Fire Head To Kansas City To Battle For First Place In East

A look at the week ahead for the Men In Red

Patrick Nyarko

Photo Credit: 
Getty Images

FIRE LOOK TO CLAIM FIRST PLACE OVER SPORTING KANSAS CITY LIVE ON NBC SPORTS NETWORK

The Chicago Fire (16-8-5; 53 points) will take on Sporting Kansas City (16-7-5; 55 points) for first place in the Eastern Conference at LIVESTRONG Sporting Park on Friday, Sept. 28 at 7:30 p.m. CT (NBC Sports Network/97.5 ESPN Deportes).

With a 2-1 victory over the Columbus Crew Saturday, Sept. 22 the Fire maintained their hold on second place in the Eastern Conference and moved within two points of conference-leading Sporting Kansas City. The Men in Red have emerged as victors in seven of their last eight matches and have earned 35 points since June 17, going 11-3-2 in a bid for their first MLS Playoff berth since 2009.

Friday’s match is the third and final game between the two squads this season. In the first leg of the series, Sebastian Grazzini equalized in the 61st minute and Dominic Oduro notched the game-winner in the 81st as the Fire rallied from a 1-0 deficit to top Sporting Kansas City at Toyota Park May 12. Marco Pappa notched the game’s only goal in the 58th minute and Sean Johnson stood up to a barrage of late chances as the Men in Red defeated Sporting Kansas City 1-0 at LIVESTRONG Sporting Park June 29.

Sporting Kansas City enter the match after extending their unbeaten streak to eight games, earning a 0-0 draw on the road against the Montreal Impact at Stade Saputo in Montreal, Quebec on Saturday, Sept. 22.

CHICAGO FIRE TRAINING SCHEDULE: Sept. 24 – Sept. 30

Monday, Sept. 24: Off
Tuesday, Sept. 25: Training 9:30 a.m. CT*^
Wednesday, Sept. 26: Training 9:30 a.m. CT*^    
Thursday, Sept. 27: Travel to Kansas City
Training in Kansas City TBD
Friday, Sept. 28: Chicago Fire at Sporting Kansas City – LIVESTRONG Sporting Park – 7:30 p.m. CT (NBC Sports Network/97.5 ESPN Deportes)
Saturday, Sept. 29:  Return to Chicago
Sunday, Sept. 30: Off

*Training is open to the media. Fire players and coaches will be made available immediately following training.
^Training times are subject to change. Please contact Brendan Hannan at 720.937.8962 for media requests.

CHICAGO FIRE at Sporting Kansas City

  • The Fire hold a 23-10-9 record against Sporting Kansas City, including a 8-7-7 record in matches played on the road.
  • The Fire are unbeaten in the two matches that have been played at LIVESTRONG Sporting Park. The Men in Red held Sporting Kansas City to a scoreless draw in the stadium opener June 9, 2011. The Fire took home the full three points on June 29 after a 1-0 victory earlier this season.
  • Sporting Kansas City is 8-3-4 at LIVESTRONG Sporting Park this season.
  • Both teams enter the match with an opportunity to clinch an Eastern Conference playoff berth. The Fire can book their first postseason ticket with a win Friday and either a Columbus draw or loss vs. Philadelphia Saturday. Sporting KC will earn an MLS Cup playoff berth with a win over the Fire on Friday night.  
  • The Fire’s 2-1 win over the Columbus Crew marks the eight time this season Frank Klopas’ side has come back from a deficit to earn three points.
  • The Fire defense has now held its opposition to one goal or less in eight of its last nine matches.
  • This is the first time the Men in Red have earned 16 victories in a season since 2001 when the team went 16-6-5 and reached the MLS Cup Semifinals.
  • Sporting Kansas City will be without the services of forward Jacob Peterson who received a red card against the Montreal Impact Sept. 22.
  • Chris Rolfe recorded his team-leading seventh and eighth goals of the season. The sixth-year Fire forward sits second on the club’s all-time MLS goal scoring list with 44.
  • With his brace, Saturday night’s match marks the fifth multi-goal game of Rolfe’s career and second this season.
  • Midfielder Patrick Nyarko tallied his team-leading seventh assist of the 2012 campaign on Rolfe’s 26th minute game-winner.
  • When MLS launched in 1996, current Fire head coach Frank Klopas was allocated to the Kansas City Wiz going on to tally seven goals and 11 assists over 54 matches from 1996-97.
  • Kansas City boss Peter Vermes and Chicago manager Frank Klopas represented the United States National Team eight times together from 1988-1994. Team USA went 3-3-2 in those matches, with Klopas netting three goals, including a brace on in a  5-1 CONCACAF World Cup qualifying win over Jamaica on August 13, 1988 in Fenton, Missouri.
  • The Men in Red are 3-0-0 in matches that have been played on the NBC Sports Network this season. Lead by Dominic Oduro’s goal 25 seconds into the match, the Fire defeated Toronto FC 3-2 April 21 at BMO Field in Toronto, Ontario. The Fire used goals from Patrick Nyarko, Gonzalo Segares and Chris Rolfe to barrel over the New York Red Bulls at Toyota Park June 17. Marco Pappa notched the only goal of the game as the Fire exposed Sporting Kansas City 1-0 under the Friday night lights of LIVESTRONG Sporting Park June 29.  

