A 2-1 victory over the Columbus Crew has set up a first place showdown on Friday night in Kansas City. If the Fire can manage to defeat Sporting for the third time this season they will claim a spot on top of the Eastern Conference table. The club's second victory of the season against Columbus continued the Fire's dominance against Eastern Conference opponents at Toyota Park. The team's record at home against those clubs is now and impressive 9-0-1.
Both teams enjoyed positive stretches in the first half and the Crew managed to keep the ball for long stretches in both halves as the Fire dropped back a bit after taking the lead. The Fire continue to churn out victories and are now within striking distance of overtaking a club that started the season with seven consecutive victories.
GK Sean Johnson (6) - A horrendous giveaway in the 15th minute put the club in the position of having to come from behind yet again but Johnson responded well to the gaffe. He was strong down the stretch providing several key saves and displayed good command of the box when necessary. The best stop of the night came on a Josh Williams blast in the 80th minute from point blank range.
D Gonzalo Segares (6) - Solid on both ends of the pitch helping offensively with effective runs and crosses and limiting Renteria and the right side of Columbus' attack to almost nothing.
D Arne Friedrich (7) - Excellent match against the Crew's main attackers clearing numerous plays out of danger. Also got forward and started the attack on two separate occasions. Placed a header on net from a corner kick in the 13th minute.
D Austin Berry (7) - Like Friedrich, the rookie defender stepped up on numerous occasions to either clear away passes or break up dangerous balls in the box. With Columbus holding the majority of possession throughout the match the Fire center backs needed to be big, and they were.
D Jalil Anibaba (6) - Good two way effort kept the second guessers who believe Dan Gargan is the better right back option at bay for the moment. Improving at crossing the ball but he's still probably a better center back than he is a right back at this stage in his career. Klopas has two solid options at this position. Gargan was out of this match due to yellow card accumulation.
M Logan Pause (5) - Struggled a bit in the first half with a giveaway or two but looked better in the second. Pause's main job is to break up the opposition's flow in midfield and he did that more effectively in the second half although Columbus won the possession battle by a large margin (62-38).
M Alex (6) - Strong effort in place of Pavel Pardo for the second match in a row. Displayed good awareness and pushed forward when the right opportunities arose.
M Alvaro Fernandez (5) - How did he miss that open header in the 62nd minute. That sitter should have made it 3-1 and he's missed several of those this season.
M Patrick Nyarko (7) - His tireless effort and runs up the flank to set up dangerous plays over and over again make Nyarko one of the unsung heroes of this run up the standings. Spectacular footwork set up Rolfe's dazzler. The finish will earn the plaudits but Nyarko made the play happen.
F Chris Rolfe (8) - Tallied twice to take the team goal scoring lead with 8 and his second of the night was "Goal of the Week" material. Rolfe seldom misses when presented with a quality opportunity and his addition this season may be the most important one amid some solid contributors in Friedrich, Alex, MacDonald, and Fernandez. Is there a player in MLS with a prettier shot release than Chris Rolfe?
F Sherjill MacDonald (6) - May not be a big goal scorer but he continues to play big in relation to the flow of the offense. His pass to Rolfe in the 23rd minute set up his running mate for a clear 1v1 against Gruenebaum.
M Daniel Paladini (6) - Entered the match for MacDonald in the 78th and contributed two blocked shots. Played his role effectively.
F Dominic Oduro (6) - Subbed in for Rolfe in the 84th and played keep away with Columbus for a while as they pushed for an equalizer.
M Wells Thompson (5) - Late entry for Alex in the 89th as the Fire looked to kill the clock.
C Frank Klopas (6) - Results, results, results. Klopas continues to pile them up and he's finally managed to make Toyota Park a difficult place for opposition to visit. The Fire didn't dominate but they did what they had to do to earn the full three points and that's what really matters.
Catch post game comments from Rolfe and Sean Johnson at the Fire Confidential Facebook page.