Chicago Fire coach Frank Klopas witnessed an important result against Red Bull New York last weekend, but acknowledged it's crucial to "build" on the victory.
Chicago defeated Red Bull New York, 3-1, on goals from Patrick Nyarko, Gonzalo Segares and Chris Rolfe as it snapped a two-game losing streak in Major League Soccer.
The Fire (6-5-3) sit fourth in the Eastern Conference, but have four squads on their heels, including the sixth-place Columbus Crew (5-4-4), who visit Toyota Park on Saturday.
With New York six points clear in third place, Chicago can maintain fourth and stay within touch of the top three with a win over Columbus. After the victory over New York, Klopas believed the Fire took a step in the right direction.
"I think overall, from start to finish, it's better," Klopas admitted. "Now we have to continue to build."
The Fire improved to 4-1-2 at home after last week's win and saw numerous good signs, but the best was the goal from Rolfe.
Rolfe returned to Chicago this season after a spell away from MLS, and added a goal to run his career total to 37 in league play. Klopas admitted Rolfe would be a difference for the Fire as the season continues.
"He changed the game. You can see the class that he has, he has really clean technical ability, he's very good with the ball," Klopas said. "You have to give (him) credit ... for being in the right spot (on his goal) and putting the game away there."
Nyarko admitted it was nice to have Rolfe back as the two played together with the Fire in 2008-09. Rolfe joined Danish side AaB in 2010, but has returned to MLS and the Fire, and scored in just his second appearance.
"It's exciting to have him back. He's a finisher, he's a goalscorer, he has great feet and he works hard. He's a two-way player," Nyarko said.
Chicago managed the result against New York with Arne Friedrich and Cory Gibbs still sidelined in defense, but Austin Berry and Jalil Anibaba played well in the back.
"Austin Berry and Jalil Anibaba are young but they did a fantastic job. They can compete and are good in the air," said Klopas.
Columbus will provide a test for Chicago, as the Crew come to town unbeaten in their last six overall and undefeated in their last four on the road.
With a 2-2-3 mark on the road this season, Columbus is coming off a 0-0 tie at the New England Revolution - their third shutout in their last six games. The Crew also beat the Fire, 2-1, in Columbus this season.
"We know that we're going to have to build ourselves on the road and build that confidence on the road," Crew goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum said. "I think we're going in with that mentality that if we can keep a zero on their end, then maybe we can steal one."
Crew coach Robert Warzycha has guided the team to a 3-0-3 record in their last six matches - Columbus last lost in April - and a win at the Fire would lift his side into the top five in the standings.
"The fitness is good and we look sharp and we have an answer for everything. Sometimes you go through a stretch in the season, that whatever you do, is going to work for you, and sometimes whatever you do is not," said Warzycha.
"It seems like in (this) stretch that the guys are gelling and working for each other and somebody always makes something good and positive so I'd be glad to continue to do that for the rest of the season."