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Revolution ready for Chicago Fire, "must win" stretch of games

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The Revs know three points are a must when Veljko Paunović's team comes to town.

The Revs beat the Fire at home in 2015, with Diego Fagundez scoring on a wonder-strike golazo.
The Revs beat the Fire at home in 2015, with Diego Fagundez scoring on a wonder-strike golazo.
Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

The latter portion of this week has been consumed by the New England Revolution trading for Kei Kamara from Columbus Crew SC, but there's still business to take care of this weekend. In what marks the first match of a three-game home stand before the Copa America Centenario, the Revs will host the Chicago Fire on Saturday night at Gillette Stadium.

Both sides have certainly endured struggles in 2016, with each registering a solitary win and less than a point earned per game. Their respective forms don't quite inspire confidence, as the Revs haven't earned three points since April 1 against the New York Red Bulls and Chicago last achieved the same feat on April 2 against the Philadelphia Union.

Mindful of their standing in the Eastern Conference, the occasion is not lost on players and coaches, with midfielder Kelyn Rowe describing the clash as a "must win."

"It’s two teams fighting for their season." - Rowe

"It's going to turn around our season these next three games," Rowe said. "Can we get out of another hole if it doesn't happen? Of course we can, I think we have a very good team. But these three games are must-wins for us going into a break and coming off some results not that we wanted. Mentally, as well as standing-wise, we just need to find some wins and nine points out of these three games."

The Revs haven't had an aura of desperation, but head coach Jay Heaps' squad is definitely laser-focused on the task at hand. In particular, the Revs are mindful of the attacking threat posed by the Fire's pacey contingent of David Accam, Kennedy Igboananike and Gilberto.

Heaps expects their combined six goals to cause concern, and acknowledged that midfielders and strikers will have to help when Andrew Farrell, Je-Vaughn Watson and others try to corral them.

"You want to deal with it before it happens," Heaps said. "They can hit quickly on the counter attack in two, three passes and can be in the back of your net. That does happen. It will happen. We have to make sure that we're eliminating it before it happens when we can, but also getting numbers behind the ball and making sure they don't have a lot of two-on-twos and three-on-threes."

Revs fans will fondly remember this Fagundez strike last year against Chicago.

Conversely, New England's offense has the potential to take advantage of Chicago's backline, which has been assembled by first-year head coach Veljko Paunović.

When on the road, Chicago often plays a five-man defense anchored by goalkeeper Matt Lampson that consists of outside backs Brandon Vincent and Rodrigo Ramos, and center backs Jonathan Campbell, Joao Meira and Johan Kappelhof. None of the aforementioned players were on Chicago's roster in 2015.

"I wouldn't call an expansion team or anything of that sort, but they do have a lot of new players, a new coach and are still trying to gel together," Rowe said. "Hopefully we can find a way to make it hard for them so they don't gel together during this game. I think they'll find a way, just like we are, to get out of a rut and find a couple wins. We're just making sure it's not on Saturday."

Complicating matters further will be Chicago's recent game, a 2-1 away loss to the Vancouver Whitecaps. Heaps urged that Paunović's team deserved at least a point, so it'll take a 90-minute performance to reverse New England's fortunes.

Nonetheless, the Revs are confident they can get the job done and that poor results will become a part of the past.

"This game is a lot about us," Heaps said. "I think we have to step on the field and bring the right amount of energy and urgency, and the right amount of discipline and tactical awareness into a game against a team that played [Wednesday] and played a very sound game ... We have to be ready for them to be at their best."