6 Point Break

Six points before the World Cup break -- we’re half way there.

The Chicago Fire handled the initial part of their quest to enter MLS’ first World Cup break with a winning record Saturday night when they downed Philadelphia Union 2-1 at Toyota Park. An awe-inspiring performance it was not, but the result was a welcome one for Carlos de los Cobos’ side, having not tasted victory since a 2-0 win over Houston on April 24.

Peter Nowak’s comments and the Union’s pre-game shenanigans aside, three points is three points is three points in this league and the Fire were in desperate need of a result Saturday night in order to stay relevant in the Eastern Conference. 

Wednesday night the Colorado Rapids visit Toyota Park to wrap up the two sides’ 2010 MLS regular season series. The clubs previously met in the season’s second week, playing to a 2-2 draw on April 3 in Commerce City, CO.

A win would put the Men in Red on 16 points after 11 matches, a single point behind third-place Toronto FC heading into the World Cup break. It’s certainly not the place where most expected this club to be and when you look at a few of the matches the Fire have dropped points in, namely vs. Chivas USA, at Kansas City and vs. FC Dallas, the Fire could be in position to lead the East with three points earned tomorrow night.

Living in the past has never proven productive in the Beautiful Game. Put those matches behind you and move on.

De los Cobos’ coaching staff probably would have preferred to see Conor Casey on Bob Bradley’s U.S. roster for this month’s World Cup, but the former Borussia Dortmund striker didn’t even find his name on the preliminary 30-man roster announced in mid-May. Part of the reason for Bradley’s decision may have been Casey’s lack of form leading up to the announcement, having failed to hit the back of the net since scoring two penalties in a 3-1 win over Toronto FC on April 18.

Until scoring the winner in the Rapids 1-0 victory over Seattle on May 29, Casey hadn’t scored from the run of play this season, tallying three of his four goals from the penalty spot, including his first of the season against the Fire in early April.

Casey’s striking partner up top, Omar Cummings, has been in a bit of a drought himself. The Jamaican international hasn’t celebrated a goal since his 13th minute tally against the Fire over two months ago, going an uncharacteristic eight matches and 609 minutes scoreless.

Despite Colorado’s recent lack of offensive production from their top two strikers, the club rides in to Chicago on a three-match winning streak having earned nearly half of their 19 points over their last three games.  Another distinction: all three victories have been of the 1-0 variety, which on paper shows that the Rapids have done much better grinding out tough results, something the Fire have failed to do, per the matches mentioned above.

Neither side has found great success scoring this year. With 11, Colorado is actually near the bottom of the league when it comes to goals scored. But that’s the difference between these two sides right now: A team that has put together a complete 90 minutes, one that can make 1-0 enough vs. a team that has allowed mental mistakes to undo them and has been unable to fight back.

With that said, a win, even against an expansion team, can do a lot for a team’s confidence and I expect the Fire, led by Patrick Nyarko’s speed and ability to beat defenders as well as the central defensive partnership of C.J. Brown and Wilman Conde to bring a positive result Wednesday night.  

I’ll also be looking for Fire forward Collins John, who was out of the lineup Saturday due to illness, to make his mark on this match. The former Fulham striker scored his first MLS goal against Colorado back in April, though it was also his only MLS goal. John has experienced a drought equally disappointing to that of Cummings and is due to find his name back on the score sheet Wednesday night.

The Fire have to enter this game with three points being an absolute must. Anything less will be a letdown as the players enter a two-week hiatus away from MLS league play. Being able to watch the World Cup may take some minds away, but having to wade through a fortnight sitting on a bad result will not be ideal.