(Editor’s note: Prior to each Revolution match, New England Soccer Today will invite a reporter who covers the Revolution’s upcoming opponent to provide greater insight on what to expect on gameday.
This week, Dan Gaichas from Windy City Soccer was kind enough to share his insight on the Chicago Fire and what the Revolution can expect on Saturday night at Gillette Stadium.)
New England Soccer Today: What’s the biggest storyline for the Fire going into this game?
Dan Gaichas: Coming into this game, their 5th in 14 days, the Fire will likely have the starters back out on the pitch after their 3-2 extra time loss in the Open Cup against the PDL’s Michigan Bucks. Much like the Revolution, the Fire will be looking to put behind their Open Cup embarrassment.
What things has Chicago done especially well so far this season?
One thing they have especially done well is coming from behind in matches. They have fallen behind in 10 of their 12 league matches, but are 4-4-2 in them. The attack is a lot better with Sebastian Grazzini as the midfield engine and Dominic Oduro scoring up front.
Which areas still need improvement?
Defending needs to improve especially when the left back (Gonzalo Segares) and right back (Dan Gargan) make forward runs, guarding set pieces (three goals off corners in matches vs. Portland and FCD), and covering for their young central defense duo of Jalil Anibaba and Austin Berry who got picked apart by Columbus, recently.
What’s the biggest difference between this year’s team and last year’s, besides the dropoff in draws?
The biggest difference this season (other than the reduction in draws) is that this team believes itself and is a much more confident squad than the one that went 2-7-15 in the first two-thirds of last season. Part of that is the acquisitions of Grazzini and Pavel Pardo and Oduro finding his scoring boots. They have been a big help. It also helps to have Marco Pappa in form on the wings even though he will be absent this Saturday due to national team duty.
Which unsung performer should the Revs be wary of come Saturday?
Though I did knock him earlier, Austin Berry is very much capable in central defense and the odd time moving up front for a set piece. He has two goals this season already. Berry filled for a suspended Anibaba (and now injured Arne Friedrich) against Chivas USA and has remained in the lineup ever since.
What are some of things the Fire will try to do Saturday night to stack the odds in their favor?
The Fire tend to try to move the ball quickly. They are not much of a possession team. With Oduro and Patrick Nyarko up front, they will utilize their speed to the fullest up front. Also watch Grazzini and Pardo on set pieces.
What is their likely starting 11 against the Revs?
If I were to guess, it would be this on Saturday: Sean Johnson; Dan Gargan, Jalil Anibaba, Austin Berry, Gonzalo Segares; Pavel Pardo, Rafael Robayo, Logan Pause; Sebastian Grazzini; Dominic Oduro, Patrick Nyarko. With Pappa absent, it is likely that Rafael Robayo would fill in for him.
Dan Gaichas is the editor and webmaster of Windy City Soccer (windycitysoccer.net), which has covered soccer in the Chicagoland area since 2004. Dan currently holds the post of Secretary for the North American Soccer Reporters.