CHICAGO, Ill. (September 22, 2012) – For the eighth time this season, the Chicago Fire (16-8-5; 53 pts.) came back from being down a goal, using two Chris Rolfe goals in the span of three minutes to down the Columbus Crew (13-11-6; 45 pts.) Saturday night at Toyota Park. With the fourth consecutive victory, the Fire move to within two points of Eastern Conference table-toppers Sporting KC heading into next Friday’s encounter at LiveStrong Sporting Park live on NBC Sports Network.
The Fire would come close in the third minute when Alex’s corner from the left was punched high by Crew ‘keeper Andy Gruenebaum. Fire midfielder Alvaro Fernandez headed it back in from the top of the penalty area before Arne Friedrich laid the ball back off for Alex. The Brazilian attacker dribbled towards the box and whipped in a swerving ball that skimmed off the top of the cross bar and out for a goal kick.
Columbus would threaten seven minutes later when Milovan Mirosevic played a quick combination through midfield for Eddie Gaven. The veteran Crew midfielder rewarded Mirosevic’s run before the Chilean international blasted a first time effort that Johnson turned away with a diving stop in the 10th minute.
The Crew would eventually draw 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.
Columbus would come close twice inside two minutes. First when Gaven found room on the left and held up at the top of the area before lofting an attempt that Johnson punched away. Renteria picked up the loose ball and dribbled towards the end line before seeing his cross turned out for a corner by Austin Berry in the 56th minute.
On the ensuing corner, Higuain’s drive from the right found Marshall who glanced a header towards the back post and into the run of Eddie Gaven but the Crew winger popped his streaking effort well over the bar in the 56th 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.
The Fire return to action with first place in the Eastern Conference on the line when they visit Eastern Conference table toppers Sporting KC at LiveStrong Sporting Park on Friday, Sept. 28 at 7:30 p.m. CT live on NBC Sports Network and 97.5 FM ESPN Deportes.
- The victory pushes the Men in Red to 16-8-5 (53 pts.) on the season and keeps the team in second place in the East, within two point of Conference leaders Sporting KC.
- The win marks the eighth time this season the Fire have come back from a deficit to win a match. The eighth comeback of the season ties the club record for most comeback victories with the 2000 campaign.
- Only two teams in MLS have a better record than the Fire. At time of release, San Jose sat 17-6-6, 57 points and Sporting Kansas City at 16-7-7, 55 points.
- The Fire are 9-0-1 when hosting Eastern Conference opponents at Toyota Park this season and 13-4-3 overall against the East in 2012.
- In a streak that has now reached 19 matches, the Men in Red have not lost to an Eastern Conference foe at Toyota Park since October 12, 2010, going 13-0-6 in that time.
- The Fire defense has now held its opposition to one goal or less in eight of its last nine matches.
- 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.
- Midseason acquisition Sherjill MacDonald tallied his third assist in a Fire shirt on Rolfe’s 23rd minute equalizer.
- Goalkeeper Sean Johnson tallied five saves and upped his career MLS record to 28-20-19.
- Defender Dan Gargan served a one-match ban due to yellow card accumulation.
- Fire midfielder Pavel Pardo missed his second match in a row due to hamstring tightness.
- New Fire signing Guillermo Franco was an unused substitute in the 2-1 win.
Chicago Fire 2 – 1 Columbus Crew
Chicago Fire: Sean Johnson; Jalil Anibaba, Arne Friedrich, Austin Berry, Gonzalo Segares; Patrick Nyarko, Logan Pause ©, Alex (Wells Thompson 89’), Alvaro Fernandez; Chris Rolfe (Dominic Oduro 84’), Sherjill MacDonald (Daniel Paladini 78’)
Substitutes not used: Jay Nolly, Michael Videira, Corben Bone, Guillermo Franco
Columbus Crew: Andy Gruenebaum; Sebastian Miranda (Olman Vargas 84’), Chad Marshall ©, Julius James, Josh Williams; Eddie Gaven (Justin Meram 69’), Danny O’Rourke, Milovan Mirosevic, Emilio Renteria (Tony Tchani 69’); Federico Higuain, Jairo Arrieta
Substitutes not used: Matt Lampson, Nemanja Vukovic, Chris Birchall, Eric Gehrig
CLB – Jairo Arrieta (unassisted) 15’
CHI – Chris Rolfe (Sherjill MacDonald) 23’
CHI – Chris Rolfe (Patrick Nyarko) 26’
CLB – Danny O’Rourke (caution) 29’
CLB – Emilio Renteria (caution) 35’
CHI – Sean Johnson (caution) 89’
Referee: Michael Kennedy
Assistants: Peter Manikowski, Baboucarr Jallow
Fourth Official: Ricardo Salazar