EASTERN CONFERENCE PLAYOFF RACE

The Eastern Conference playoff race remained tightly packed after the slate of weekend matches.

Saturday’s victory pushed the Men in Red to 16-8-5 (53 points) on the season, just two points behind Eastern Conference-leading Sporting Kansas City. The Fire are three points ahead of both the New York Red Bulls and D.C. United (50 points), and seven points ahead of the Houston Dynamo (46 points) who currently sit in fifth place with a game in hand on all of the other top six teams in the East.

Two of the remaining five matches will be played at Toyota Park, where the Fire are 9-0-1 when hosting Eastern Conference opponents. The Fire have gone unbeaten against Eastern Conference opponents at Toyota Park since they fell 2-0 on Oct. 12, 2010 to Sporting Kansas City, going 13-0-6 in that time.

CHICAGO FIRE BURN COLUMBUS CREW 2-1 IN COMEBACK VICTORY

For the eighth time this season, the Chicago Fire came back from being down a goal, using two Chris Rolfe goals in the span of three minutes to down the Columbus Crew Saturday night at Toyota Park.

The Crew drew first blood by taking advantage of a mistake in the back. Fire center back Austin Berry played a seemingly harmless ball back to Johnson and the Fire ‘keeper looked to return the pass back but miss-hit his effort into the path of lurking Crew striker Jairo Arrieta. The Costa Rican international dribbled around Johnson before placing his effort beyond a desperate sliding attempt from Friedrich to give the Crew a 1-0 lead in the 15th minute.

The Fire only took eight minutes to equalize when Gonzalo Segares played a long ball up the left for forward Sherjill MacDonald. The Dutch striker turned his marker before playing a perfect ball into space for Chris Rolfe who tucked his left-footed effort past Gruenebaum and inside the left post to take the score to 1-1 in the 23rd minute.

Rolfe would secure his second brace of the season just three minutes later. Receiving a pass from Logan Pause through the midfield, Rolfe laid off for Patrick Nyarko who powered up the right. The Ghanaian international strolled through three defenders and cut inside to the center of the box before squaring the ball for Rolfe. The veteran striker took one touch with his left foot before driving a right footed effort past a frozen Gruenebaum and into the top right corner to give the Fire a 2-1 lead in the 26th minute. The wonderfully taken goal was Rolfe’s eighth of the 2012 campaign.

The Crew looked to equalize in the 44th minute when Federico Higuain’s corner from the right picked out the head of Chad Marshall at the near post but the Columbus captain’s nodded effort was easily saved by Johnson, taking the Fire into the half with a 2-1 advantage.

Coming out of the break, the Fire looked for an elusive third goal and nearly saw Chris Rolfe tally his second career hat trick. Alex’s free kick on the left picked out Rolfe at the top of the area before the two-goal scorer hit a first-time volley towards the back post that went just wide in the 51st minute.

The third goal would continue to escape the Fire in the 62nd minute when a great combination between Rolfe and MacDonald saw the Dutch forward into the box on the left. MacDonald quickly chipped over the onrushing Grunebaum for an open Alvaro Fernandez but the Uruguayan winger sent his first-time header just over the goal.

With their backs against the wall, the Crew would pour on the pressure through the end of the match. In the 76th minute, Miranda found space on the right and crossed looking for Arrieta but the ball was too heavy and fell for Higuain who made a deep run before heading the ball over Johnson’s goal.

Higuain would produce the danger again in the 79th minute when his free kick from the left was headed up by Crew center back Julius James. The ball would fall on the right for Josh Williams who smashed a first-time effort at goal, forcing Johnson to make a spectacular reaction stop.

Columbus would have one more furious effort seven minutes later. James penetrated up the right before seeing his cross deflected by Berry into the path of Marshall. The veteran center back’s quick shot deflected through traffic before Berry cleared. Higuain would pick up the loose ball and send a quick cross back into the area for Marshall, who nodded back before Friedrich cleared out of the box. Tchani would follow up with one more attempt but second half substitute Daniel Paladini would come through with a block to close out a 2-1 Fire victory.

