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Revs vs Fire: Rivals on wrong side of red line reunite off Route 1

With just six matches remaining in 2018, New England needs to be greedy when it comes to collecting points, especially at home

MLS: Columbus Crew at Chicago Fire Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

By most measures, New England had a great ten days, handing NYCFC their first home loss and then nearly giving LAFC their second before settling for a 1-1 draw. However, these are desperate times and, while the Revs aren’t really in must-win mode, they’re pretty close.

Sitting six points from playoff position with just six games left in the campaign, home matches, however, are certainly must-win, especially against struggling teams. And that’s what awaits New England as they return home for the first of their final three games at Gillette in 2018. They face a floundering Chicago Fire SC squad where it’s three points or bust.

First Meeting: June 9, 2018, at Toyota Park

Result: Revs 1, Fire 1

New England entered the match on a 3-game unbeaten run, including a gritty 2-1 comeback victory over the Red Bulls a week earlier. However, their momentum was a bit stunted following a disappointing US Open Cup ouster at the hands of USL-side Louisville City just three days prior. They also hadn’t won in the Windy City since 2013 when Jerry Bengtson had probably his brightest moment ever in a Revs’ kit.

Nonetheless, New England grinded out a 1-1 draw despite generally outplaying the hosts. They are certainly rueing what they deem to be dropped points from that match right about now.

Chicago Fire: A Closer Look

Overall Record: 7-15-6, 27 pts, 41 GF, 52 GA, -11 GD

Standing: 10th in Eastern Conference (13 points below red line)

Current Form: W-D-L-L-L

Road Stats:

Record: 2-8-3, 9 points (0.7 points/match), -12 GD

GF: 16 (1.2 GF/match)

GA: 28 (2.2 GA/match)

The Fire have had a difficult year both on and off the field. After a playoff season in 2017 in manager Veljko Paunovic’s second year at the helm, expectations were sky-high for the Bastian Schweinsteiger-led club. However, the team has under performed defensively, allowing nearly two goals per match.

Off the field, the banning of Section 8 Latino supporters’ group for alleged misconduct almost three months ago has created disharmony with ownership, denting home attendance numbers. In fact, their most recent match in Bridgeview, nationally-televised on FS1, was noticeably devoid of the usual soccer chants easily heard in most venues. It was quite embarrassing for the club and the league.

Regardless, Chicago have actually played well in their past two matches. They managed a 1-1 home draw vs playoff-bound Crew SC just before the international break, and then followed that up with a comprehensive 4-0 dismantling of Orlando City SC at Toyota Park last weekend. The Revs should not take Fire SC lightly on Saturday.

On the injury front, right back Matt Polster remains sidelined following MCL surgery, as does attacking midfielder Diego Campos with an ACL issue. Another attacking option, forward/winger Luis Solignac, has missed the past several matches with an adductor injury

Team Leaders (on the road):

Goals:

Katai - 4

Nikolic/Gordon - 3

Schweinsteiger - 2

Assists:

Ellis/Bronico - 3

Schweinsteiger - 2

Key Passes (per game):

Schweinsteiger - 1.7

Campos - 1.1

Katai - 1.0

Passing %:

Campbell - 88.1

McCarty - 86.8

Corrales - 86.7

Tackles (per game):

McCarty - 2.5

Schweinsteiger - 2.3

Ellis - 2.0

Clearances (per game):

Campbell - 4.1

Kappelhof - 3.8

Vincent - 3.5

Goalkeeping (overall):

Richard Sanchez

Save % - 61.5

GA/gm - 2.05

Shutouts - 2

Primary Formation(s): 4-2-3-1 / 4-3-3

Projected XI:

R. Sanchez

K. Ellis (or N. Hasler) J. Kappelhof B. Schweinsteiger B. Vincent

D. McCarty T. Schani (or B. Bronico)

A. Katai D. Mihailovic M. de Leeuw

N. Nikolic

New England Revolution: A Closer Look

Record: 8-10-10, 34 pts, 41 GF, 43 GA, -2 GD

Standing: 8th in Eastern Conference (6 points below red line)

Current Form: D-W-D-L-L

Home Stats:

Record: 6-4-4, 22 points (1.6 points/match), +5 GD

GF: 23 (1.6 GF/match)

GA: 18 (1.3 GA/match)

The Revs nearly pulled out a win in their first-ever meeting with LAFC and old friend Lee Nguyen. Despite being short-handed, New England stood toe-to-toe with one of the league’s best clubs and earned a tough point in a 1-1 road draw.

