Prime Your Fire Pump: Chicago vs. New England Revolution #3

Sean Johnson try to keep a clean sheet against the youthful New England attack (photo: Getty Images)

Sean Johnson and company will try to keep a clean sheet against a youthful New England attack
(photo: Getty Images)

OTF’s Jon Denham wants to see Hunter Jumper in the lineup and Total MLS’s Seth Macomber fills you in on the latest from New England…

The Men in Red were fresh off a 2-1 win over Montreal heading into a matchup against New England four weeks ago. What happened over those 90 minutes at Gillette Stadium may have been the beginning of the end for the 2013 Chicago Fire. Since then, Hunter Jumper has the only game-winning goal for this team.

The Men in Red have managed to take at least a point from three of four games since their last run-in with the Revolution. On the surface, this sounds great. Let me remind you, however, this team is an own goal, a tracking defensive run, and an inexplicable ‘dummy’ from 10 points instead of five.

Now the Revolution come to Toyota Park with its coveted fifth place spot in the Eastern Conference on the line.

Chicago has yet to score a goal against New England this year. They were shutout back on March 9th at Toyota Park when the attack struggled in the early parts of the season. They were unable to beat Matt Reis on August 17th with their three shots on target. You may recall how frustrating it was to watch New England complete 82% of its passes that day. That mid-August tilt also marked the last time the Fire was kept off the scoreboard completely. I don’t think New England’s defense has another shutout in them though.

In case you were wondering just how much work the Fire back line has put in so far this season, Austin Berry and Jalil Anibaba have logged every minute in the back line through 27 games. Gonzalo Segares isn’t far behind with his 2,250 minutes in 25 games.

Early goals are always fun, but late defending and limiting quality chances will likely be more rewarding. Juan Aguedelo, Diego Fagundez, and Kelyn Rowe are even younger than the 24-year-old Fire trio of Sean Johnson, Berry, and Anibaba.

One point is no longer good enough for the Fire to stay afloat in the chase for a playoff spot. Anything other than three points at Toyota Park on Saturday night will be insufficient.

How They Stand in the East

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(image: chicago-fire.com)

The point garnered in Canada on Wednesday night wasn’t enough to draw even with Houston Dynamo or tonight’s guests from Foxboro. Chicago Fire SC now has 36 points from 27 games and remains on the outside looking in at the 2013 MLS playoffs.

An hour before the Fire and New England kickoff, the Philadelphia Union and Houston Dynamo will begin their battle at PPL Park — a consequential match indeed.

At the top of the table, idle Sporting Kansas City will remain at 45 points. Montreal hosts Columbus in the early game on Saturday. New York Red Bulls play host to Toronto FC. No Sunday games this week.

Tactics, Lineup, & Injuries

Welcome back Cacha Rios and Joel Lindpere!

Mike Magee’s groin held up for all 90 minutes in Toronto following the scare in Seattle.

Dan Paladini, Quincy Amarikwa, and Juan Luis Anangonó all came off the bench Wednesday night to try and earn three points for the Fire. Those insertions took three of the team’s four most dangerous attacking players (Nyarko, Duka, and Alex) off the field. Mike Magee remained out there alongside Chris Rolfe.

Below is what I’m hoping to see from the Fire on Saturday night.

#SoumareOut

#SoumareOut

Some may believe Bakary Soumare belongs out there based on performance. That’s fine, but I disagree. I’ll take Hunter Jumper at this point. Even with all that’s on the line, I’m willing to roll the dice with Jumper. Frankly, I’m more interested in sending a message to Soumare about his on-field hiccups than I am his Twitter behavior.

I’d also like to see a full hour of an Alex, Rios, Duka, and Nyarko midfield before any changes are made in that part of the field.

Hopefully this is the game where Mike Magee’s magic spreads to Chris Rolfe. Rolfe hasn’t netted a goal since his double against D.C. United in early July. In the eight games since that win over D.C. United he hadn’t logged a full 90 minutes until Wednesday. He did earn his first assist since October 6, 2012, on his pass to Dilly Duka against Toronto FC, however; it came 50 yards from goal if you recall. For all the good he has done on the field in helping others find space, the stats sheet is where Rolfe’s needed most over the next seven games. 

Projected bench: Tornaghi; Videira, Soumare; Larentowicz, Pause; Amarikwa, Anangonó

OTF’s Jon Denham grew up about seven miles north of The Harlem End. He now lives in Dubuque, Iowa, and may be its only resident with the MLS Direct Kick package. Jon’s the Sports Information Director and goalkeepers’ coach at Loras College, and writes some other stuff at Inclusive Beechwood Aging.

Seth Macomber on the Revs

The final regular season meeting between the New England Revolution and the Chicago Fire could be their most important since both teams are fighting for a playoff position. The Fire going winless in its last three games has likely dampened the mood at Toyota Park and a visit from the better-positioned Revs won’t help. Regardless, there are three reasons Fire fans can be somewhat optimistic heading into Saturday night:

Juan Agudelo is listed as out with a hamstring injury. There’s no question that Agudelo makes the Revs better — the team has only lost one game while amassing a +17 goal differential with him on the field. While the future Stoke player was seen jogging at practice this week, it appears more time is needed before he’s ready to log significant minutes. Dimitry Imbongo will likely start in his place. The Congo native has developed nicely in his second year with the Revs (3 goals, 2 assists), but can still be lured into making naive decisions (3 red cards).

Dynamo Diesel moonlighting in Foxboro? (photo: zimbio.com)

Dynamo Diesel moonlighting in Foxboro? (photo: zimbio.com)

There are questions along the backline. The Revolution defense was punished last weekend (a 2-4 loss at home to Montreal) for playing a high line and employing lax marking. Losing Matt Reis due to an early red card was certainly a factor in the implosion, but it doesn’t explain everything. Jose Goncalves was careless at times, while AJ Soares was a bystander too often. We know that Bobby Shuttleworth will start between the sticks but we could see more changes to the personnel and the overall game plan as well.

The Revs aren’t particularly physical in the midfield. The Revolution boasts one of the more talented midfields in the league with names like Kelyn Rowe, Diego Fagundez and Scott Caldwell. These young players have a lot of potential but they don’t have a lot of size. The average weight for the 5-man midfield is 155 pounds and the average height is just over 5’8. A number teams, including DC United, have found success against the Revs by congesting the midfield and resorting to physical play. It would be smart for Arévalo Ríos and Jeff Larentowicz to follow the blueprint.

The Revs will likely be the favorites against the Chicago Fire since they’ve broken the Toyota Park curse and produced some positive results recently. Still, anything can happen over the course of 90 minutes.

OTF friend Seth Macomber is Total MLS’s New England Revolution beat writer and co-host of the MLS Olimpico podcast. Follow him @SethMan31

Chicago Fire vs. New England Revolution
Saturday, September 14th at 7:30pm cst
Television: My50 Chicago
La radio en Español: La Ley 107.9 FM en Chicago

#cf97 Nation

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