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Alex provides more late-game heroics as Fire stay unbeaten in Charleston

CHARLESTON, S.C. -- A defensive breakdown saw the Fire concede another opening goal but for the second straight game, the team rallied and utilized a 92nd minute rocket from midfielder Alex to come away 2-1 winners Saturday night over the Charleston Battery.

“Its preseason but it’s still important to play well and to win,” said Fire head coach Frank Klopas. “Obviously there were good stretches in the game but overall having the sense of urgency from the first whistle is something that we keep talking about and something we need to keep improving on.”

RELEASE: Fire down Battery 2-1

Like in Saturday’s game vs. Houston, the Fire back line broke down in the 11th minute as Charleston’s Jose Cuevas slipped into the box and pushed his effort by Paolo Tornaghi.

As they did eight times last season, the Fire battled back to earn three points, first as Joel Lindpere’s 27th minute corner kick picked out Austin Berry who walked the ball across the line.

Though wholesale changes were made by Klopas at the start of the second half, the team dominated in possession, with SuperDraft selection Yazid Atouba dazzling throughout the second frame.

It wasn’t until the very last kick of the game that Alex came through with a belting effort to give the team all three points.

Still, the position isn’t one Klopas wants to see his team in heading into the season.

“I know that we have quality players to allow us to come back in those situations but we want to see more clean sheets. We want to make sure we don’t give up any goals. That’s the onus and mentality we have to have.

“We do have the kind of players with that mentality and attitude and now we have to make sure from the first whistle that the concentration is there on every second, every play. This is something we need to keep working on.”

PHOTOS: Fire 2, Battery 1

As for Alex’s impressive strike, its not the first time Fire fans have seen him pull some magic late after the Brazilian scored an equally stunning goal in a 3-1 win over Houston last September.

“The goals come from hard work in practice every day with the group,” he said. “I’m giving 100 percent every day so to get a shot and goal like that makes everything worth it.”

Klopas agreed about the second-year attacker’s work rate so far this preseason and said the strike was a result of the team’s effort to provide him opportunities closer to the box.

“Alex has been playing well and looking sharp. Playing him further up the field is where he’s more dangerous and chances like that are part of what we’ve talked to him about in training.

“We don’t need him to come very deep to get the ball, we have to find him in those spots closer to goal.

“He’s very dangerous, he can combine and he’s got a great shot from the outside – he needs to have the patience and we need to be able to get him looks in those areas.”

With the result, the Fire move atop the Carolina Challenge Cup standings with a perfect six points from two matches and with Houston’s 2-1 win over Vancouver in the night’s first match, need just a draw against the Whitecaps Saturday to clinch the tournament title.

2013 Carolina Challenge Cup Table

Team GP W L D Pts. GF GA GD
Chicago Fire 2 2 0 0 6 5 3 +2
Houston Dynamo 2 1 1 0 3 4 4 0
Vancouver Whitecaps 2 1 1 0 3 4 4 0
Charleston Battery 2 0 2 0 0 3 5 -2