Fire remain optimistic; Host New England on CSN

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Fire remain optimistic; Host New England on CSN

Sunday, Sept. 25, 2011
Posted: 1:00 p.m.
Associated Press

The Chicago Fire have maintained their very slim playoff hopes thanks to improved play at home.

The Fire will try to pick up some much-needed points Sunday when they host the New England Revolution and win their fourth straight at home.

Chicago (5-8-15) is running out of time to make a move in the standings. The Fire, who have six games remaining, need to jump five teams to move into the final wild-card spot, but they remain optimistic.

We have six games left and we need all six, thats our attitude, goalkeeper Sean Johnson told the Fires official website. We cant afford any more ties or losses and I think everybody understands that and is ready to get after these final six games.

The Fire are 3-1-2 in their last six games and are 4-2-8 at Toyota Park after beating Chivas USA 3-2 on Sept. 17 despite playing most of the match with 10 men.

Dominic Oduro scored in the 85th minute to break a 2-all tiehis team-leading 10th goal and seventh in the last seven games. Oduro has scored the winning goal in Chicagos last three victories.

Cory Gibbs opened the scoring but was ejected after getting a red card in the 37th minute. He will miss this match due to suspension and is the third Fire defender in as many weeks to be out due to suspension.

We will miss Cory with the red card. He brings so much leadership on the field, coach Frank Klopas said.

The Fire will try to gain some important points against lowly New England (5-12-12), which is in last place in the Eastern Conference.

The Revolution suffered a 3-0 loss at Portland on Sept. 16 to drop to 1-8-6 on the road. They have lost five of nine overall.

New England never recovered from conceding a goal in the ninth minute as the Timbers controlled the run of play and put eight of their 20 shots on goal.

The Revolutions own attack was hurt when Rajko Lekicsecond on the team with six goalswas forced out before the half with an ankle sprain that is expected to keep him sidelined for perhaps a month.

A.J. Soares is also out after suffering a groin injury in the second half.

Despite their slim playoff chances, New England isnt giving up until it is officially eliminated.

Our season is on the line, pretty much, defender Darrius Barnes said. We know we have to pretty much win out. Chicagos going to be a difficult place to go, but theyre right there, neck and neck with us. Pretty much the winner of that game is going to have a chance to go on and make a push for the playoffs.

Chicago and New England played to a 1-all draw June 18, with Lekics goal in the 48th minute canceling out Oduros first-half tally. The Fire are 7-0-1 in their last eight home games against the Revolution, outscoring them 16-3.
Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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After getting another signature win at Maryland, does any Big Ten team have two better conference wins than Minnesota?

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USA TODAY

After getting another signature win at Maryland, does any Big Ten team have two better conference wins than Minnesota?

Does any Big Ten team have two better conference wins than Minnesota?

The Golden Gophers went on the road and defeated a ranked group of Maryland Terrapins on Wednesday night, and they did so in impressive fashion, scoring an 89-75 victory in College Park.

Team this win with the win at Purdue back on New Year's Day, and there's no better pair of league victories to be found.

More importantly though, the Gophers, at 9-6, are now the No. 4 team in the Big Ten standings.

It's all a part of a quality NCAA tournament resume for the Gophers, who are closer to lock status after Wednesday's win than they are to being on any sort of bubble. With mediocrity running rampant through the Big Ten this season, Richard Pitino's 21-win squad should be well on its way to an appearance in next month's Madness, which would be the program's first since he took over as head coach.

The resume looks pretty strong at this point, especially after Wednesday. Minnesota can now claim wins over Purdue, Maryland and Northwestern — all three of those conference victories coming on the road. In the non-conference portion of the schedule, the Gophers beat Arkansas, the Razorbacks seemingly heading to the tournament themselves. The only loss from the non-conference portion came on the road at Florida State, one of the highest-ranked teams in the country.

So it's safe to say Minnesota will go dancing.

Wednesday's 14-point beatdown of the Terps saw the Gophers shoot 50 percent from the field on the night and 54.5 percent from the field in the second half. Five players scored in double figures: Dupree McBrayer with 18, Nate Mason with 17, Akeem Springs with 16, Jordan Murphy with 15 and Amir Coffey with 13. Minnesota didn't win the rebounding battle but scored 15 points off 10 Maryland turnovers and marched to the free-throw line, going 17-for-20 from the charity stripe while Maryland was just 8-for-13 there.

The second half was a rout, the Gophers outscoring the Terps 55-40 over the final 20 minutes and rattling off two separate 9-0 runs to burst away from the No. 24 team in the country.

The overtime win at Purdue on the first day of 2017 might go down as a bigger win considering the Boilermakers are closing in on the No. 1 seed in the Big Ten Tournament. That win, too, came by an impressive-enough margin, 91-82. But Minnesota dominated Maryland over the final nine minutes or so and turned in a double-digit victory on the road against a team that lost to that same Purdue team on that same court by just a point two and a half weeks ago.

The Gophers are now on a six-game winning streak and are piling up wins in a fashion that's making them look like one of the Big Ten's finest. A 3-1 start to conference play that extended its overall record to 15-2 was dampened by Minnesota's five-game losing streak that featured losses to higher-echelon teams like Michigan State, Wisconsin and Maryland, plus road losses at Penn State and Ohio State. But since have come six straight wins. While the caliber of opponent hadn't been terribly impressive until Wednesday, the Gophers can now boast nine conference wins. Only three teams have more.

It's now worth watching how high Minnesota can climb in the Big Ten standings before the conference tournament just two weeks from now. If the season ended today, the Gophers would already be in possession of one of those highly coveted two-day byes. But Minnesota is just a game back of Maryland and just two games back of Wisconsin, who the Gophers play in the regular-season finale.

Like Pitino told his team after Wednesday's win: "No more talk about (just making) the NCAA tournament. We're talking about seeds in the NCAA tournament."