Preview: Fire look to bolster playoff spot vs. Revs

NE-v-CHI Oct. 20, 2012

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NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION vs CHICAGO FIRE
GILLETTE STADIUM, Foxborough, Mass.
October 20, 2012 (WEEK 32, MLS Game #307)
7:30 p.m. ET (CSN-NE; NBC 5.2)

For years, the New England Revolution and Chicago Fire made a habit of meeting with postseason futures on the line, but when the clubs meet Saturday evening at Gillette Stadium, their immediate ambitions are already set. The Fire come into the game with first place in the Eastern Conference still within reach, three points behind Sporting KC with two games after their 2-0 win at New York last time out. The Revolution have been eliminated from playoff contention for this season, coming off a 1-0 loss at Philadelphia before the international break.

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REFEREE: Kevin Stott. AR1 (bench): Adam Wienckowski; AR2 (opposite): Kevin Klinger; 4th: Mathieu Bourdeau
MLS Career: 230 games; FC/gm: 25.5; Y/gm: 3.3; R: 59; pens: 48

INJURY REPORT

NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION – OUT: DF Flo Lechner (R knee MCL sprain); DF Stephen McCarthy (concussive-like symptoms); MF Lee Nguyen (R shoulder surgery); DF Tyler Polak (R foot sprain); FW Saer Sene (L knee ACL surgery); QUESTIONABLE: DF A.J. Soares (R knee sprain); DF Chris Tierney (L knee sprain / L hamstring strain); MF Juan Toja (L knee swelling); PROBABLE: FW Alec Purdie (L quad strain) …

CHICAGO FIRE – OUT: DF Cory Gibbs (R knee meniscus repair); QUESTIONABLE: MF Pavel Pardo (L calf tightness)

INTERNATIONAL ABSENCES: none

SUSPENDED: NE: Benny Feilhaber (caution accumulation; through Oct. 21) … CHI: Guillermo Franco (through Oct. 21)

WARNINGS:
SUSPENDED NEXT YELLOW CARD: NE: Benny Feilhaber … CHI: Pavel Pardo, Gonzalo Segares
SUSPENDED AFTER TWO YELLOW CARDS: NE: Kevin Alston, Darrius Barnes, Ryan Guy, Lee Nguyen, Chris Tierney, A.J. Soares… CHI: Sebastian Grazzini, Patrick Nyarko, Dominic Oduro, Arne Friedrich

HEAD-TO-HEAD
ALL-TIME (42 meetings): Revolution 14 wins, 57 goals … Fire 19 wins, 60 goals … Ties 9
AT NEW ENGLAND (21 meetings): Revolution 10 wins, 31 goals … Fire 8 wins, 24 goals … Ties 3

2012 (MLS) - 6/2: NE 2, CHI 0 (Rowe 69; Feilhaber 73); 8/18: CHI 2, NE 1 (Rolfe 5; MacDonald 25 – Cardenas 11)
•    The teams are meeting for the third time this season, having split the first two, each winning at home. Goals four minutes apart from Kelyn Rowe and Benny Feilhaber midway through the second half gave the Revolution a 2-0 victory June 2 at Gillette Stadium, then Chris Rolfe and Sherjill MacDonald scored first-half goals for a 2-1 Fire win, Aug. 18 at Toyota Park.
•    The first match victory snapped a 10-game winless streak for the Revolution vs. Chicago in league play. New England’s last victory in regular season play had come May 6, 2007 at Gillette Stadium.
•    The Revolution did defeat the Fire in the 2009 SuperLiga competition, 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: Jay Heaps v CHI: P2 W1 L1 D0 … Frank Klopas vs. NE: P4 W1 L2 D1

