Fire looking to solidify playoff position
BY PATRICK Z. MCGAVIN For Sun-Times Media September 20, 2013 9:28PM
Alex (left) scored the huge game-winner against the Revs. | Getty Images
Updated: October 22, 2013 6:11AM
After the Fire’s 3-2 comeback victory last Saturday over the New England Revolution at Toyota Park, coach Frank Klopas appeared wiped out as well as elated.
“In the history of the team, this [victory] is right up there with the best,” he said.
The game-winning goal by Alex in the 87th minute lifted the Fire from seventh place in the Eastern Conference to fifth, the final playoff qualifier, with six games to play.
The Fire (11-11-6, 39 points) is tied with the Philadelphia Union, but it holds the tiebreaker with more victories. The Fire is one point behind the Houston Dynamo for fourth place.
The team is looking to solidify its hold on a playoff spot on the road Saturday against the Columbus Crew. The Fire already has beaten the Crew three times, twice in league play and once in the U.S. Open Cup. The Crew (10-14-5, 35 points) is in eighth place in the East.
“With this league, we just want to be in a position where we’re playing in the postseason,” Klopas said. “It’s great if you can be in first, but we want to put ourselves in a spot where we can play for something, and we’re right there.”
Klopas was encouraged by his team’s resilience in coming back from two one-goal deficits. He also praised Juan Luis Anangonó. The Ecuadorean forward scored his first goal since joining the Fire on July 23. His height, energy and ball skills make him another dangerous offensive weapon.
“It always takes a little bit of time to get acclimated to a new lifestyle,” Anangonó said. “Every day I feel better and more involved with the team, and it shows with my performance on the field.”
His intangibles also paid off. On forward Mike Magee’s second-half goal that tied the game at 2, Anangonó subtly shaded his defender to provide Magee with a better attacking angle.
Magee is second in the league with 16 goals, 10 since the Fire acquired him in a trade with the Los Angeles Galaxy.
Magee said the Fire had been pressing the previous couple of games as it jockeyed for a playoff spot, and it had a negative effect on the team’s play.
“It’s nice to get that weight off our back after all the work we’ve done just to put ourselves in a top-five spot,’’ Magee said. “To get over the hump is a big step.”