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Rolfe scores three as Fire clinch second seed

Oct 24, 2008 - 5:50 AM BRIDGEVIEW, Illinois (Ticker) -- With the Chicago Fire looking to secure home-field advantage in the first round of the MLS Cup Playoffs, Chris Rolfe took it upon himself to make it happen.

The veteran forward scored three goals and assisted on two others as the Fire rolled to an emphatic 5-2 victory over the New York Red Bulls on Thursday.

With the win, the Fire (13-10-7) clinched home-field advantage in the first round of the playoffs, where they will face off against the New England Revolution (12-10-7).

"I think most people in the league know we are a good team and I think tonight's game shows we are ready for the playoffs," Rolfe said. "We have a lot of respect for New England. They are a good team, but we'll be prepared and ready to play them."

The loss makes things complicated for the Red Bulls (10-11-9), who are fighting with four other teams for the three remaining playoff spots. They could have clinched a playoff spot with a win, but will now have to wait out the rest of the regular season's final week to learn their fate.

"I think our team made terrible mistakes tonight. Credit to Chicago, I think they are one of the best teams in the league," Red Bulls coach Juan Carlos Osorio said. "Today I think we were not disciplined and did not defend on set plays, which is something we worked on all week. I question if we deserve to be in the playoffs. We let a lot of people down, especially ourselves."

Rolfe, who now leads the club with nine goals and is second with seven assists, got things going early. In the 11th minute, Logan Pause hit a running Justin Mapp, who pushed it up the field to Stephen King. King sent a crossing pass from the baseline, where Rolfe broke out of a crowd to put the ball in the net past New York goalkeeper Danny Cepero from three yards out.

"He had a fantastic night," Chicago coach Denis Hamlett said. "I told him to remember when he would go at guys and tonight he did just that. He had that mindset tonight that he was going to score. If he gets a chance he can put the ball on goal."

Later in the first half, Rolfe snapped a 1-1 tie to put the Fire on top for good, sending a 20-yard boot off the volley into the upper left corner of the net in the 38th minute.

"I am used to scoring goals like that and it was nice to get on like that," Rolfe said. "When I went on the field tonight, I had a feeling I might have a good game. I have always played well in cool weather like tonight."

Six minutes later, Rolfe completed the hat trick with a score on a nifty pass from Blanco to give Chicago a 3-1 lead at the half.

Chicago Brian McBride put the game away in the 53rd minute when Diego Gutierrez sent a long pass to the far side of the net past two New York defenders to McBride, who placed a one-timer into the net.

"He looked like he was 10 years younger tonight on that run," Gutierrez said of McBride. "You know what you are going to get out of him. I knew he would be up for the challenge tonight."

After entering the game only seconds earlier, Daniel Woolard put a header into the net off a crossing pass from Rolfe to put Chicago ahead, 5-1, in the 74th minute.

Juan Pablo Angel scored his team-leading 14th-goal - tied for third in the MLS - for the Red Bulls, and Macoumba Kandji added a tally in the 88th minute.

"I am concerned we gave up two goals, but we also scored five against a good team," Hamlett said. "That is a good sign and something we can use as we go into the playoffs."








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    NY RED BULLS GOAL: Macoumba Kandji in the 88th minute

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    Red Bulls 1, Fire 3  1st - 44'Oct 23 10:17 PM


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    CHICAGO GOAL: Chris Rolfe in the 11th minute

    Red Bulls 0, Fire 1  1st - 11'Oct 23 9:45 PM
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    #1 Cards Fan Added 5 roots

    Red Bulls 0, Fire 0  1st - 5'Oct 23 9:42 PM
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