Preview: Fire, Revs try to keep dwindling playoff hopes alive

Chicago Fire vs. New England Revolution

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TOYOTA PARK, Bridgeview, Ill.
4 p.m. ET (My50 Chi.; CSN-NE; watch LIVE online)
September 25, 2011 (WEEK 28; MLS Game 274)

Two clubs needing the full points to keep alive their dwindling playoff hopes meet Sunday afternoon at Toyota Park when the Chicago Fire play host to the New England Revolution. The Fire are coming off back-to-back victories, last a 3-2 home win against Chivas USA, but are still six points out of the final wild card spot. The Revolution could be eliminated from playoff contention with a defeat, after falling 3-0 at Portland last Friday night.

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REFEREE: Michael Kennedy. SAR (bench): Kermit Quisenberry; JAR (opposite): Paul Scott; 4th: Jasen Anno
MLS Career: 139 games; FC/gm: 28.8; Y/gm: 3.8; R: 26; pens: 47

INJURY REPORT: CHICAGO FIRE — OUT: MF Gabriel Ferrari (L knee ACL reconstruction); DF Steven Kinney (lower abdominal strain); DOUBTFUL: DF Cory Gibbs (R ankle contusion) ... NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION — OUT: FW Rajko Lekic (L ankle sprain); MF Stephen McCarthy (L shoulder surgery); DOUBTFUL: MF Sainey Nyassi (R knee MCL sprain); QUESTIONABLE: DF A.J. Soares (L adductor strain); MF Monsef Zerka (L quadriceps strain); PROBABLE: DF Franco Coria (nasal fracture)

INTERNATIONAL ABSENCES: none
SUSPENDED: CHI: Cory Gibbs (through Sept. 25)
WARNINGS:
SUSPENDED NEXT YELLOW CARD: CHI: Diego Chaves, Cory Gibbs, Dominic Oduro ... NE: Franco Coria, Pat Phelan
SUSPENDED AFTER TWO YELLOW CARDS: CHI: Yamith Cuesta, Josep Mikulic, Cristian Nazarit, Daniel Paladini, Logan Pause ... NE: Milton Caraglio, Ryan Cochrane, Shalrie Joseph, Rajko Lekic, Kenny Mansally, Stephen McCarthy

HEAD-TO-HEAD

  • ALL-TIME (39 meetings): Fire 17 wins, 55 goals ... Revolution 13 wins, 52 goals ... Ties 9
  • AT CHICAGO (19 meetings): Fire 9 wins, 31 goals ... Revolution 4 wins, 23 goals ... Ties 6
  • In the first meeting this season, Chicago's Dominic Oduro and New England's Rajko Lekic scored on either side of halftime as the teams ended in a 1-1 draw, June 18 at Gillette Stadium.
  • The Fire have a nine-game undefeated streak against the Revolution in league play. New England's last victory in regular season play came May 6, 2007 at Gillette Stadium.
  • The Revolution did defeat the Fire in SuperLiga last year, a 1-0 victory on July 17 at Toyota Park. It was the first victory in Chicago for the Revolution since July 8, 2006, a span of eight games in all competitions.
  • The teams met five consecutive years from 2005-09 — and eight times in all since 2000 — in the MLS Cup Playoffs. Three times (2003, '05, '07) they've faced each other with a trip to MLS Cup on the line. Each team advanced on four occasions.
  • Coaches record: Steve Nicol v CHI: P29 W10 L13 D6 ... Frank Klopas vs. NE: P1 W0 L0 D1

LAST MEETING (MLS)
6/18: NE 1, CHI 1 (Lekic 35 — Oduro 32)

  • Chicago's Dominic Oduro opened the scoring in the 32nd minute. Patrick Nyarko's diagonal ball from a counter located Oduro as he stormed through midfield. Oduro surged toward the penalty area and unleashed a quick shot inside the far post.
  • Lekic restored parity three minutes after play resumed after Pat Phelan shot a ball into Rajko Lekic's feet inside the penalty area. The offside flag stayed down and the unmarked Lekic then easily poked home into the far side of the net.
  • NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION (4-4-2): Matt Reis - Kevin Alston, Franco Coria, A.J. Soares, Darrius Barnes - Sainey Nyassi, Pat Phelan, Shalrie Joseph, Chris Tierney (Ryan Guy 71) - Rajko Lekic, Kenny Mansally (Zack Schilawski 81).
  • CHICAGO FIRE (4-1-3-2): Sean Johnson - Jalil Anibaba, Cory Gibbs, Yamith Cuesta, Gonzalo Segares - Logan Pause - Dominic Oduro, Baggio Husidic (Daniel Paladini 74), Patrick Nyarko - Cristian Nazarit (Gabriel Ferrari 85), Diego Chaves (Orr Barouch 63).

