Khano Smith (left) will help the Revs try to top the Fire on Thursday.
AP Photos

Revs defense tries to shut down Fire

giving up late goals -- and it seems like we're back on track right now," said Michael Parkhurst. "It's a perfect time to be." ... While the Fire own the advantage in the regular season series, winning two of the three meetings, two of those matches came in the first six weeks of the season. They have met once since Juan Carlos Osorio took over, a Chicago 2-1 on Oct. 6. "They're a changed team since (Cuauhtemoc) Blanco got here. Their new coach has them playing really well, and they're on a bit of a run," goalkeeper Matt Reis said. "It's going to be important for us to play good defensively like we've been doing, and when we get our chances we've got to finish them. It's going to be a great game Thursday night, and I'm really looking forward to it." ... That Oct. 6 game was also the first where Steve Ralston moved into the central midfield role with Wells Thompson coming in wide on the right. The win against New York was the first win in the five games since the move, with the Revolution scoring six goals in that time. "It's like Stevie's about 27 years old again playing there," said Taylor Twellman. ... It will be the fifth time in six seasons the Fire and Revolution have met in the MLS Cup Playoffs, and New England has won three of the four previous encounters. Before last year, the previous two meetings were 1-0 victories by the home team in single-game Eastern Conference Championships, in 2003 in Chicago and 2005 in Foxborough. This time, though, the Revolution face a quicker turnaround, as the Fire played their second semifinal a week ago, while New England played theirs last Saturday. "It is odd that some teams will have more rest than others in the playoffs," Reis said.

FIRE: After the Revolution eliminated Chicago each of the last two years -- including in a penalty shootout last year -- the Fire are looking to make amends. "We want revenge," Fire forward Chad Barrett said. ... But the Fire enter the game as the hottest team still alive in the MLS Cup Playoffs. The Fire are unbeaten in their last 10 games, the final eight of the regular season then the two games (a win and a draw) against D.C. United. "I think the real question is who wants to play us. We're really the hottest team in the league right now. We're playing real well on both sides of the ball, and we're playing with confidence. D.C. United didn't really want to play us. So we're just going to keep on fighting hard to play our best," said Fire head coach Juan Carlos Osorio. ... The Fire really are a far different team than the Revolution saw in the first two meetings of the season, when they split home matches on April 7 (Bridgeview) and May 6 (Foxborough). "We have really developed a strong team spirit here," Osorio said. "We're playing to our strengths now. We don't concede too many goals, and our strikers know what they're all about. We play a much more organized kind of soccer these days." ... The teams have played recently, the Fire claiming a 2-1 win on Oct. 6 at Toyota Park. "At that time, we were playing with our backs against the wall trying to make the playoffs," Osorio said to the Chicago Sun-Times. "This time around, it's two teams on pretty much even level. Both teams will have to come out and play their best to win because a loss ends the season. It will be a difficult game, but we will be ready." ... In 11 games between a 3-2 loss on Aug. 22 and the second leg against D.C., the Fire had allowed more than one goal in a game just once -- in a 2-2 draw with New York on Sept. 15. In the interim, the Fire had allowed just eight goals while posting four shutouts, before again allowing two goals in a game. "Defensively we're playing well and making it hard on teams and getting some timely goals," said Chris Armas. ... Osorio did indicate he could also have another weapon at his disposal -- livewire midfielder Justin Mapp, who has been sidelined since Aug. 25 with an ankle injury. "I don't want to get ahead of myself, but he looks good," said Osorio to The Chicago Tribune. "Hopefully he will play a part in these next two games ... hopefully it's two games and not one. I'm just optimistic."

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