Mike Magee changes game as Fire prepares to face Union again
BY PATRICK Z. MCGAVIN For Sun-Times Media August 2, 2013 11:40PM
Updated: September 4, 2013 6:16AM
Pretty much everything about the Fire this season is prefaced by the difference between ‘‘then’’ and ‘‘now.’’
When the Fire lost consecutive 1-0 games against the Philadelphia Union in mid-May, the crucial distinction was that Mike Magee was still a member of the Los Angeles Galaxy.
The Chicago-born forward has scored seven goals in his nine games since being dealt to the Fire, igniting a second-half surge, with the Fire losing only two of its last 10. Magee has scored in consecutive games, including a 1-1 draw with the Houston Dynamo last Saturday.
‘‘[Magee is] a smart player, but he does a lot of little things also besides scoring that help the team out,’’ coach Frank Klopas said after the game in Houston. ‘‘I just think as a team we’re in a different place right now and we have a lot to play for.’’
A heightened sense of urgency is key with a rematch looming Saturday night against the Union at PPL Stadium in Chester, Pa.
‘‘We’re in desperate need of some points right now,’’ forward Chris Rolfe said.
Despite its strikingly improved play, the Fire (7-9-4) still lags in Major League Soccer’s Eastern Conference, sitting in seventh place with 25 points. The Union (9-6-7) is fourth with 34 points.
‘‘We actually played very well in both of those games against Philadelphia — we just didn’t get the result we wanted,’’ Rolfe said. ‘‘In this second half of the season, we’ve been a different team, with better chemistry and especially [offensively] since Mike Magee joined the team.’’
Defensively, the Fire must nullify forwards Jack McInerney, Conor Casey and Sebastien Le Toux. McInerney has 10 goals this season and accounted for both goals in the two victories against the Fire. Casey has contributed seven assists. French star Le Toux is the Union’s facilitator and is tied for the MLS lead in assists. His low cross created McInerney’s header for the game-winner in the second game against the Fire.
‘‘We have to balance the field against them and not let them beat us,’’ Rolfe said.
The Fire has won just once in its last five games at Philadelphia.