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Saturday, October 24

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« Footballic Ramblings: Bringin' Sexy Back! It's Columbus »

Fire Fri Nov 07 2008

Fire Go Through

The Fire knocked the New England Revolution 3-0 on goals from Chris Rolfe, Wilman Conde, and Gonzalo Segares. It was more than just winning a first round playoff game though. This was finally beating the Revs - depleted or not. I could tell it was huge when I saw the last guy to score a winning playoff goal against New England, Assistant Coach Chris Armas, jumping up and down hugging Technical Director Frank Klopas and looking absolutely giddy in the player tunnel after the game.

Timing
You couldn't have timed a more spirit crushing goal than Chris Rolfe's 45th minute opener. Getting the goal before halftime was huge, as New England certainly would have felt confident and upbeat in the locker room. Instead, their heads low, they gave up another goal early in the second half, effectively ending the game. It was also nice of the Fire to wait until everyone in the crowd finally arrived after the awful traffic from that wreck on I-55.

People are Starting to Notice The Fire
Yesterday, people at work actually asked me about the game. That's happened before, but usually only for gimmicky things like Freddy Adu playing while 14, or David Beckham playing while being handsome. This is different. This is about the word getting out about a genuine title contending team. There has been more space in the paper, judging by the TV trucks at the stadium some real local news coverage, Sports Illustrated is writing fawning articles, and they even lit the Sears Tower red last night. All of that might be a clue that this team is starting to catch on, but the real proof is the crowd of 17,000 that braved traffic and rain to get out to Bridgeview on a Thursday night and make a ton of noise. It's the kind of crowd that should make MLS think very seriously about having an MLS Cup Final at Toyota Park.

The Plays No One Is Talking About
As big as the timing was on Rolfe's goal, it could have been a much different game if Busch hadn't pulled off a great save low to his right when the score was at 2-0. New England scoring at that point could have been a real game-changer. It's the kind of thing that makes me think they should give Busch some kind of goalkeeping award. And I know I talk a lot about Logan...Pause, but he gets a lot of unfair criticism from people that don't understand his role on the team. When he stripped the ball away from a New England attacker as he was about to shoot in the dying minutes of the game, it summed up the attitude that has made the Fire so tough defensively all season. It's an example of what coach Denis Hamlet described in the post-game as "defending with honor." Would New England have scored and if they did would it have mattered? Nope, but that wasn't what it was about. It was about getting out of there with a clean sheet.

But probably the most unsung play of the game came from the fan that rushed the field after the Fire scored their second goal. Juking past four security guards, he managed to get all the way to the Fire's big group hug, where he blended in with the team thanks to his replica jersey. I've never seen a fan make it on the field and then back to the stands, but this guy got further than anyone has ever gotten. He had one hand on the railing when the guards finally caught him. Overall, it was an outstanding play and totally worth the night he spent in the pokey, provided he wasn't too drunk to remember it.

Columbus and Kansas City are Playing this Saturday. And I actually care.
The Fire's next opponent is the winner of Saturday's Columbus - Kansas City match. Despite their regular season record, the Fire have no reason to fear Columbus. And as for Kansas City, the Fire can't sleep on a team with Claudio Lopez and Josh Wolff in attack and Jimmy Conrad marshaling the back. But if Columbus wins the game's in Columbus, while if KC can get the win, it means one more game at Toyota Park. After the last two Fire home games, I think that's something everyone wants to see.

 
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