Fire host Revs in top-of-the-table clash
7:30 pm CT (WB-56)
A true top-of-the-table clash awaits at Soldier Field, though the teams tied for the top of the Eastern Conference standings will both be missing their share of starters. The Chicago Fire enter the match with five victories and just a single loss over their last seven matches, having hit for 19 goals in that run, but will missing no fewer than five regulars to injury and national team duty. The New England Revolution have still lost just once on the campaign, answering their single reverse with two wins and a draw, but they have their own share of absences to international duty.
REFEREE: Jair Marrufo. SAR (bench): Craig Lowry; JAR (opposite): Anthony Vasoli; 4th: Mark Geiger
MLS Career: 31 games; FC/gm: 31.1; Y/gm: 3.6; R: 7; pens: 15
Games involving Fire: P8 W2 L3 T3; FC/gm: 35.0; Y/gm: 3.6; R: 3; pens: 4
Games involving Revolution: P5 W1 L1 T3; FC/gm: 26.2; Y/gm: 1.6; R: 1; pens: 2
INJURY REPORT: CHICAGO FIRE: OUT: MF Thiago (L knee meniscus tear); MD Craig Capano (L torn ACL); GK Matt Pickens (R groin strain); MF John Thorrington (L hamstring strain); PROBABLE: FW Nate Jaqua (L ankle bone bruise) ... NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION - OUT: GK Kyle Singer (R shoulder sprain); PROBABLE: FW Taylor Twellman (L hamstring strain); DF Marshall Leonard (osteitis pubis)
INTERNATIONAL ABSENCES: CHI: MF Tony Sanneh, MF Chris Armas (USA; CONCACAF Gold Cup); DF Samuel Caballero, DF Ivan Guerrero (Honduras; CONCACAF Gold Cup) ... NE: FW Pat Noonan, MF Clint Dempsey, MF Steve Ralston (USA; CONCACAF Gold Cup); DF Avery John (Trinidad & Tobago; CONCACAF Gold Cup)
SUSPENDED: NE: MF Shalrie Joseph (through July 9)
WARNINGS: CHI: Logan Pause (7 CP in 2 gms) ... NE: DF Jay Heaps (20 CP)
ALL-TIME (22 meetings): Fire 7 wins (0 shootout), 29 goals ... Revolution 10 wins (0 shootout), 37 goals ... 5 draws
IN CHICAGO (11 meetings): Fire 4 wins (0 shootout), 16 goals ... Revolution 3 wins (0 shootout), 15 goals ... 4 draws
The Eastern Conference clubs play for the third time in four meetings this season, the second and final time at Soldier Field. They again conclude the season against each other at Gillette Stadium, on Oct. 15.
The Revolution have claimed victories in both meetings between the teams this season, winning once on each ground, a 3-0 victory on April 27 at Soldier Field, then a 2-0 victory at Gillette Stadium 10 days later.
Clint Dempsey gave the Revolution the lead in the 32nd minute, stepping through a pair of Fire defenders by flicking a Shalrie Joseph ball into the air and ripping a full volley into the top right corner past a stunned Zach Thornton.
Pat Noonan then doubled the lead 11 minutes later after Dempsey set off on a rampaging run down the right before slipping the ball to James Riley, who sent a rolling cross into the area. Noonan was on the far side and fired a low, hard shot back across the face of goal inside the far post.
Taylor Twellman scored his 50th career league goal five minutes deep into second-half stoppage time to seal the victory, claiming the ball in midfield and racing in almost unmolested before drilling an angled shot inside the near post from inside the penalty area.
It was a composed, professional performance that kept the Revolution unbeaten on the campaign and still atop the Eastern Conference in a 2-0 home victory against the Fire on May 7.
Pat Noonan righted the New England ship in the 34th minute with a fine goal, cutting through the area from right to left before driving a low shot inside Zach Thornton's left-hand post.
Then the Revolution doubled their lead just before the hour with a well-worked goal, when a Taylor Twellman cross found Steve Ralston, and he flicked the ball over his head to find an onrushing Clint Dempsey at the six. He flicked the ball back over his head, leaving Thornton stranded as the ball flew over his head into the goal.
