playoff hopes alive. They are coming off a 2-1 loss to Seattle Sounders FC on Saturday.

When Kansas City likely misses the postseason, it will set up an MLS playoff picture that consists of only two Eastern Conference squads (New York Red Bulls and Columbus) and six Western Conference teams.