When the Revolution open up their three-game season series with the Chicago Fire at Gillette Stadium on Saturday night, a rivalry will be renewed.
Playing in tight and high emotion matches throughout the years in both the regular season and playoffs, there may be no greater and more classic rivalry in Major League Soccer than that between the Revolution and the Fire.
But after coming off a dreadful penalty kick loss to the Harrisburg City Islanders in Open Cup play, the stakes are high for the Revolution.
“I want the players to learn from it, but I want them to move on quickly,” head coach Jay Heaps told revolutionsoccer.net. “They have and we’ve already started thinking about the next game.”
Taking Tuesday’s Open Cup loss into account, the Revolution are now winless in their last three (0-2-1). Needless to say, the Revolution sure could use three points on Saturday night to resume their climb in the Eastern Conference Standings.
Fortunately for the Revolution, they have begun to accomplish Jay Heaps’ goal of turning Gillette Stadium into a fortress. The Revolution are currently 3-1-1 at home, a record that should be very possible to hold up against the Fire, who are just 2-3-1 on the road.
“If we can get a win and start building momentum here,” Chris Tierney told revolutionsoccer.net. “We’ve got another one at home in two weeks time, so the more wins we can string together, the better the team will play and the better we’ll do.”
There is a wild card involved in Saturday night’s game, however. Chris Rolfe, who left the Fire in 2010 to join Aalborg of the Danish premier league, has returned and will likely make his 2012 debut. Rolfe was a Revolution killer in his former career with Chicago and earned the team’s award for most goals in a season in 2005 and 2008.
Rolfe, paired with the speedy Dominic Oduro, who currently leads the team with four goals, will be a difficult combination for the Revolution defense to handle. But while the Revolution are looking to defend against the Fire’s speed and precision in the attack, the best defense could be a good offense.
“They counter with numbers and they counter in tight spots,” Heaps told MLSsoccer.com. “We have to make sure we keep the ball and make them work.”
Saer Sene is currently clicking on all cylinders, scoring in three consecutive games. He currently holds the team’s scoring lead with seven goals, and is behind his childhood hero Thierry Henry by two goals.
Getting the ball on Sene’s foot might be the most effective way to break Chicago’s back line. But doing so will be easier said than done, as Chicago will likely have their eyes on Sene.
The best way to free Sene is to maintain control of the midfield and pressure Chicago’s backline. The offensive efforts of Lee Nguyen and Benny Feilhaber will be key, though Shalrie Joseph will need to step up and help facilitate the attack.
But if Chicago thwart the Revolution attack, they will likely use the speed of Rolfe, Oduro and Nyarko to launch a counter attack.
“We just have to be smart,” Tierney said. “There are going to be times to go, for sure. But we’re constantly thinking, ‘What if?’ If the ball turns over, are we in a good spot to defend? Hopefully, more times than not, the answer’s going to be ‘yes’ this weekend. As long as we cover each other well and realize that when one goes, the other covers, I think we’ll be in good shape.”