Here's Steve Nicol's team (3-4-1-2): Matt Reis - Jay Heaps, Michael Parkhurst, Avery John - Steve Ralston, Clint Dempsey, Shalrie Joseph, Marshall Leonard - Andy Dorman - Taylor Twellman (Khano Smith 86), Pat Noonan
Here's Dave Sarachan's team (4-4-2): Zach Thornton - Tony Sanneh (Nate Jaqua 81), C.J. Brown, Jim Curtin, Ivan Guerrero - Jesse Marsch, Chris Armas, Thiago, Justin Mapp - Andy Herron (Chris Rolfe 68), Lubos Reiter
A year ago, the Revolution won the season series with two wins in the four encounters - including a winner-take-all in the season finale for the fourth and final playoff spot in the East. They played to a 1-1 draw at Soldier Field in the first meeting on July 11 in the first game of a home-and-home set (Ralph 49 pen - Ralston 50), the Revolution claiming a 3-1 victory at home three days later (Dempsey 47, Twellman 51, 67 - Williams 40).
Then on Sept. 25 the Fire grabbed a 2-0 victory at home (Herron 7, 77). They then played in season finale on Oct. 16, where the Fire needed just a draw to secure fourth place in the East, but a quick response to a Fire equalizer in the second half gave the Revolution the last place in the MLS Cup Playoffs (Jaqua 56 - Dempsey 55, Ralston 58).
The Revolution have won seven of the last 11 meetings between the two teams, with a pair of draws in that time. The victory in April was the Revolution's first win at Soldier Field since May 20, 2000.
Coaches record: Dave Sarachan v NE: P10 W2 L6 T2 ... Steve Nicol vs. CHI: P12 W7 L3 D2
The Chicago Fire posted their fifth victory in their seven matches, leaving it late before finally breaking down a stubborn Chivas USA for a 1-0 victory last Saturday night at The Home Depot Center. The Fire moved into a tie atop the Eastern Conference with the win with the New England Revolution, both on 32 points, though the Fire have played four more matches. Both teams are two points behind MLS pace-setter FC Dallas.
Chivas USA battled hard with the Chicago Fire and had the upper hand for much of the early exchanges. They also saw a penalty saved, Chivas 'keeper turning aside Jesse Marsch's spot kick after a handball.
But everything changed in the 76th minute when Orlando Perez was shown a straight red card for a hard tackle. The ensuing restart was flighted into the back post where defender Jim Curtin knocked it back across the face of goal. Gonzalo Segares came racing in to bundle it over the line for his second goal on the campaign (78).
Fire head coach Dave Sarachan made three changes to the team that held on to defeat D.C. United 4-3 at midweek at Soldier Field. With Thiago lost to a knee injury, C.J. Brown came into the back four as Ivan Guerrero moved into midfield. He also changed the strike pair, Andy Herron and Lubos Reiter coming in for Chris Rolfe and the injured Nate Jaqua.
Here's Sarachan's team (4-4-2): Zach Thornton - Logan Pause, C.J. Brown, Jim Curtin, Gonzalo Segares - Justin Mapp, Scott Buete, Jesse Marsch, Ivan Guerrero - Andy Herron (Chris Rolfe 61), Lubos Reiter (Chad Barrett 80)
"I think Chivas did a good job. It wasn't an easy night for us to be honest," said Sarachan. "To come out of here at The Home Depot center with three points is still a big moral victory for us."
For a brief 48-hour period after the win against Chivas, the Fire were in first place in the Eastern Conference, and now head back home with a chance to take over the top spot with the head-to-head clash of the titans with New England.
"Right now on points we're in first place," said Sarachan after the match. "We know we have some games in hand, but we have a nice win streak going and we have a two-week homestand. I think our confidence is high going into next week."
Said goalkeeper Zach Thornton: "To get a road win, and to get it the way we did will give us some confidence against New England, the best team in the league."
The Fire started the season rather slowly, struggling to find themselves. Two early season losses to Eastern Conference frontrunners New England Revolution still sit in the back of the Fire's minds, but according to Jesse Marsch, his mates have come a long way since then.
"We just kind of figured out how to get the best out of certain guys at certain positions," said Marsch. "Sometimes it takes 10, 12, or even 15 games to figure out what your team's going to look like."
Thiago underwent surgery last Friday to remove torn cartilage from his left knee. "It's hard to put an exact timetable, but two weeks would be obviously way too optimistic," Sarachan said to the Daily Southtown. "Three weeks is more realistic; four weeks, most likely, if we decide to push it that long. I look at it as, 'Let's get past the All-Star break' and then beyond that, I think he'll be back."
