Tuesday night is a big one, New England Revolution fans. The Chicago Fire are visiting Gillette Stadium for an 8 p.m. kickoff in the U.S. Open Cup's semifinal round, with the match also broadcasted nationally on ESPN2.
The Revs reached this stage by knocking off the Philadelphia Union in a penalty shootout during quarterfinal play, while the Fire dropped the Fort Lauderdale Strikers, 3-0. Both teams are also struggling in MLS play, but neither Jay Heaps nor Veljko Paunovic will care much once the ball is kicked.
After all, there is a tournament final on the line, and one that comes with a berth in next year's CONCACAF Champions League. Before the Revs and Fire take the field, The Bent Musket caught up with Jeff Engelhardt of SB Nation's Hot Time In Old Town to preview all that could unfold.
The Bent Musket: How much weight has Veljko Paunović put in this game? Chicago's struggles are well documented, and one would think their coaching staff recognizes they're two games away from a trophy.
Hot Time In Old Town: Paunovic has put a ton of expectations on this game. Going all the way back to the July 23 game against the Revolution, Paunovic was talking about how that match could be a good tune up for this game. After Saturday's 3-1 loss to Real Salt Lake, he might as well have said the team got the job done by no one getting hurt. I am pretty sure he has used the word massive a couple times in reference to this game.
He knows this is the only opportunity for the team to have something to play for this season. A loss here and it could be difficult for Paunovic to keep his team motivated the rest of the way. The team has certainly had one eye on this match for a while so I would expect to see the Fire's best effort.
TBM: What should one make of the Fire's road struggles? After all, they've come into Gillette Stadium and lost twice - by a 2-0 scoreline on May 14 and a 1-0 scoreline on July 23 - to the Revs.
HTIOT: The Fire's road struggles are very real and they loom large in this game. It is true the Fire have dropped both matches in trips to Gillette this season, but it is also true the last road win for the Fire came in New England in 2014 (yes, I know, it's pretty pathetic).
I think the struggles are a combination of a lot of things. The winless streak has become such a regular topic that I think over time it's become a bit of a mental hurdle for the players. There have been times when it looked like the team could get a win and they just fall apart at the end. Some of it is has been conservative tactics. I'm pretty sure the 2015 Fire thought a road draw was the ultimate goal of the game. And there have been times this year when the team has looked more than happy to play for the draw. And of course some of it is due to a lack of talent.
I'm not sure it will turn around soon in the sense of the team putting together a winning streak on the road or anything, but I do think they are due for a road win just from a pure statistical standpoint. I'm holding out hope that road win is today.
TBM: What's your prediction for tonight's game? Who will end up one match away from the Open Cup's final?
HTIOT: I really do think this is the night for the Fire. This game means a TON to the entire club right now and everyone seems all-in on this game. The addition of Michael de Leeuw has given a bit more life to the offense and I think it is going to be enough to eek out a 2-1 victory. David Accam has been a monster all tournament and I think he gets on the board. John Goossens, who has been quietly pretty good, adds a second and the team holds on for the win after a hard and late push from New England that includes a Lee Nguyen goal.