Kansas City, KS (Sports Network) - Fittingly, the Chicago Fire are the hottest
team in MLS.
With seven wins in its last eight matches, Chicago has climbed to second place
in the Eastern Conference. One more win, Friday at Sporting Kansas City, will
send the Fire to the summit.
"We know it's a big game," Fire manager Frank Klopas said. "We're excited that
there's so much on the line. I think that's the exciting part."
Chicago (16-8-5) had just 32 points from its first 21 matches, but has totaled
21 points over its last eight. On 53 points from 29 matches, the Fire sit just
two points behind Sporting with a game in hand.
In addition to having first place in sight, Chicago can secure a playoff berth
this weekend with a win at Livestrong Sporting Park and a little help from the
Philadelphia Union. Kansas City can also clinch a playoff spot with a win.
"We're playing the first-place team. They're a very good team so it should be
a good challenge for us," Klopas said.
Klopas has turned Chicago into a contender through a serious of changes during
the year. Forwards Sherjill MacDonald Chris Rolfe, midfielders Alex and Alvaro
Fernandez and defender Arne Friedrich are the key in-season additions.
Rolfe scored both goals last week, as Chicago rallied for the eighth time this
year to edge the Columbus Crew, 2-1. Now, it is in position to secure the top
place with another win against Kansas City.
Chicago has won the first two meetings between the squads this season, 2-1 at
Chicago and 1-0 at Kansas City. With a win, and either a Union win or tie, the
Fire would wrap up a postseason berth.
"It'll be a good challenge for us in a difficult place against a very good
team," Klopas said. "But again, we look very much forward to it."
Kansas City (16-7-7) has taken a back seat to Chicago lately, but the club has
not lost in its last eight matches with four wins and four draws in that span.
Chicago did make up five points on Sporting over the squads' last eight games,
but a win Friday would put Kansas City in control in the East.
With an 8-3-4 record at home, Kansas City needs to pick up points against the
Fire with trips to Columbus and Red Bull New York next on the schedule.
Sporting extended its streak last week with a 0-0 draw at the Montreal Impact,
and will try to make a major impact in the East title chase with a win against
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