Coming on the heels of an impressive 2-0 victory at New York and the highly successful Five Things Preview, I bring you a new series, “Six Things You Should Take Away from Saturday’s game at Red Bull…”
1) No Loss of Confidence – Coming off two defeats, one of which came at home to lowly Philadelphia, you can’t say enough about how the team responded in Saturday’s 2-0 win at New York.
On the surface playing Red Bull away isn’t the best antidote to break a two-game losing streak but with so few games left, earning a result there was crucial. Before the match, almost everyone would have taken a point, it’s a good sign to see the team able to rebound in such a big game headed toward the postseason.
2) Speaking of the postseason – There’s a strong possibility Saturday’s game at New York might not be the last time the Fire visit Red Bull Arena this season. Back in July, the Fire might have felt a little hard done by coming a Thierry Henry wonder-strike away from earning a valuable point at New York. Saturday, they proved they can go to Red Bull Arena (where New York is 11-2-3 this season) and get a win.
HIGHLIGHTS: Fire 2, Red Bull 0
3) #Berry4ROY – It was a nice touch to see NBC’s Kyle Martino and Russ Thaler talk up the Austin Berry Life Cereal box sent around to media this week to drum up support for the defender’s MLS Rookie of the Year bid.
It was even nicer for birthday boy Berry to deliver with a strong performance, partnering with Arne Friedrich to shut down the powerful New York attack featuring Thierry Henry, Kenny Cooper and Sebastien Le Toux.
The Michigan man in me harkens back to Charles Woodson’s bid for the Heisman back in 1997. Had he not had the amazing performance in the team’s final regular season win over Ohio State, there’s no way he would have ever won college football’s top prize over the likes of offensive powers Payton Manning, Randy Moss and Ryan Leaf (remember him??)
With Berry’s performance coming in such a big game and on national television no less, the 24-year-old’s campaign for the award can now only be thwarted by media that look only at stat lines and don’t actually watch MLS games (see Darren Mattocks at seven goals).
Even still, three goals for a defender ain’t bad…
4) #Klopas4COY – This one won’t be quite as clear cut as Berry’s bid but Fire head coach Frank Klopas has more than earned the right to be in the conversation for Coach of the Year honors in his first full season at the helm.
Perhaps it’s a reward that should extend back to his interim tenure last season, when he took over a team with only one win from its first 11 games to within three points of the postseason and the U.S. Open Cup final.
Building off a strong end to 2011, Klopas has guided the team to a 17-10-5 record this season, good enough for second in the East. With the team sitting one more victory away from breaking the club record for most wins in a season in the post-shootout era (2000), a lot of credit should go to the gaffer for being able to so smoothly mold together all the moving pieces this season.
Klopas’ biggest challenge for the award will be San Jose’s Frank Yallop, who has almost assuredly guided the Earthquakes to the Supporters Shield this season.
5) Speaking of Moving Pieces - With Sherjill MacDonald’s brace, it’s worth mentioning that four of the team’s acquisitions that joined after the start of the season have combined for 16 of the side’s 45 goals. MacDonald has four since July, Chris Rolfe has eight since April, Alex has two since June and Alvaro Fernandez has two since July.
Not a bad haul.
6) Playoffs and Other Things – Jesse Marsch, Justin Mapp and the rest of the Fire contingent nearly did their old club a solid ahead of Monday’s 15th Anniversary Saturday night, coming close to knocking off the Dynamo in Houston. With the Impact’s 1-1 draw at BBVA Compass Stadium, the Fire now only require one point from their final two matches or a Columbus loss or draw Sunday afternoon against Kansas City (3pm CT MLS Live/Direct Kick) to clinch a postseason berth
Those still looking for the Fire to finish top of the East will find a conflict of interest in today’s game. With KC still having to go play at Red Bull Arena, probably the best thing to hope for is a draw in the match in order to stay just three points behind Sporting while locking down a playoff berth ahead of the international break.
Even if playoff qualification is clinched this weekend, there's something else to keep in mind. With San Jose with one hand on the Supporters Shield and Sporting KC having won the Open Cup, if the Fire were to finish third overall in the league standings the team would have a chance to qualify for the 2013-2014 CONCACAF Champions League should either team make it to MLS Cup.
Or the Fire could to that as well...