7:30 pm ET (WB-56; CSN-Chi)
The New England Revolution are still riding the wave of the best start in club history, the only unbeaten team still left in MLS after having come away with nine points in three matches over nine days time, led by the league's most potent attack. They face the Chicago Fire for the second time in a couple of weeks, the middle game of that three-match stretch a 3-0 Revolution victory at Soldier Field. The Fire rebounded from that loss in fine fashion last weekend, maintaining a firm hold on second place in the Eastern Conference with a victory at the Columbus Crew.
REFEREE: Brian Hall. SAR (bench): George Gansner; JAR (opposite): Rick Eddy; 4th: Erich Simmons
MLS Career: 91 games; FC/gm: 29.8; Y/gm: 3.3; R: 24; pens: 30
Games involving Revolution: P16 W8 L8 T4; FC/gm: 30.3; Y/gm: 3.1; R: 5; pens: 5
Games involving Fire: P17 W9 L6 T2; FC/gm: 32.4; Y/gm: 4.1; R: 11; pens: 8
INJURY REPORT: NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION - OUT: GK Kyle Singer (R shoulder sprain); DOUBTFUL: MF James Riley (L hamstring strain) QUESTIONABLE: GK Doug Warren (L knee sprain); PROBABLE: DF Joe Franchino (R quadriceps strain); MF Cassio (turf toe): MF Felix Brillant (L ankle sprain) ... CHICAGO FIRE: OUT: MD Craig Capano (L torn ACL); DOUBTFUL: DF Samuel Caballero (L quadriceps strain); DF Kelly Gray (R ankle sprain); QUESTIONABLE: MF John Thorrington (L hamstring strain); MF Scott Buete (L ankle sprain); MF Will John (R knee inflammation)
INTERNATIONAL ABSENCES: none
YELLOW PERIL: none
ALL-TIME (21 meetings): Revolution 9 wins (0 shootout), 35 goals ... Fire 7 wins (0 shootout), 29 goals ... 5 draws
IN CHICAGO (10 meetings): Revolution 6 wins (0 shootout), 20 goals ... Fire 3 wins (0 shootout), 13 goals ... 1 draw
The Eastern Conference clubs play for the second time in four meetings this season. They'll play for the second and final time at Soldier Field on July 9. They again conclude the season against each other at Gillette Stadium, on Oct. 15.
The Revolution continued their torrid start to the 2005 season, scoring a pair of goals late in the first half and then holding their ground in the second for a comfortable 3-0 victory against the Fire on April 27 at Soldier Field.
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.
Here's Dave Sarachan's team (3-4-2-1): Zach Thornton - C.J. Brown (Andy Herron 78), Jim Curtin, Samuel Caballero - Kelly Gray, Chris Armas, Jesse Marsch (Chris Rolfe 69), Ivan Guerrero - Thiago, Justin Mapp - Nate Jaqua (Chad Barrett 72).
Here's Steve Nicol's team (3-4-1-2): Matt Reis - Jay Heaps, Michael Parkhurst, Avery John - James Riley (Luke Vercollone 86), Clint Dempsey, Shalrie Joseph, Marshall Leonard - Andy Dorman - Taylor Twellman, Pat Noonan
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 six of the last 10 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: P9 W2 L5 T2 ... Steve Nicol vs. CHI: P11 W6 L3 D2
NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION
The New England Revolution are the only team still undefeated on the 2005 season and stayed atop the Eastern Conference and MLS overall table after finally breaking down the Chivas USA defense to capture a 1-0 victory at Gillette Stadium on Saturday night. The Revolution have 13 points from five matches, three ahead of the Chicago Fire in the East and ahead of Western Conference leader FC Dallas.
Clint Dempsey was once again the hero, his 88th-minute goal finally providing the breakthrough as the Revolution won for the fourth time in five league games this season.
Chivas USA goalkeeper Brad Guzan had done his part, turning aside a number of wonderful opportunities from the home side, before Marshall Leonard swung in a cross from the left flank where Dempsey got behind his marker to dive in and head home his league-leading fourth goal of the season.
"I think tonight is a big step for us to be honest, said Revolution boss Steve Nicol. "After winning the last two games, it was important that we try to finish it off tonight. I thought the way we went about it was ideal. The reason we scored in the 88th minute was because the team stayed disciplined.
Nicol made one change to the team that beat the Chicago Fire 3-0 at midweek at Soldier Field. James Riley suffered a hamstring injury in the win, so Steve Ralston came back into the team in a wide midfield role.
Here's Nicol's team (3-4-1-2): Matt Reis - Jay Heaps, Michael Parkhurst, Avery John -Steve Ralston (Jose Cancela 63), Clint Dempsey, Shalrie Joseph, Marshall Leonard - Andy Dorman - Taylor Twellman, Pat Noonan
It was a second consecutive match on the left side of midfield for Marshall Leonard, and after scoring against D.C. United the week before, his cross led to the match winner against Chivas. With Cassio still recovering from turf toe, Leonard is looking to claim the spot for his own.
