Rolfe: SKC match a test for inexperienced Fire players

BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. – Chris Rolfe won't say the Chicago Fire’s last game in Kansas City was a turning point in the club's 2012 season, but it's tough to argue the win was anything but.

In their first game without Sebastian Grazzini on June 7, the Fire held onfor a 1-0 win despite being out-possessed handily, with Rolfe setting up Marco Pappa’s lone goal in his first start of the season.

In the 13 games since that win, Rolfe has become the Fire’s leading goalscorer, and he’ll try to lead the Fire to their eighth win in nine games when the Fire head to Kansas City on Friday (8:30 pm ET; NBCSN, live chat on MLSsoccer.com).

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“It’s going to be a great game for a lot of the guys that haven’t really experienced the playoffs or a big game like this in MLS,” Rolfe said. “The schedule works out well. A couple of games before the end of the season we get a big test like this.”

The Fire were fighting to stay in playoff position back in June, but now, for the first time in two years, they can virtually secure a playoff spot with a win.

If they pick up the full three points they can also leapfrog SKC for first place in the Eastern Conference by one point with a game in hand. To do that, Logan Pause knows his side will have to deploy a different strategy than their defensive win three months ago.

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“We battled, and we dodged some bullets in that game,” Pause said. “We learned from that, and we need to make sure that, come Friday, we’re not defending the entire match, which is what we did for a good portion of that game.”

With the fight for first place and the intense atmosphere of Livestrong Sporting Park, Rolfe knows Friday’s game will be different than matchups with Kansas City in years past.

“In the past, it was never a big game, but I already feel a rivalry from the first game that I played against them,” Rolfe said. “A lot of it has to do with the atmosphere now. They played at Arrowhead and they’d get like 1,000 people there. It was like a friendly game, it didn’t feel like it was important at all. Now, playing at their stadium, it’s packed, it’s loud, the team’s good.”