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Know Thy Enemy: Revolution vs Fire in a Loser Leaves (MLS Playoffs) Town Match

Both New England and Chicago are facing similar situations, needing a full six points from a crucial double game week.

MLS: LA Galaxy at New England Revolution Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Both the New England Revolution and Chicago Fire enter tonight’s match, which kicks off at 730pm EDT at Gillette Stadium, on three game winless streaks. The Revs have claimed just one point in their last three thanks to a 1-1 draw in Toronto two weeks ago while Chicago have lost three straight games putting both teams playoff chances on the ropes.

The Revs’ lost to the LA Galaxy on Sunday, dropping them to ninth place in the East and two points below the playoff line. Even in the congested midtable of the Eastern standings, New England still finds themselves in a position needing six points from the remaining games on this homestand against Chicago and NYCFC.

Bruce Arena had stated that New England needed at least 7 points from this three game homestand, and already dropping three points to the Galaxy is not an ideal start despite the Revs behind shorthanded the past few weeks.

Despite generally positive performances from youngsters Justin Rennicks, Noel Buck, and Esmir Bajraktarevic, the Revs have been treading water and unable to gain any ground in the standings as the number of games remaining gets fewer. Without a healthy frontline of Gustavo Bou, Dylan Borerro, and Giacomo Vrioni it’s unlikely the Revs would be a threat in the playoffs but it won’t matter if they can’t even get there in the first place.

Chicago finds themselves in a seemingly worse position, a three game losing streak to Philly, Montreal, and NYCFC has undone a solid run that nearly saw them claw their way back into the playoff race. The Fire sit just six points off a playoff spot, but would have to jump six teams to get above the playoff line. Luckily for the Fire, games against Charlotte, Miami, and Columbus are on their remaining docket, teams they are looking to chase down.

But without a win today, both the Revs and Fire face a daunting task and tough games this weekend. The Revs hosting NYCFC while the Fire continue their road trip against the Crew. Two very tough opponents to face on a double game week. This isn’t technically an elimination game from the playoffs mathematically, but proverbially anything but a win could be the beginning of the end for any playoff chase for these teams.

New England is favored tonight despite a laundry list of injuries for both teams, though Gustavo Bou is no longer listed on the league injury report and played a half against the Galaxy over the weekend. Managing minutes down the stretch for the Revs will be crucial as the schedule is rather congested but if and when New England is eliminated or decide the playoffs are a bridge too far, extended minutes for their promising youngsters would not be a bad consolation going into the World Cup/offseason break.

As always we talk to our good friends over at Hot Time In Old Town and the tremendous Ruben Tisch about all things Chicago Fire including his thoughts on the Fire’s slim playoff chances. Alas, the short week prevented me from asking about Chicago style Deep Dish casserole but be sure to check out my answers to Ruben’s questions over on their site.

TBM: Chicago had a 5-match unbeaten run right before losing their last three. What went right during that streak before running into Philly, NYC, and Montreal?

RT: Simply put, they ran into better teams with good coaches who solved the Fire’s attack. The teams they played before were just worse soccer teams than the Fire and they couldn’t deal with the Fire’s quick play through the middle and weren’t good enough in attack to punch back.Philly, New York, and Montreal are the three top teams in the east for a reason. They know how to analyze and create gameplans that can disrupt teams and success against them is about how teams adjust to them; something the Fire’s coaching staff has not done particularly well at this season. The Fire haven’t done anything different during this losing streak, and that’s kind of the problem.

TBM: Gabriel Slonina had a high profile transfer to Chelsea who kept him in MLS on loan. How has he progressed this season?

RT: One of the things he’s gotten better at throughout the year is how he commands his penalty area. Earlier on, he would get unsure about crosses and had a tendency to shy away from going out and getting balls, letting his center-back’s deal with clearing them out. He’s become more confident and understands that the area is his. He’s also gotten bigger if that were possible. He’s stronger and more imposing than at the start of the season. Part of that is his body naturally maturing, but the strength and conditioning team also deserve a lot of credit for that, too.

TBM: At 28 goals scored, Chicago is at the bottom of the league in that department (although only 38 GA is pretty solid). Is there enough firepower up top for Chicago to make a late run at the playoffs or is this rough double-game week on the road the proverbial nail in the 2022 coffin?

RT: Part of the scoring issue is that The Fire had trouble finishing chances early in the season. Really, Before Chris Mueller joined the squad, they weren’t finishing their chances. They’re top half in xGoals For in MLS, missing out on being top ten by just .02. So I’d say yes, they have enough chance creation and firepower, they just have to finish more regularly instead of in isolated bursts. If they beat New England and Columbus, they’re right back in this thing. But realistically, 6 points on the road in MLS, even against teams you’re either better than or just as good as (I’ll leave it to you to decide which team is which) is a tough ask. This week is the whole season.