Multiple playoff series from the 2000s combined with both teams being perennial powers in the East and MLS made it easy for these two teams and their fanbases to dislike each other.
Then 2010 rolled around, the dark ages as it were. Chicago is still mired in a streak of woefulness with just one playoff appearance in the last seven seasons. New England has been resurgent of late thanks to a solid rebuilt roster but took a big step backwards last year on the field and missed the playoffs.
Today is an important match for both teams. Chicago is looking to build on a 1-0 win against the Crew and have gotten four positive results this year. Their only loss a 4-0 pasting at the hands of Atlanta United.
New England’s brutal start has seen them claim just one point from three road games, a 1-1 draw in Portland two weeks ago. The home team in the Fire-Revs matchup has won the previous four meetings though New England did claim a 2-2 draw in Bridgeview in July of 2015.
All of the talk will likely be about the midfielders, and it’s understandable why that is the case. Bastian Schweinsteiger has rounded out an already improved middle for the Fire with Dax McCarty and Juninho also being added in the offseason. The debut of Xavier Kouassi for the Revs at holding midfield has been worth the wait as the Ivory Coast international worked back from an ACL tear last year.
But the focus on this game will be on the defenses. For Chicago, it really depends on their initial setup. They can go with a four man backline or a hybrid 3-5 man unit with wingbacks so there’s going to be a little bit of tactical chess I think for this one. If the Fire can keep the Revs’ diamond midfield narrow and central, it can open up room on the flanks for Chicago to build on offense. Likewise, if the Revs press and create turnovers and get upfield quickly they might be able to take advantage of Chicago’s setup.
The key for New England today is to consistently generate pressure on offense. While the Revs haven’t looked overmatched on the road, they have too often sat back and invited pressure to their third of the field. This backfired spectacularly against FC Dallas and David Accam can just as easily find a goal as Maxi Urruti did a month ago.
Regadless of if the Revs press or not, they have to actually put shots on frame against Jorge Bava who has been a little up and down in net for Chicago this year. The Revs don’t need to overwhelm the Fire with numbers all the time, but they shouldn’t be waiting for the perfect shot every time either. Like the late equalizer in Portland, put shots on net and follow them up, there might be an opportunity for a quick goal.
HOW TO WATCH
Chicago Fire vs. NE Revolution
Toyota Park, Bridgeview, Ill.
Kickoff: 5pm Eastern
TV: CSNNE, MLS Live
Radio: 98.5 The Sports Hub
We’ll update the lineups when they come out closer to game time. In the meantime, do you think the Revs-Fire rivalry can begin anew today? And what about some potential Revs lineups, will Rowe start at left back again?
Leave your thoughts in the comments below and join us right here for the game thread this afternoon.