Fire has lots on the line in last road swing
BY LEN ZIEHM Special to Sun-Times Media September 27, 2011 9:58PM
The Fire hasn’t had much to celebrate away from home this season, winning one MLS game. | David Banks~Getty Images
Updated: November 11, 2011 4:22PM
The Fire has just one road victory in Major League Soccer play. That must improve in the next week if the club is to salvage the season.
Heading into the match Wednesday at Real Salt Lake, the Fire (6-8-15) is six points out of the last playoff berth with five games left. From Salt Lake, the Fire goes to Houston for a match Saturday against the Eastern Division-leading Dynamo (10-9-12).
Then the Fire goes to Seattle for the U.S. Open Cup final Tuesday against the two-time defending-champion Sounders.
At 1-6-7 on the road, the Fire faces this last crucial series of road matches with the season on the line. The Fire has won four of its last five MLS matches, though, so a playoff berth and the franchise’s fifth U.S. Open Cup title aren’t out of the question.
The Fire came out of the 3-2 home victory over the New England Revolution on Sunday with one notable injury. Attacking midfielder Sebastian Grazzini, who scored the first goal on a penalty kick and assisted on the second, left with tightness in his left hamstring after only 25 minutes. He’s not sure he’ll be ready Wednesday.
‘‘Hopefully he can recover,’’ interim coach Frank Klopas said. ‘‘He’d had a good week of training. Having him out would be tough because he’s an important player.’’
The Fire will, however, regain central defender Cory Gibbs, who sat out the New England match on a red-card suspension.
Patrick Nyarko scored his first goal of the season Sunday as the Fire played its best first half of the season, opening a 3-0 lead.
‘‘I was very happy for Patrick,’’ Klopas said. ‘‘I told him that at times he needs to be a little more selfish, but with or without the ball, he helps the team. It’s not about him getting that goal. It’s about the team winning.’’
‘‘If I need to take a shot, I’ll take it,’’ said Nyarko, the team leader with seven assists. ‘‘But that’s not how I play. Any way I can help the team, I will.’’
He believes the Fire is in the process of blossoming after a disappointing first five months of the season.
‘‘We’re just finding our identities,’’ Nyarko said. ‘‘Frank tells us to just do what you can do with your abilities, that you should play within yourself.’’
That philosophy generally has been working since Klopas replaced Carlos de los Cobos as coach. The Fire was 1-4-6 under de los Cobos and is 5-4-9 with Klopas.