BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. – As the Chicago Fire prepared to kick off the 2012 season back in March, their team goal for points seemed almost outlandish.
“We set 60,” Patrick Nyarko told reporters after Saturday’s 3-1 win over Montreal. “When we came up with that number, a lot of people were saying that was a little bit ridiculous.”
Last season, Sporting Kansas City won the Eastern Conference with 51 points, and the Fire finished in sixth place with 43.
But after victory over the Impact, the Fire have 50 points with six games remaining. They’ve won six of their last seven games, and all of a sudden, 60 doesn’t seem so crazy.
“It’s becoming a reality right now,” said Nyarko.
Friedrich comes off early
Arne Friedrich left Saturday’s game in the 42nd minute with neck tightness, but head coach Frank Klopas seemed hopeful the German defender would be back for next Saturday’s game against Columbus.
“He wasn’t comfortable,” Klopas said after the Montreal victory. “We took him off pretty early on because he was having pain in his ability to turn, and he couldn’t go. It takes a lot for this guy to come off. We will evaluate tomorrow, but the good thing now is that we’ve got the whole week to get ready.
“I think he’ll be ready. He’s having some pain and some difficulty turning, but I think it’s something we can take care of over the next week.”
Alex scores again
After coming off the bench in five of the last six games, midfielder Alex made his first start since late July on Saturday.
While he normally plays an attacking midfield position for the Fire, the Brazilian filled in for the injured Pável Pardo in the holding midfield against Montreal.
“That’s definitely something I feel comfortable with,” Alex said through a translator. “In Switzerland, I played the No. 6 spot, the second midfielder role, so it’s definitely something I know how to do.”
Alex scored his second goal of the season on Saturday, putting the Fire ahead in the 61st minute. The goal was his second in three games after he scored against Houston two weeks ago.
“I think I’ve adapted to the league a little more,” said Alex, who started playing for the Fire in June. “I feel like I should always be there to help the team, and goals will come naturally.”
Alex saw a rare familiar face when he took the field Saturday. His countryman and former teammate at Swiss second-division club FC Wohlen, Felipe Martins, started for Montreal.
“We’re pretty good friends, so I was happy to take the field with him,” Alex said.