"I'm comfortable there,'' he said. "There are still a couple of things I want to improve on, and that's just getting more comfortable at the position. I think everybody who's playing a different position is playing well.''
Steve Ralston returned to the starting lineup after missing two matches with viral bronchitis, then came off in the 62nd minute for José Cancela, who didn't start a second consecutive match after suffering from 'flu. When Cancela came on, Pat Noonan moved to the right side of the Revolution 3-5-2 and Clint Dempsey moved forward to striker.
James Riley missed the match after suffering a hamstring strain in the first Fire match. Nicol said he hopes he'll be available for the rematch this weekend.
Joe Franchino was not available for the Revolution on the weekend, still suffering from a quadriceps strain, but has begun full training and could be available this weekend. "It was an accomplishment. I was just looking forward to doing the same things in training as everyone else," Franchino told the Boston Herald. It feels normal. I'm just trying to get myself back in this team.''
Cassio could also be ready for limited duty this weekend. "I think I could play 20 to 25 minutes,'' said Cassio to the Herald. "I think when you've been out, it takes some time to get back your timing and fitness. There is still some pain but I am getting better."
The change to a 3-5-2 scheme has really helped the Revolution attack - because it allows the top four of Twellman, Noonan, Dempsey and Cancela to all be on the field at the same time.
"You have to have the midfielders we have on the field," defender Jay Heaps told The Boston Globe. "So you have to build around that. The three-back system worked well in the playoffs last year and that's carried on. Everyone knows the system now and so if someone goes down the replacement can fit right in. Everyone knows their roles in the system. But there is room for improvement. We haven't played a full 90 minutes, yet. We haven't gone as high was we can go."
Clint Dempsey was named the Honda MLS Player of the Month for April in voting by the Professional Soccer Reporters Association. Dempsey scored a league-leading four goals and added three assists in leading the Revolution to an unbeaten start. The goals have come in the last four matches in a row, and each has been credited as a game-winner.
Dempsey was also honored with the Sierra Mist Goal of the Week for last week, for the opening goal in the Revolution's victory against the Fire last Wednesday in Chicago. The MLS Goal of the Week is selected by the fans in balloting on the league's official website, MLSnet.com.
The Chicago Fire returned to their winning ways after a heavy home loss at midweek, defeating the Columbus Crew 2-0 at Crew Stadium on Saturday evening. The Fire remained in second place in the Eastern Conference with 10 points from six matches, still three points the New England Revolution.
Justin Mapp caused the home side fits as the visiting Fire remained in second place in the Eastern Conference. Mapp gave Chicago the lead after just 14 minutes drifting across the top of the area from the right before unleashing a wicked low blast inside the left corner of Jon Busch's goal.
Then in the second half a defensive miscue doubled the Fire lead. Pressure caused Columbus captain Robin Fraser to lose the ball in his own penalty area, and rookie Chris Rolfe quickly punished the error in pounding a shot past Busch for his second goal on the season (69).
Fire coach Dave Sarachan made three changes to the team that lost 3-0 to the New England Revolution at midweek. Logan Pause came into midfield for Kelly Gray, while Chris Rolfe and Andy Herron came into the team in attacking roles in place of Jesse Marsch and Nate Jaqua.
Here's Sarachan's team (3-3-1-3): Zach Thornton - C.J. Brown, Jim Curtin, Samuel Caballero - Logan Pause, Chris Armas, Ivan Guerrero - Thiago - Chris Rolfe (Chad Barrett 71), Andy Herron (Nate Jaqua 63), Justin Mapp
"This isn't an easy place to come in and get three points. I was very pleased with the team, especially after Wednesday, and the response they had coming into today," Sarachan said. "I thought from start to finish it was a great team effort from our entire group."
Mapp was considered the man of the match by nearly all observers. "He showed us the qualities that we've known about Justin that just didn't quite come out," Sarachan said. "But tonight was a little bit of a coming out party for him because the things you saw are what he's capable of. I thought he had an excellent game tonight, not only with the ball, but he gave us the extra effort without the ball, which is never easy for attacking guys."
The Fire were not pleased with the way they played in the first meeting with the Revolution, and having the match against the Crew last weekend helped.
"We really were not happy after Wednesday night. The best thing about a game like Wednesday is that you don't have a week to stew about it," Sarachan said. "You've got another game coming up where you can get the wrong things right. We have a group that is extremely competitive and proud. We wanted to come in here and play the way we felt we were capable of playing, and tonight was a pretty good example of that."
It was a second consecutive road victory for the Fire, after going nearly a year without a win on the road. "The way our year went last year, we're looking to get any points we can," captain Chris Armas said. "We've got experienced players that bring a different mentality this year. Mentally we're better, so we can go on the road and have nights like this."