CHICAGO FIRE TO CELEBRATE 15TH ANNIVERSARY

The Chicago Fire Soccer Club announced that the club will celebrate the Fire’s 15th Anniversary during the Chicago Fire vs. Philadelphia Union match at Toyota Park on Wednesday, Oct. 3 (NBC5.2/97.5 ESPN Deportes FM). Fire legends Peter Nowak, Chris Armas and Cuauhtémoc Blanco, will be in attendance and will be honored at halftime. The celebration will continue with the 15th Anniversary Celebration on Monday, Oct. 8 at the Chicago History Museum (1601 North Clark Street).

A special ticket package for the 15th Anniversary match against the Union, which includes a hot dog and a soda, is available for only $25 by clicking here and using the password FIRE. Tickets for the Chicago Fire – Philadelphia Union match are also available by calling 888-MLS-FIRE or visiting www.Chicago-Fire.com.

Following the 15th Anniversary match on Wednesday, Oct. 3, the October 8th Anniversary Planning Committee in association with Section 8 Chicago, the Independent Supporters’ Association of the Chicago Fire Soccer Club Fire will host the 15thAnniversary Celebration at the Chicago History Museum, with proceeds benefiting the Chicago Fire Foundation. Former Fire greats Ante Razov, Lubos Kubik, Peter Nowak and Chris Armas will attend to help celebrate the club’s founding. Tickets for the 15thAnniversary Celebration are $97 and are available here.

Additional Fire legends scheduled to attend the festivities will be unveiled by the Fire and the October 8th Anniversary Planning Committee via the Fire’s twitter account www.twitter.com/ChicagoFire , www.facebook.com/chicagofire  the Fire Anniversary twitter – www.twitter.com/fireanniversary and Facebook page - www.facebook.com/fireanniversary.

The Chicago Fire Soccer Club was founded on Oct. 8, 1997, the 126th anniversary of the Great Chicago Fire. Since the first season in which the Fire won the historic “Double”, winning both the MLS Cup and U.S. Open Cup in 1998, the Fire have amassed a rich history which includes a record four U.S. Open Cup trophies, the 2003 Supporters Shield and three MLS Conference Championships.

FIRE IN THE NEWS

MLS power rankings: Chicago Fire build contender with midseason renovation - Brian Straus - Sporting News - September 18, 2012
http://aol.sportingnews.com/soccer/story/2012-09-18/mls-power-rankings-chicago-fire-build-contender-with-midseason-renovation

Klopas makes all the right moves - Jeff Carlisle - ESPN.com - September 20, 2012
http://soccernet.espn.go.com/blog/_/name/soccerusa/id/173?cc=5901

Dominoes could fall for Fire - Jack McCarthy - Chicago Tribune - September 21, 2012
http://www.chicagotribune.com/sports/ct-spt-0921-fire-chicago--20120921,0,4847255.story

Fire’s defense still chasing perfection - Orrin Schwarz - Daily Herald - September 20, 2012
http://www.dailyherald.com/article/20120920/sports/709209802/

El Chicago Fire sigue embalado hacia la punta del Este - Jose Luis Sanchez Pando - Hoy - September 16, 2012
http://www.vivelohoy.com/deportes/8132141/el-chicago-fire-sigue-embalado-hacia-la-punta-del-este

On Fire: Suddenly, goal of 60 points not so “ridiculous” - Anthony Zilis - MLSsoccer.com - September 17, 2012
http://www.mlssoccer.com/news/article/2012/09/17/fire-suddenly-goal-60-points-not-so-ridiculous

Franco latest piece in Fire makeover - Paul Kennedy - Soccer America - September 16, 2012
http://www.socceramerica.com/article/48257/franco-latest-piece-in-fire-makeover.html

 

CHICAGO FIRE TEAM WRITER, JEFF CRANDALL FEATURES ON CHICAGO-FIRE.COM

Bringing Back Beaz? Former Fire winger wouldn’t mind a return to the Men in Red – September 24, 2012
http://www.chicago-fire.com/blog/post/2012/09/24/bringin-back-beaz

Playoff Math: Fire on the Brink… - September 23, 2012
http://www.chicago-fire.com/blog/post/2012/09/23/playoff-math-brink

Five Things You Should Know About #CHIvCLB – September 22, 2012
http://www.chicago-fire.com/news/2012/09/five-things-you-should-know-about-chivclb

Fire Feel Excitement Even With East Teams Biting Below – September 21, 2012
http://www.chicago-fire.com/news/2012/09/fire-feel-excitement-even-east-teams-biting-below

On Columbus: Segares Remembers June Red Card Well – September 21, 2012
http://www.chicago-fire.com/news/2012/09/columbus-segares-remembers-june-red-card-well

All-In Podcast with Wells Thompson – September 19, 2012
http://www.chicago-fire.com/podcast