New England Soccer Today

Fire Extinguishers?

At this point in the season, pride is the only thing remaining for the New England Revolution to fight for. Sitting last in the Eastern Conference with just five games remaining, the Revolution turn their attention to the Chicago Fire against whom  they will do battle Sunday afternoon at Toyota Park in Bridgeview, IL.

The last game between these two bitter conference rivals was a 1-1 draw which took place on June 18th at Gillette Stadium. At the time, the forms of both Chicago and New England were in flux, with both searching for an identity. The Revolution are still searching for that identity- but the Fire look like they’re starting to put the pieces together. Chicago haven’t lost a regular season game at home since 1-0 loss to Portland on July 16 and, overall, are unbeaten in five of their last six.

Meanwhile, New England saw their four-match unbeaten streak evaporate in Portland last week in a 3-0 loss. And while the Revolution have shown glimpses of brilliance, like in their last unbeaten run, last week’s result against Portland only strengthens the argument that the team still has plenty of growing to do before it can be considered playoff caliber.

As it turns out, the Revolution are not mathematically out of the playoffs despite their low seed in the Eastern Conference. The Fire are just three points ahead of the Revolution but are seven points out of the playoffs and have a game in hand on Portland, who are currently in the final playoff spot. This scenario could be potentially devastating for the Revolution.

With Chicago knowing that they need maximum points in their final games to keep their playoffs hopes afloat, they have to feel confident against the Revolution, who have one of the league’s worst defenses and stagnant offenses.

In addition, Rajko Lekic, who scored the equalizing goal against Chicago on June 18, is out with a sprained ankle. Without Lekic, the Revolution will need Zack Schilawski to find a groove next to Milton Caraglio. In addition to getting production up top, the Revolution need both Shalrie Joseph and Benny Feilhaber to control the ball in midfield and get possession out on the wings.

Feilhaber has looked more comfortable on the team since moving into his natural central midfield position next to Joseph. But the Revolution have not been well-rounded enough as a team to support the work that Feilhaber and Joseph do by defending well and keeping possession. While the Revolution have looked good on the ball at times, they’ll have to cut down on the mental lapses, regardless of whether the team is playing for pride, points, or a trophy.

Even if the Revolution go out and play one of their best games of the season tomorrow, the advantage clearly lies with the home side. Aside from New England’s four-game winless streak at Toyota Park, Chicago is healthier going into tomorrow night’s game, with only two reserve players unavailable for selection because of injury. The Revolution will have to cope with injuries to Lekic, AJ Soares, Stephen McCarthy, Monsef Zerka, and Sainey Nyassi. But mainly, the Fire have been “hotter” than the Revolution as of late. Then again, who hasn’t?

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