LAST MEETING
•    The Fire took the lead in the fifth minute. After Revolution defender A.J. Soares took Chris Rolfe down in the penalty area, the Fire striker took his own penalty, slotting it just past the outstretched arms of goalkeeper Matt Reis.
•    The Revolution equalized six minutes later, when Fernando Cárdenas was able to bundle the ball home after a scramble in the box after Saer Sene's cross from the left wing.
•    But the home side re-took the lead for good in the 25th minute. Patrick Nyarko took a quick throw-in from Gonzalo Segares near the byeline and crossed to Sherjill MacDonald, who headed it down and past Reis for his first MLS goal.
•    CHICAGO FIRE (4-2-3-1): Sean Johnson - Jalil Anibaba, Arne Friedrich, Austin Berry, Gonzalo Segares - Daniel Paladini, Pavel Pardo - Alvaro Fernandez (Michael Videira 79), Chris Rolfe, Patrick Nyarko (Marco Pappa 75) - Sherjill MacDonald (Dominic Oduro 71).
•    NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION (4-4-2): Matt Reis - Kevin Alston, A.J. Soares, Stephen McCarthy, Chris Tierney - Fernando Cardenas (Kelyn Rowe 69), Clyde Simms, Ryan Guy, Lee Nguyen (Benny Feilhaber 46) - Blake Brettschneider (Jerry Bengtson 57), Saer Sene.

NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION
The New England Revolution saw their winless streak extended to four games, dropping a 1-0 decision to Philadelphia Union on Oct. 6 at PPL Park. The Revolution are in ninth place in the Eastern Conference with 29 points from 32 games.

LAST MATCH
•    The game's lone goal came in the 73rd minute. After Michael Farfan won a free kick in the right corner, Jack McInerney snuck to the back post and headed home Keon Daniel's service.

WATCH: Revs fall late to Union

•    The Revolution finished the game a man down when midfielder Benny Feilhaber was sent off in the 89th minute for his second yellow card.
•    Revolution head coach Jay Heaps made three changes to the team that fell 2-0 to the Houston Dynamo at BBVA Compass Stadium. Ryan Guy came into the back four for Stephen McCarthy, Alec Purdie started in midfield in place of Fernando Cardenas, and Diego Fagundez came in up top in place of Dimitry Imbongo.
•    NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION (4-4-2): Bobby Shuttleworth - Ryan Guy, A.J. Soares (Fernando Cardenas 61), Darrius Barnes, Kevin Alston - Kelyn Rowe (Dimitry Imbongo 77), Clyde Simms, Benny Feilhaber (sent off 88), Alec Purdie - Jerry Bengtson, Diego Fagundez (Juan Toja 64).

TEAM NEWS
•    The Revolution were forced into multiple changes over the course of the match. When A.J. Soares had to come off after an hour with a leg injury, Ryan Guy shifted from fullback into central defense.
•    “Every time we've had to make a change at center back in the middle of the game, we've lost,” Revolutionhead coach Jay Heaps said. “That's just the way it is whenever you have to make a change like that. We literally had two guys back there who had never played defense before in Ryan Guy and Alec Purdie. They did a nice job, but when you pull a center back out in the middle of the game for non-tactical reasons, it's a tough move.”
•    Guy was making his first start of the season at fullback; his move to center back was his sixth different position he had played this season. “There isn't a guy in midfield who can challenge Ryan in the air,” Heaps said. “He's got a high vertical leap. He can win pretty much anything defensively in the air.”
•    With Guy at right back, Kevin Alston again shifted over to the left side of the back four. “I think the runs and the movement are kind of similar,” Alston said. “It just gives me that [new] dynamic. Sometimes, I'll go out wide. I feel pretty comfortable crossing with my left. Sometimes, the way it works – and it depends on who is out there, whether it's Lee [Nguyen, now out injured], Fernando [Cárdenas] or whoever is out there – is they give me the opportunity to come in and get a shot on the right foot.”
•    Said Heaps: “I think Kevin has done really well there. I think it has opened up his attacking mindset because it gives him two options: he can either go down to the left or to the right. I think when he was playing right back, he was just trying to get down to the byline and that was it. Coming inside, he wasn't as comfortable. When you have both options, it gives [you] a little bit more freedom.”
•    Alec Purdie made his first MLS start after four substitute appearances – his first league outing since May 12 – starting on the left of midfield. But with the tactical shuffle, Purdie moved to left back for the final half-hour.
•    “My entire life, I've played up top as a forward and maybe a little bit out wide in midfield in college,” Purdie said. “When I came here, I was strictly a wide midfielder. Then, due to numbers and whatever, I'm not a natural defender by any means, but I found myself playing right back. ... I'm trying to work hard and get a place in the team. If right back was where it was going to be, that's where I was at.”
•    Said Heaps” “It took him a little while because we were under pressure, but, as the game went on, I think he got better. That's what you have to ask for from young guys when they get a chance to progress as the game goes on. I thought he adjusted well.
•    Juan Toja made his fourth consecutive appearance, all as a substitute, coming on for the final 26 minutes.
•    “Right now, it's just a matter of getting Juan fully fit and ready to move forward,” Heaps said. “I think we're seeing Juan in spells. That's what we need from him right now only because we don't want to get any injuries from him. But as a player, you see a lot of similarities, but a little bit more bite and a little bit more maturity in his game.”
•    The Revolution have been shut out in back-to-back games for a third time this season following their 1-0 loss at Philadelphia on Oct. 6. They have not been blanked in three consecutive games this season.
•    “Although this season might be over, we're still working toward next season,” Alston said. “We're still working on things. Although there is a break in between, it all comes together. I think we're still trying to finish the year strong. This is the time of year when people can get down and emotions come out a little bit more. We need to keep it all together and stay positive.”

