Today was perhaps supposed to be the rekindling of an old rivalry between the Chicago Fire and New England Revolution. Two teams who haven’t had a lot to talk about since the good old days of the 2000s and two teams who had started 2017 well.
We were supposed to learn a lot about the Revs and Fire today. Instead, we learned what happens when you play with ten men for over an hour in MLS.
The Fire routed the shorthanded Revolution 3-0 at Toyota Park, taking advantage of two Je-Vaughn Watson yellow cards in the first half in a total comprehensive victory for the home side.
The Revs didn’t seem in trouble to start the game, not even when Watson picked up his first yellow card. In the 21st minute, the Revs defender tried to shield off Luis Solignac and caught the Fire winger with his forearm. The caution seemed straight forward as it was a 50/50 challenge.
However, six minutes later when Watson cleaned out Solignac from behind there was little doubt. Ted Unkel played the advantage with the Fire in possession but once the ball was cleared, the second yellow was out and Watson’s first start of the year was done after just 27 minutes.
Despite the red card, the Revs seemed to handle the Fire’s constant pressure and possession well. Kelyn Rowe moved back to left back and the Revs were just a minute away from getting to halftime scoreless.
That’s when Bastian Schweinsteiger struck, receiving a throughball from Solignac and slotting home to the far post in the 45th minute despite pressure from Antonio Delamea.
With the Revs getting the halftime whistle to regroup, they came out flat, and conceded again in the 46th. A switched ball from across the field came to Solignac who centered for Michael de Leeuw but Delamea closed down the play and stuffed the chance. However, the ball got past both players and it was Nemanja Nikolic who reacted first and pounced on the loose ball to double the Fire advantage.
Down a man and two goals, Jay Heaps opted to withdraw his main attackers, likely with an eye towards a midweek game versus San Jose. Juan Agudelo, Kei Kamara and Lee Nguyen were all subbed out early in the second half as the Revs were unable to mount any kind of offense on the night.
Substitute David Accam made things worse for New England, when in the 73rd minute he beat Joshua Smith one-on-one and centered for Nikolic for an easy finish to give the Fire striker a brace on the afternoon. The Revs held the Fire to just 11 shots, but all three on target found the back of the net and Cody Cropper made zero saves on a tough afternoon all around for New England.
Despite the man advantage, the Fire controlled possession throughout and ended with a 76-24% edge while completing 90% of their over 700 total passes. For comparison, the Revs had just 68% passing on the night and attempted just 231 total passes. The Fire attempted 383 passes in the Revs have and 174 in their final third.
The win propelled the Fire up to second in the East standings on 11 points with an impressive 3-0-1 mark at home. The Revs dropped back to sixth still on seven points through six games.
New England plays two home games next week, on Wednesday April 19th against San Jose and on Saturday April 22nd against DC United.