FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – One short and succinct mantra fueled the preparations in New England ahead of Saturday night's 1-0 victory over Chicago.
“Basically, we tried to take Chris Rolfe out of the game,” Revolution midfielder Clyde Simms told MLSsoccer.com.
Revolution coach Jay Heaps pinpointed Rolfe as the key to the Fire's push toward the top of the Eastern Conference over the past few months. The veteran forward fuels the Chicago attack by providing an option as the Fire transition through midfield and slipping into dangerous spaces between the lines to supply target man Sherjill MacDonald.
Heaps opted to combat Rolfe's influence on the match by deploying his side in a 4-1-4-1 formation and placing Simms right in front of the back four to limit Rolfe's time and space on the ball.
“That's what Clyde does: he has to help us with the possession, but he has to know where Chris Rolfe is at all times,” Heaps said. “I almost said you have to tie a string around him so where he goes, you know exactly where he is at all times.”
Simms performed his role exactly as Heaps drew it up on the board. He tracked Rolfe when he tried to float into dangerous spaces and thwarted the service into his feet whenever possible. Rolfe's modest influence on the game – the Fire mustered just one shot on goal and it came after 86 minutes – underscored the effectiveness of Simms' performance.
The former D.C. United man credited the work of Blair Gavin, Kelyn Rowe and substitute Juan Toja alongside him in central midfield and the direction of Darrius Barnes and A.J. Soares for helping him to limit Rolfe's effectiveness.
“The most important thing was to know where he was at all times, even when we had possession,” Simms said. “It was definitely a little drain mentally after that one, but, all in all, Darrius and A.J. helped me out a ton. They were in my ear the entire game and that makes it so much easier for me.”
Simms' toil helped the Revs carry out their primary goal of shutting down Rolfe and secure the victory required to close out the home campaign on a high note.
“We wanted to frustrate them,” Heaps said. “We wanted to let them play out of the back to a certain area and then you saw where we closed down. That's what we harped on all week. Tactically, I thought it was the right move. And then you need a special moment and Diego [Fagundez] took it tonight, he really did.”