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Ralph's quick start points way

Special to The Tribune

Damani Ralph got his scoring touch back as the Fire beat New England 3-1 on Saturday night.

The rookie forward scored once and collected two assists for his first points since late June as the Fire (7-4-4, 25 points) remained three points out of first place in Major League Soccer's Eastern Conference behind the MetroStars, who beat Dallas 2-1 in overtime Saturday.

"Last week we started off very slow against D.C. United," said Ralph, who has seven goals and three assists. "We didn't want to make the same mistake [Saturday night]."

Fellow rookie Nate Jaqua also had a big night in his first MLS start. Jaqua helped set up the team's opening goal and nearly scored two himself before 12,345 fans at Cardinal Stadium.

Jaqua, a first-round draft pick, set things up in the eighth minute as he pushed a feed to Ralph from a nearly prone position. Ralph then slipped a pass to defender Kelly Gray, who blasted a 12-yard shot past Revolution goalie Matt Reis.

The Fire made it 2-0 in the 34th minute as Ralph split two defenders with a feed to midfielder Justin Mapp, who sprinted untouched toward the goal and lined a shot to Reis' left into the goal.

Ralph got his scoring chance in the 50th minute with a successful penalty kick after a foul on defender Jim Curtin in the goal box.

One of Jaqua's chances came on a header stopped by Reis in the 10th minute. In the 29th minute, he had an apparent goal called back on an offside call after putting a turnaround shot at the goalmouth past Reis.

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