Fire figures to tighten it up against Sporting KC
BY SETH GRUEN For Sun-Times Media September 27, 2012 9:28PM
The Fire’s Chris Rolfe (18) takes to the air to celebrate one of his two goals in the team’s victory Saturday against the Crew. | John Gress~Getty Images
Updated: October 29, 2012 7:03AM
The Fire is well aware of what’s riding on its game Friday against Sporting Kansas City. Still, the team is pretending like it’s just another game.
With a win, the Fire would move into first place in the Eastern Conference, jumping ahead of Sporting, which is two points ahead of the Fire. A win and a Columbus Crew tie or loss in its game against the Philadelphia Union on Saturday would clinch a playoff spot for the Fire.
“You can’t get emotional about these games,” midfielder Chris Rolfe said. “I’ve been trying to stress that this week, and we have to play smart and keep our eyes on the ultimate goal of setting ourselves up for a good spot in the playoffs and the chance for an MLS Cup.”
While a win is obviously the best-case scenario, a tie would serve the Fire almost as well because it would maintain the teams’ two-point gap in the standings. The Fire has a game in hand on Sporting.
With that in mind, the Fire likely will employ a more defensive mind-set.
“Knowing the coaching staff, I think that we are going to play a pretty smart game,” midfielder Patrick Nyarko said. “We don’t have a lot of pressure on us in this situation. We would love to win the game and go on top, but getting a point here would not be the worst thing in the world. It would put us in the driver’s seat. There’s no need to go chase the game from the first whistle.”
It might be difficult for the offense, which has been rolling of late, to be more selective in pushing forward.
But coach Frank Klopas has emphasized in training the need to be mistake-free Friday.
‘‘Everyone is aware of limiting mistakes, taking less risk and stuff,’’ Klopas said. ‘‘So the focus level needs to be there like it always has from the start to the end. Obviously things do get tighter as the season is winding down and there’s a lot on the line for every team.”