In combination with the loss of Thiago, the Fire will be without Ivan Guerrero (on international duty) for the next couple of weeks.
"He's different than any of the other midfielders we have and adds so much to our team on the attacking and possession side," Sarachan said of Thiago. "The timing of losing him is a little tough. ... We're still scoring goals, so it's not like we want to tweak a whole lot, but part of the reason we are (scoring) is because of Thiago being there and (midfielder Ivan) Guerrero, so we may tweak things."
Said Chris Rolfe: "He's been a crucial part of our offense. We've been playing so well offensively, and he's been the one getting the ball to Nate and I and everyone else. So somebody's going to have to step up big in that position if we're going to continue having the success we've been having."
NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION
The New England Revolution maintained their sterling record of losing just once on the campaign, coming back to claim a miracle 1-1 draw with the Los Angeles Galaxy at The Home Depot Center on Monday night. Still, the Revolution fell back into a tie atop the Eastern Conference with the Chicago Fire with the draw, both on 32 points (though the Revolution have four matches in hand), both teams two points behind FC Dallas in the MLS overall table.
Both the Galaxy and Revolution saw their first-choice lineups hit hard by national team call-ups and injury and the final pass was just off all night long as teams labored to create any quality chances.
That changed three minutes from time when Herculez Gomez collected a pass on the right and swung in a perfect cross to the far post where rookie Michael Enfield - making just his second professional appearance - dove to head home the seeming winner.
But the Revolution showed the resilience that has left them with just one loss this season. Four minutes deep into stoppage time, Joe Franchino swung in a free kick from the left that Taylor Twellman headed down. Sharlie Joseph slipped it past a defender with the slightest of touches and Andy Dorman was there to sweep it past Kevin Hartman. Still, the Revolution haven't won at the Galaxy since a July 4 win in the inaugural MLS season of 1996.
Revolution boss Steve Nicol made four changes to the team that hit for a late blitz in coming back to defeat the MetroStars 4-2 the weekend before at Gillette Stadium. The Revolution's three U.S. internationals - Steve Ralston, Clint Dempsey and Pat Noonan - all left to join Bruce Arena's Gold Cup squad, with James Riley, Andy Dorman and Taylor Twellman coming into the team, for Twellman his first appearance since missing four matches with a hamstring injury. Marshall Leonard came in wide on the left of midfield for the released Cassio.
Here's Nicol's team (3-4-1-2): Matt Reis - Jay Heaps, Michael Parkhurst, Joe Franchino - James Riley, Andy Dorman, Shalrie Joseph, Marshall Leonard (Ryan Latham 75) - Jose Cancela - Khano Smith (Connally Edozien 70), Taylor Twellman
"We stole a point," Nicol said. "We had the two best chances in the game and we didn't get anything. We didn't play well. We didn't pass the ball well. The quality wasn't there tonight. But that resilience ..."
Twellman was able to return by his July 4 target date after suffering the hamstring injury late in the June 4 match v Kansas City.
"I felt like I played 90 minutes thinking about my leg and not the game," Twellman said. "I had a couple chances early. I just had to help the team somehow. I think my huge head is always the target (on set pieces). The key for me is getting it (my hamstring) out of my mind. I felt OK. I always expect to play 90. Was I at full speed? No."
Final-moment dramatics are almost customary with New England. Dorman's goal was the Revs' ninth goal in the last 15 minutes, tops with FC Dallas. Three of those goals have come in second-half stoppage time (Twellman 95+, 4/27 v CHI; Noonan 91+, 6/25 v MET; Dorman 94+, 7/4 v LA). "We've got to stop doing that," Twellman said, smiling.
While the attack suffered with the loss of the three U.S. national teamers, the Revolution were still disappointed to come away with the draw. "We try not to dwell on missing those guys," Twellman said. "''We felt kind of like this was a loss and we were lucky that we snuck a point out of it. At halftime we thought we could have played better and take it to them, but this team never gives up and we showed that."
Goalkeeper Matt Reis was also called into the U.S. national team for the Gold Cup, but as third goalkeeper, he was allowed to return to the Revolution for the Galaxy match.
"We had a lot of unforced errors and a lot of key players out. We weren't sharp. When we got the ball wide, we weren't getting it in the box. We were trying to take on too many people. We didn't create too many chances. We had two chances if that. The difference between both teams was not that much," Reis said.