Revs withstand Fire to stay unbeaten
The New England Revolution captured their fifth consecutive victory in emphatic fashion, overcoming a sluggish start to claim a 2-0 victory against Chicago at Gillette Stadium on Saturday night and remain the only undefeated team in Major League Soccer.
Pat Noonan opened the scoring in the 34th minute with a composed strike that saw him skip around two Fire defenders to slot home past goalkeeper Zach Thornton. Clint Dempsey sealed the game with his fifth goal of the season, finishing a well-worked Revolution move in the 58th minute.
It was the second victory in three weeks against the Fire for Nicol's side. The visitors had adjusted their formation to suit the arrival of Slovakian international Lubos Reiter at forward and the return from injury of offseason acquisition Tony Sanneh.
Fire coach Dave Sarachan opted for an unbalanced 4-4-2, with Sanneh free to get forward on the right. The move troubled the Revolution in the early stages of the match.
"They controlled the first 25 minutes," said Revolution head coach Steve Nicol. "They had the edge early on, and Sanneh was getting free and he got into the space well. We adjusted well. The discipline of our team is good."
As the Revolution settled into the flow of the match, Chicago's grip on the proceedings slipped away.
"They did a nice job in the first 20 minutes," said Noonan. "The three in midfield [central midfielders Dempsey, Shalrie Joseph and Andy Dorman] positioned themselves better after that. We turned quickly and then started to go at them."
Noonan's strike opened the game for the home side, allowing them space to operate through midfield.
"I had a nice little run at him," said Noonan. "I showed myself, cutback, and got my shot off."
With a rededication to putting the ball on the floor, working the ball wide and attacking on the flanks, the Revolution poured forward in search of a second.
"When you keep it in the air [against Chicago], things happen," said Noonan. "They're bigger. You need to keep it on the ground."
"It was not the prettiest goal, but we'll take it," said Dempsey of his league-leading fifth tally of the season.
Dempsey killed the match with his early second-half goal, as the Revolution back three of Jay Heaps, Michael Parkhurst and Avery John stifled the Fire attackers. Reiter was a fleeting influence, while Costa Rican international Andy Herron was withdrawn after 68 minutes after a subpar performance.
"The guys felt like we had the game in hand," said Dempsey. "When we put in the second goal, we felt like we could hold on [for the remainder of the match]."
Kyle McCarthy is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.