Top centerback Michael Mancienne — who missed the match to be in London for the birth of his first child — was satisfactorily replaced by Antonio Delamea. Brandon Bye continued to hold down the left back spot, and his efforts were finally rewarded when he headed in his first-ever MLS goal and the match’s equalizer. Overall, the backline played well again, yielding only a deflected goal past keeper Brad Knighton. He made his second consecutive start in front of Matt Turner and appears be the netminding solution for the season’s final stretch.

Up top, Brian Wright also got another start, as Teal Bunbury continues to recover from a hamstring injury. The club’s leading scorer did enter as a second-half substitute along with Juan Agudelo and Isaac Angking, who came back from US U-19 international duty. Kelyn Rowe was on the right wing — next to playmaker Diego Fagundez — before moving to holding midfielder when Scott Caldwell was subbed off. Luis Caicedo returned from suspension to deep midfield, as well.

This home match vs Chicago is essentially a must-win if New England has any hope of making a postseason appearance this year. We should expect first-year manager Brad Friedel to pull out all the stops in ensuring his squad secures full points.

Team Leaders (at home):

Goals:

Bunbury - 6

Fagundez - 5

Penilla - 4

Assists:

Penilla - 4

Farrell/Fagundez/Rowe/Zahibo -2

Key Passes (per game):

Fagundez - 2.5

Penilla - 1.6

Farrell - 1.5

Passing %:

Mancienne - 81.4

Delamea - 81.2

Caldwell - 80.7

Tackles (per game):

Farrell - 2.8

Zahibo - 2.6

Caicedo - 2.5

Clearances (per game):

Delamea - 4.1

Mancienne - 4.0

Anibaba - 3.3

Goalkeeping (overall):

Matt Turner

Save % - 64.8

GA/gm - 1.62

Shutouts - 4

Primary Formation: 4-2-3-1

Projected XI:

B. Knighton

A. Farrell J. Anibaba M. Mancienne B. Bye

L. Caicedo S. Caldwell

K. Rowe D. Fagundez C. Penilla

T. Bunbury (or B. Wright)

Match Analysis

These teams already met once and know what to expect from each other. Chicago has shown a tendency to erase deficits and protect leads all year. The Revs need to get ahead early and not relent. This game could be contested for a full 90 minutes, as both clubs can also score late.

The Fire don’t defend counter attacks well, which plays into New England’s hands. Offensively, Chicago attacks down the left much of the time, as Schweinsteiger — nominally slotted in at left centerback — is given free reign to roam the pitch and push the ball upfield at will. They also attack with width, getting the ball out to the dangerous Katai on the right.

Chicago usually builds out of the back. In fact, New England’s goal in the first meeting came via a forced turnover deep inside the eighteen. Expect the Revs to apply their usual high-pressure consistently throughout the match in an attempt to create chaos and more turnovers in their attacking half.

Match Facts

This is the 60th all-time regular season meeting between these Eastern Conference foes and the final one this season. Chicago leads the series with a 26-21-12 record, including the 1-1 draw earlier this year in Bridgeview.

The Revolution hold a 16-10-3 advantage in Foxborough. New England had a four-match home winning streak vs the Fire snapped last season with a 2-1 loss during the Revs’ summer swoon in June.

Kelyn Rowe and Diego Fagundez are the current leading Revolution goalscorers vs Chicago, each with four in their careers.

How to Watch

Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. ET on Saturday, September 22, 2018
Venue: Gillette Stadium, Foxborough MA
TV: NBC Sports Boston (Boston)
Radio: 98.5 The Sports Hub (Boston); Univision Radio WRTO AM 1400 (Chicago)
Streaming: MLS Live (now available on ESPN+)