CHICAGO FIRE

The Chicago Fire won for the third time in four starts, coming back for a 3-2 victory against Chivas USA on Saturday afternoon at Toyota Park. The Fire have 30 points from 28 matches on the year, sitting in a tie for seventh place in the Eastern Conference.

LAST MATCH

  • The Fire were up by two goals after just 26 minutes. Cory Gibbs got Chicago off to a dream start with a header off a Sebasti·n Grazzini corner kick (2), then a Juan Pablo Angel headed a P·vel Pardo free kick past his own goalkeeper.
  • But Chivas USA got a lifeline when Gibbs was shown a straight red card scarcely 10 minutes later, sent off by referee Jorge Gonzalez following a hard on Chivas USA's Michael Lahoud.
  • ¡ngel pulled a goal back for Chivas in the 61st minute when he powered home a shot from the top of the six-yard box. Then just two minutes later, midfielder Nick LaBrocca equalized, elegantly curling a loose ball with the outside of his left foot into the upper left corner of the goal.
  • Yet the Fire found the winner five minutes from time. Patrick Nyarko collected a Diego Chaves through ball in the left side of the box and squared to Dominic Oduro for a tap-in at the far post.
  • Fire interim head coach Frank Klopas made two changes to the team that fell 2-0 to the San Jose Earthquakes at Buck Shaw Stadium. Josip Mikulic and Gonzalo Segares came back into the team, in place of the suspended Dan Gargan and Baggio Husidic.
  • CHICAGO FIRE (4-1-3-2): Sean Johnson - Jalil Anibaba, Josip Mikulic (Daniel Paladini 80), Cory Gibbs (sent off 37), Gonzalo Segares - Marco Pappa (Diego Chaves 80), Pavel Pardo, Logan Pause, Sebastian Grazzini (Yamith Cuesta 46) - Patrick Nyarko, Dominic Oduro.

TEAM NEWS

  • After winning two games over the first 24 league matches of the season, the Fire have now won three of their last four. They begin the week six points out of the final wild card spot with six games to play.
  • "I think now is the time for the team to get strong. We've progressively been getting better and the result have been getting better, but now is the time to turn it up and get three points every time out," said goalkeeper Sean Johnson. "We have six games left and we need all six, that's our attitude. ... We can't afford anymore ties or losses and I think everybody understands that and is ready to get after these final six games."
  • Dominic Oduro's game-winner in the 3-2 win against Chivas USA on Saturday was his 10th league goal of the season. He's the first Fire player to hit double-digits in goals since Damani Ralph scored 11 in 2004; the seven-year span between double-digit scorers was the longest to date for any team in Major League Soccer.
  • "I can't take credit for that. I think all my goals have been coming off of hard work from my teammates; they've made it possible for me to be where I am right now. I thank all of them and the fans for helping to make this happen for me," Oduro said.
  • Cory Gibbs has two goals in the last three games and three for the season; he had one career goal in his first four MLS seasons. But he will miss the New England game after being sent off vs. Chivas.
  • "We will miss Cory with the red card. He brings so much leadership on the field. We have to work through this week and prepare for the next match at home," said Fire interim head coach Frank Klopas.
  • With the Fire down a man, Sebastian Grazzini was sacrificed in favor of center back Yamith Cuesta, the 45 minutes his shortest stint in the eight consecutive starts he's made since coming to Chicago.
  • "The game changed with the red card. The second half I was forced to take a very good player out. Sebastian is a very important part of our team and it was a different game without him," said Klopas. "I had a feeling when I put Diego [Chaves] in I felt that Dominic [Oduro] would be able to make those diving runs and get behind that back line.
  • After starting 16 of the first 18 league games — including the first 12 — of the season, Diego Chaves made his sixth substitute appearance, coming on for the final 10 minutes vs. Chivas.
  • "I had a good feeling putting Diego in because I felt we needed someone that was able to hold the ball, said Klopas. "He has that ability and also the ability to make very good passes. He can draw attention from defenders, he can go by people but he also can slip that pass to someone else. He made a big play for us."

NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION

The New England Revolution weren't able to put together back-to-back victories, going down to a 3-0 defeat to the Portland Timbers on Friday evening at Jeld-Wen Field. The Revolution have 27 points from 29 matches, in a tie for seventh place in the Eastern Conference.

LAST MATCH

  • The Timbers jumped into the lead after nine minutes. A Lovel Palmer cross from the right fell to Diego Chara, and he squirted through close quarters before chipping it past Revolution goalkeeper from close range.
  • Portland doubled their in the 32nd minute when Kenny Cooper got between Revolution in the goalmouth and bundled home a Mike Chabala cross from the left wing.
  • The game was put away in the 66th minute when midfielder Kalif Alhassan spotted Darlington Nagbe open in front of goal and the rookie headed home a clever cross, just inside goalkeeper Matt Reis' right post.
  • Revolution head coach Steve Nicol made no changes to the team that defeated FC Dallas 2-0 at Gillette Stadium.
  • NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION (4-4-2): Matt Reis - Kevin Alston, Franco Coria, A.J. Soares (Ryan Guy 58), Darrius Barnes - Monsef Zerka (Kenny Mansally 71), Shalrie Joseph, Benny Feilhaber, Chris Tierney - Rajko Lekic (Zack Schilawski 46), Milton Caraglio.

TEAM NEWS

  • The Revolution saw their modest four-game unbeaten streak come to an end in the 3-0 loss at Portland, the first time they were shut out since a 3-0 home loss to Philadelphia, July 17.
  • "The one thing we talked about was not backing off and defending in our penalty box. Maybe we didn't understand because that was basic stuff we did wrong," said Revolution head coach Steve Nicol. "We didn't close the cross and you've got to try and stop the cross to begin with but you can't be standing in your own six yard box that's just suicide."
  • It was the final visit to a Western Conference club this season — and the Revolution are now winless in their last 10 trips to play in the Pacific time zone (0-8-2), and their last 16 games in the Mountain and Pacific time zones (0-11-5), since a win in Seattle on Aug. 20. 2009.
  • "I think it took us 40 minutes before we actually had a decent line. You can't play away from home and give teams two goals to start and then try and chase the game. Our back four in the first half, that's why we lost the game," said Nicol.
  • For the first time in six games, the Revolution allowed the opening goal. New England is 0-10-2 when conceding first — the worst record in MLS this season, though one of eight teams not to have a win after allowing the opening goal.
  • "The early goal hurts us, from that point on we're just chasing the game and it just kind of takes the air out of everybody when we give up a goal like that," said Darrius Barnes. "I don't think they did anything spectacular to beat us, I don't think they're 3-0 better than us. We just gave up some really weak goals tonight and it cost us."
  • The Revolution attack suffered a blow when Rajko Lekic was forced off just before halftime with what was diagnosed as an ankle sprain. Zack Schilawski came on, his first appearance since Aug. 17.
  • During the week, scans on Lekic's ankle showed no fracture, but a severe ankle sprain that is expected to keep him out of action for up to 4 weeks. "He and Milton [Caraglio] have been kind of getting things going together a wee bit," Nicol said. "Obviously, that's washed out now."
  • Ryan Guy made his third consecutive appearance as a substitute, coming on when A.J. Soares suffered a groin injury in the second half. With the corresponding shifts in personnel, Barnes moved from fullback to his natural central defense role.
  • The Revolution will be eliminated from playoff contention with a loss to Chicago AND if three of the following occur: Philadelphia ties or wins; Houston ties or wins; Portland wins.
  • "This is our season," Barnes said. "Our season is on the line, pretty much. We know we have to pretty much win out. Every game means something for us right now. We have to definitely go out and take the next one. We have to use whatever means necessary to get that win. Chicago's going to be a difficult place to go, but they're right there, neck and neck with us. Pretty much, the winner of that game is going to have a chance to go on and make a push for the playoffs."