Surging Fire making their run
The Fire continued their suddenly resurgent play Saturday night, as they have leapfrogged the New England Revolution and D.C. United in the standings, and gained an impressive six points in four days. They now sit in third place in the Eastern Conference with 29 pts., trailing only the first place Columbus Crew and the MetroStars.
Chicago pressured the D.C. defense from the opening moments, though neither team got on the scoreboard until the 29th minute when D.C. defender and captain Ryan Nelsen was responsible for an own goal, which was created by a sliding cross by Fire midfielder Justin Mapp.
D.C .tied the game in the 58th minute when midfielder Earnie Stewart followed up a Josh Gros shot, redirecting a rebound from in close for his third of the season.
Chicago responded seven minutes later on a header by Mapp, which extended his goal-scoring streak to three games. The assists went to Fire captain C.J. Brown and defender Kelly Gray, who both tallied their first points of the season on the play.
Fire head coach Dave Sarachan praised Mapp at the postgame press conference: "He's becoming a man. He's a kid who is developing into a guy that can put in 90 minutes and can make a difference ... you're seeing a guy that is pretty special."
Gray capped off a four point evening by heading in the third Fire goal, with assists going to Logan Pause and Scott Beute. The assist was Beute's first career MLS point.
With the win, the Fire are on their first winning streak in MLS play in nearly three months (May 29 vs. Colorado, June 5 vs. D.C.). They appear to be heeding the advice of Sarachan, who suggested last week that the team put their summer-long stretch of mediocre play behind them and start fresh with a solid push towards the MLS playoffs in the final eight games of the season.
D.C. entered the game having played to three consecutive draws and remain mired in fourth place in the Eastern Conference with 27 pts., three points ahead of 5th place New England. They return home to play Dallas next Saturday.
A composed D.C. coach Peter Nowak stated after the game that he was "really disappointed with the result," and that "we have to go home and fight for the points we gave away today."
Toby True is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.