BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. - Chris Rolfe apparently doesn't like the MLS team in his home state.
The Chicago Fire striker and Kettering, Ohio native scored two goals just minutes apart as they came from behind to defeat the Columbus Crew 2-1 in front of a near sell-out crowd of 19,172 at Toyota Park. The win was the club's fourth straight; their longest streak of the season.
Is there a reason that Rolfe does so well against the Crew?
"They didn't draft me," said Rolfe jokingly after the match. "They had a couple of rounds to draft me, so that's the way it is."
Rolfe, whom the Fire initially drafted in the third round of the MLS SuperDraft, left the club after the 2009 season to join Danish club Aalborg BK. He rejoined the Fire this past April, and after the two goals on Saturday night, he now has eight on the season.
The Men in Red have now won seven of their last eight MLS matches and have 53 points on the season. Of those last seven wins, four of those have involved a comeback. That's something Rolfe said the team is aware of.
"I think that’s something we’ve kind of done a lot this year," said Rolfe about giving up the early goals. "We seem to start out decent in the game and then give up a goal and then we respond to that. That’s something we’re going to have to fix, but it’s still a good thing that we’re able to come back from that."
And indeed, after some lively play from both sides to open the match, it was the away team who struck first off a Sean Johnson howler.
Off a back pass from left back Gonzalo Segares, the Fire ‘keeper Johnson looked to pass it back to the Costa Rican international. Crew forward Jairo Arrieta, however, was able to jump in front on the pass and then round Johnson to put the ball into the net past a desperately sliding Arne Friedrich and give the visitors the advantage in the 15th minute.
The Fire wouldn't be down for long though.
Moments later, midfielder Logan Pause was able to get the ball to striker Sherjill MacDonald down the left flank. MacDonald then found Rolfe with a beautiful through ball that left him one-on-one with Crew ‘keeper Andy Gruenebaum. The 29-year-old made no mistakes as his shot found the bottom left corner of the net to put the match on level terms in the 23rd minute.
And Rolfe wasn't done yet.
Three minutes later, winger Patrick Nyarko got the ball near midfielder was able to take it all the way to the edge of the box before picking out Rolfe. He then earned himself a 26th minute brace with a wonderful chip past Gruenebaum and into the top right corner of the net to give the Fire the lead.
The Crew had some opportunities late, but Johnson was solid after the early miscue, and finished the night with five saves in the victory.
"You upset yourself when you give up a pass out of the back and it turns into a goal," said Johnson after the game. "But I think that going forward, you just do your best to keep your team in the game and that's what I was called upon to do at that point in time."
One of Johnson's teammates said they were supportive of their goalkeeper even after the early mistake.
"For me, it's very important how you react as a team," said Fire defender Arne Friedrich. "Mistakes always happen in the game and great players usually show a very good reaction as he did today, and he made a couple saves today, and this makes clear in a very good way that he's confident and this is what we need."
Fire Head Coach Frank Klopas said he was happy with the team's performance in that they were able to defeat a team that's not only a rival, but is also playing strong down the stretch.
"It's a team that's just like us where they're fighting to make the playoffs," said Klopas in his post-match press conference. "Matches like this are, where the rivalry has been there, so the exciting part is that we were at home and there was a lot on the line with every game and I think the players thrive on that."
The Fire have now won four straight against conference rivals and currently sit alone in second place in the Eastern Conference with 53 points. Following a loss to DC United in late August, the Men in Red reeled off wins against the Houston Dynamo, Toronto FC and the Montreal Impact before tonight's three point performance.
La Maquina Roja named an unchanged Starting XI from their 3-1 win over the Impact last Saturday.
Vice-Captain Pavel Pardo was again unavailable for the match. The defensive midfielder missed last week's match with hamstring tightness and it appears he is not yet fully recovered. After the match, Klopas said the club is proceeding with caution as far as a return date is concerned.
Midfielder Daniel Paladini was named to the bench after missing the last two matches with a right calf injury. He made an appearance in the 78th minute, coming on for MacDonald as the Fire looked to hold on to the lead.
The Fire received an attacking boost when it was confirmed that new striker Guillermo Franco received his visa and would be eligible for Saturday night's match. He was named to the substitute's bench, but did not see action. Franco signed with the club on September 14.
The Fire were without right back Dan Gargan as he was suspended due to yellow card accumulation. He will be available when the Fire are next in action on Friday.
The Crew came in looking to continue their quest for a playoff berth. They needed some last-minute heroics on Wednesday to knock off Chivas USA 1-0. They now play host to the Philadelphia Union next Saturday.
The Fire are next in action when they travel to LIVESTRONG Sporting Park to take on Sporting Kansas City on Friday evening. With a win, the Fire would move into first place in the Eastern Conference. That match will be nationally televised on the NBC Sports Network.
Starting XI: Johnson (Y: '89); Anibaba, Friedrich, Berry, Segares; Fernandez, Pause (C) (A: '23), Alex (Sub: '89 for Thompson), Nyarko (A: '26); Rolfe (G: '23, '26) (Sub: '84 for Oduro), MacDonald (A: '23) (Sub: '78 for Paladini)
Substitutes: Nolly, Videira, Thompson (Sub: '89 for Alex), Bone, Paladini (Sub: '78 for MacDonald), Oduro (Sub: '84 for Rolfe), Franco
Starting XI: Gruenebaum; Miranda (Sub: '81 for Vargas), Marshall, James, Williams; Renteria (Y: '35) (Sub: '60 for Tchani), O'Rourke (Y: '28), Mirosevic, Gaven (Sub: '69 for Meram); Higuaín, Arrieta (G: '15)
Substitutes: Lampson, Vukovic, Birchall, Gehrig, Tchani (Sub: '69 for Renteria), Meram (Sub: '69 for Gaven), Vargas (Sub: '81 for Miranda)
Referee: Michael Kennedy