After a mini-skid against two teams from the North side of the border, the New England Revolution (10-10-7, 37 pts.) will look to get back to winning track when they face the Chicago Fire (10-11-6, 36 points) tonight at Toyota Park, where the Revolution claimed the first of their two victories against their longtime conference rival this season.
The Fire, who are coming off a 1-1 midweek draw at Toronto FC, will be hoping that the third time is a charm against a team that’s blanked them in their previous two meetings.
New England opened the season on March 10 with a 1-0 victory over the Fire in Chicago thanks to a 62nd minute from shot Jerry Bengston, and in the process, claimed its first regular season win at Chicago since July 8, 2006. Five months after their First Kick clash, New England claimed its second win over the Fire in a 2-0 victory, with second half goals from Juan Agudelo and Kelyn Rowe providing the offense.
Despite residing below the red line at the moment, the Fire have played some of its best soccer at Toyota Park this season. In 14 home contests, the Fire are 8-4-2, and have claimed 26 of their 36 total points before their fans at Bridgeview. But the Revolution, who’ve claimed results in three of their last four road tilts, may pose a considerable threat to the Fire’s success at home.
Saturday’s clash will mark the sixth time the conference rivals have met in a span on 15 months. But it’s not a stretch to say that this one will probably their most crucial with both clubs fighting for a playoff spot with only seven games left in the regular season.
A win for the fifth-place Revs will give them a much-needed cushion in the Eastern Conference since they are facing a Fire team that’s only one point behind them. New England can also gain more ground in case there’s a winner in Saturday’s Houston – Philadelphia match-up. A New England victory in Bridgeview combined with a win by Houston will allow them leapfrog Philadelphia for the fourth spot in in the east. However, if the Union and Revolution both emerge victorious, New England would spend another week neck and neck with the Dynamo.
On the other hand, a loss to the Fire, paired with a Dynamo win or draw over the Union would sink the Revolution to seventh, where no team wants to be with six games to go and a pair of tough road contests against New York (October 5) and Montreal (October 12) on the agenda.
Revolution goalkeeper Matt Reis, who started the last four matches in the cage, is suspended for the match following his red card for fouling striker Marco Di Vaio inside the 18 in Sunday’s 4-2 loss. New England forward Juan Agudelo, who missed last week’s match against Montreal with a hamstring strain he suffered against Toronto FC on August 30, is unlikely to travel with the team.
Although the Revolution won’t be at full strength, there’s no question they’ll once again rely on their defense to set the tone early. In both regular season matchups, the Revolution kept it scoreless at halftime, then pulled away in the second half. Expect them to aim for the same approach, even with Reis and Agudelo unavailable.
Prediction: 2-1 Fire