MetroStars face tall order vs. Fire

Fresh off Saturday's come-from-behind draw with the Kansas City Wizards, the MetroStars are eager to hit the field on Friday night for another key contest against Eastern Conference rivals Chicago Fire.

The match comes at a crucial juncture in the early part of the schedule for the MetroStars, who have only been able to manage a draw in each of their first two games, against Real Salt Lake and the Wizards.

Now with a third consecutive match at Giants Stadium before the team hits the road for the first time next week, the MetroStars know that they need to start putting together some wins before they find themselves behind the pack in the Eastern Conference.

"We need three points. It's important to get those three points because we are going on the road the following weekend. A victory at home is what we need," said midfielder Mark Lisi.

It might be premature to sound the alarm bells after only two matches, especially when one of those two games was played in horrendous weather conditions, but the fact that the team surrendered a pair of quick goals last Saturday and fell behind in the first half was not easily forgotten by the players.

"We've got to be better, and not put ourselves in that position. Teams that win championships don't put themselves in those types of positions," said five-time MLS Cup champion Jeff Agoos.

Sergio Galvan Rey's two goals and John Wolyniec's two assists helped dig the MetroStars out of that two-goal hole last Saturday and earn the share of the points. But now the attention turns to a team that the MetroStars have beaten only once in the last eight matches.

"They've had their way with us the past two years, and we have to set the tone," said second-year defender Jeff Parke

"We have some history with Chicago, and they've beaten us a lot in the last few years," said Lisi. "We have to be mentally and physically sharp. We know what they are all about, and they know how we play. It's going to come down to second balls, 50-50 balls, and fighting in the midfield."

It's also going to come down to a matter of height, an advantage that the Fire will look to exploit against a starting defense with only one player over six feet tall.

"They're big. They have three or four guys who are over 6-2, so we have to be careful in the air. We have to play our game, get behind the ball early and limit their service in the air," said Parke.

Free kicks and corners in their defensive end are an area where the MetroStars will have to pay particular attention to the size advantage the Fire enjoys.

"On all set pieces you have Nate Jaqua (6-foot-3), Jim Curtin (6-4), Kelly Gray (6-2), Samuel Caballero (6-1), Tony Sanneh (6-2), so when you play Chicago (their height) becomes a big part of the challenge," said head coach Bob Bradley.

Jaqua, in particular, is a player the defense can't afford to lose track of.

"Wherever he is you have to keep a close eye on him. We have to have guys (on defense) supporting each other just in case they get that flick and another guy runs off of him," Parke said.

Now, with a bit of momentum from the comeback against Kansas City on their side, the MetroStars are ready for their nationally televised contest against Chicago. A rejuvenated Galvan Rey and a high-octane midfield combo featuring Amado Guevara, Youri Djorkaeff and the possible return of Eddie Gaven give the MetroStars the guns to take on any team in the league, regardless of their recent record.

And Bradley helped put the results of the recent series between the Fire and the MetroStars in perspective: "We've had some good matches with them. But I don't think that games from two years ago mean very much."

Rich Schneider is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.


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