New England Soccer Today

The Warm Up: #CHIvNE

Photo credit: Kari Heistad/

Who: Revolution (2-2-1, 7 points) vs. Chicago Fire (2-1-2, 8 points)
What: Week 7 of the MLS regular season
Where: Toyota Park, Chicago, Illinois
When: Saturday, April 15 at 5:00pm ET
Watch: CSN New England, MLS Live, Direct Kick
Whistle: Ted Unkel – Head Referee; Adam Wienckowski/Eduardo Mariscal – Assistant Referees; Fotis Bazakos – 4th Referee.

Scouting the Opposition:

–The Chicago Fire are resurging from a pitiful 2016 campaign in which they finished deasd last in the MLS. After stumbling through a 7-17-10 record in 2016, Chicago currently sits in fourth place in the Eastern Conference with a 2-1-2 record, including an unbeaten 2-0-1 record at home.

-Chicago has been busy bringing in new talent, including revamped their entire midfield, adding Dax McCarty and Juninho in the offseason, and signing designated player Bastian Schweinsteiger last month. They also added Hungarian striker Nemanja Nikolic, who scored 48 goals in 64 appearances for Legia Warsaw from 2015-2017 and has two goals in five games with the Fire this year.

-Since adding Schweinsteiger to the lineup, Chicago has played three forwards in both games. Against Montreal, they played a 4-3-3, which resulted in a 2-2 draw. Chicago played a 3-4-3 in a 1-0 win over Columbus. Anticipate Michael de Leeuw and David Accam playing out wide while Nikolic plays in the center as the target forward.

-Juninho was not available for Chicago’s last match against Columbus, which prompted the Fire to put Brandon Vincent and Michael Harrington, who are typically the team’s fullbacks, to play left and right midfield, respectively. With Juninho expected to play Saturday, Chicago probably will play the 4-3-3 formation they started with against Montreal.

-Along the back line, Vincent and Harrington are likely to start as the team’s fullbacks, while the Fire will likely start a centerback pairing with two of Joao Meira, Johan Kappelhof, and/or Jonathan Campbell. All five defenders are returning from the 2016 squad, which conceded 58 goals during the MLS season.

-Lee Nguyen on Chicago’s trio of Juninho, McCarty, and Schweinsteiger: “The team that wins the midfield is going to have a better chance, obviously, to win the game. They’ve had major improvements in that field, so it’s going to be a tough matchup. All those three guys are class, so we’re going to have our hands full on the weekend.”

Recent History:

-The Fire won the most recent matchup between the teams on October 16, 2016 in Chicago. A 79th minute goal by David Accam proved to be the game winner in a 2-1 Fire victory. Diego Fagundez and Michel de Leeuw also scored in a match that ended with both teams playing a man down, as Luis Solignac and Brad Knighton were both given red cards.

-Overall, there were four matchups between the Revolution and Fire in 2016, with the Revolution going 3-1-0. The Revolution had the benefit of home field advantage in all three of their victories, which included a 2-0 win on May 15, a 1-0 win on July 24, and a 3-1 semifinal win in the U.S. Open Cup on August 10.

-The Fire barely hold the all-time series lead, with 23 wins to the Revolution’s 21. The teams have also tied a total of 11 times over their history.

3 Things to Know:

1) Last week, Diego Fagundez became the first Homegrown field player to total 10,000 MLS minutes. Fagundez has started all five of the Revolution’s games this season, playing 428 minutes and registering an assist. In his MLS career, he’s scored 30 goals and notched 16 assists since debuting with the Revs in 2013.

2) Rookie Josh Smith, who has started the last two games for the Revolution, underwent surgery on Monday for a thumb fracture suffered during the Portland game. Despite playing against Houston, Smith’s status was unknown as of Wednesday, according to Coach Jay Heaps: ““We’re going to see what the next day or two looks like. Obviously, it was a surgery that had to be done. You want to have your thumb. I think his performance on Saturday was excellent knowing that [he] basically [had] a thumb out of place. The swelling has come down and now he’s had the surgery, so we’ll see as the week progresses. We feel that we’ve got a good back line competition in Ben [Angoua] and Toni [Delamea] and Je-Vaughn [Watson] and different guys that play that position.”

3) Kelyn Rowe started at left back last week for the Revolution, marking his fourth start on the backline for New England. In those four games, the Revolution have a record of 3-0-1 with four clean sheets.

Score prediction: This is a difficult game to call, as Chicago has a ton of talent, but may still be in the process of getting accustomed to one another. How effective will they be against a New England defense that has recently found its footing? Meanwhile, New England hasn’t generated much offense on the road so far this season, but have faced Portland, Colorado, and Dallas, all of whom are well above Chicago’s level defensively. I predict a 1-1 draw, but truthfully, this game could go either way.

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