CHICAGO FIRE
The Chicago Fire ended a two-game losing streak and qualified for the MLS Cup Playoffs, recording a 2-0 win against the New York Red Bulls on Oct. 6 at Red Bull Arena. The Fire are in second place in the Eastern Conference with 56 points from 32 games.

LAST MATCH
•    The Fire finally broke the deadlock in the 65th minute. Fire midfielder Chris Rolfe played Sherjill MacDonald in behind the Red Bulls defense, and he used his speed to race in on goal and beat Red Bulls goalkeeper Luis Robles easily with a shot to the far post.

 

WATCH: Fire down Red Bulls at RBA

•    MacDonald beat Robles again to double the Fire’s lead in the 78th minute. Daniel Paladini made a run through the center of the field before slotting a through ball through MacDonald, who again used his pace to beat the defense and slip a shot past Robles.
•    Fire head coach Frank Klopas made one change to the team that suffered a 3-1 loss to Philadelphia Union at Toyota Park. Gonzalo Segares returned from suspension in place of Dan Gargan.
•    CHICAGO FIRE (4-2-3-1): Sean Johnson - Jalil Anibaba, Arne Friedrich, Austin Berry, Gonzalo Segares - Daniel Paladini (Michael Videira 81), Logan Pause - Alvaro Fernandez (Wells Thompson 60), Chris Rolfe, Patrick Nyarko (Dominic Oduro 67) - Sherjill MacDonald.

TEAM NEWS
•    The Fire not only clinched a spot in the MLS Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2009, they also avoided their first three-game losing streak of the campaign.
•    “It would have been a long time that you would be thinking about it,” head coach Frank Klopas said. “This is the second time from a league standpoint that we’ve dropped two in a row. To lose that game and have a big break in between where we’re thinking about the next game, obviously being in a tough situation going into New England on turf, it would not have been easy. I think it was huge. “
•    The Fire also recorded their first shutout since July 14, going 12 games without keeping a clean sheet.
•    “We’ve got to work on the defensive shape of the team, and we did that very good today,” Sherjill MacDonald said. “I think because we kept them, for a long time, at 0-0, it opened up space for us at the end of the game for the attackers.”
•    Said center back Arne Friedrich: “We came together a little bit in the last two weeks. Before it went perfect, we won almost every game, then we lost two times in a row and maybe it brought us a little bit closer. I’m happy that we lost before the playoffs start because in the playoffs there’s no room for losing games.”
•    MacDonald had his first two-goal game since coming to MLS, netting his first goal since Sept. 15. He has four goals in 13 appearances in MLS.
•    “I have mixed feelings,” MacDonald said, “because you see the last game against Philadelphia and you see the way we played today, I think we should have played the same was as today against Philadelphia, and we would have won easily.”
•    Midfielder Pável Pardo missed a fifth consecutive game with a calf injury, and could be helped by the international break in his bid to return to the side.
•    “You can’t rush someone in, because you go out, you feel good and, after 20 minutes, you make a sprint and then, boom, you’re back in there,” Klopas said. “We’ll just see, I really couldn’t tell you [when he’ll be back].”
•    Daniel Paladini again reprised his role in the center of midfield and collected his second assist of the season, his first coming May 26.
•    “[MacDonald’s] ability to be able to hold the ball, and to be able to make good runs, timing runs. Also, you got a guy like (Chris) Rolfe and other guys and (Daniel) Paladini that can play those through balls,” Klopas said. “You’re one up and they’re pushing the game and we just have to be smart with the ball. But he was super tonight in a big game and made a difference.”