While the MLS Cup Playoffs do not begin until next weekend, it is "do-or-die" time for the Chicago Fire (8-12-9, 33 pts.) Saturday evening, as the "Men in Red" will travel to Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Mass., to take on the New England Revolution (7-13-9, 30 pts.) at 6:30 p.m. CT in the regular season finale for both sides. The fourth and final spot in the Eastern Conference rides on tomorrow's result, as the Fire needs a win or a tie to advance into the postseason while the only way New England can continue its 2004 campaign is with a victory over the Fire. The important contest will be broadcast locally on FSN-Chicago and nationally on Fox Sports World and Fox Sports en Espanol. Fans can also follow the action live on Chicagoland radio stations WRTO 1200 AM (Spanish) and WNVR 1030 AM (Polish), and worldwide on the internet via the team's official website, www.Chicago-Fire.com (English, FSN-Chicago feed).
Chicago Fire at New England Revolution
Saturday, October 16 @ 6:30 p.m. CT
Gillette Stadium - Foxboro, Mass.
Satellite: VYVX Conf #1724934
Radio: WRTO 1200 AM (Spanish), WNVR 1030 AM (Polish), www.Chicago-Fire.com (English)
Chicago Fire AthletiCo Sports Medicine injury report
Armas, Chris - R knee inflammation - Questionable
Mapp, Justin - R knee Grade II LCL Sprain - Doubtful
Pause, Logan - R foot stress fracture - Out
Razov, Ante - R ankle arthroscopic surgery - Out
Welcome back, old friends ... At least five players back in business for season finale
While even the most die-hard fans of the Fire might have had trouble recognizing the team's line-up in its last MLS match on Oct. 6 against Columbus, at least five players that were not available for selection by head coach Dave Sarachan for that contest will be back in the fray for the Fire. Chicago will once again have the services of forwards Andy Herron, Damani Ralph and Dipsy Selolwane and midfielder Andy Williams, after the quartet returned to the team this week from duties with their respective national teams, and M/F Nate Jaqua, who will also return after sitting out of the Columbus match while serving a red card suspension. In addition, midfielders Chris Armas and Justin Mapp have been upgraded on the Fire's injury report (see above), but their playing status for Saturday's season finale at New England remains up in the air. With the definite return of Herron, Jaqua, Ralph, Selolwane and Williams, the "Men in Red" will get back the players responsible for nearly half of the squad's points (53 of 109) this season and 60% (21 of 35) of the team's goals scored, including all six goals across the Fire's last four contests. Those figures are bumped up to 72 of 109 points (66%) and 25 of 35 goals (71%) this season when Armas and Mapp are added to the equations.
Ralph in fight for MLS' Golden Boot, but has Fire/Budweiser scoring title locked up
Entering the final weekend of play in the MLS regular season, eight players are within one goal of the MLS lead in the category, making the chase for the mythical MLS Golden Boot one of the most heated in league history. Fire forward Damani Ralph is one of the players chasing the goal scoring title, as the Jamaican striker is currently in a six-way tie for first in the category with 11 tallies on the year. Ralph shares the lead with Edson Buddle (CLB), Brian Ching (SJ), Eddie Johnson (DAL), Pat Noonan (NE) and Carlos Ruiz (LA), while Alecko Eskandarian (DC) and Amado Guevara (MET) are just one strike behind on 10 goals each. One title that Ralph will most certainly claim is the Fire/Budweiser Scoring Championship, as the 24-year-old striker leads fellow countryman Andy Williams by nine points in the chase for the scoring crown entering its final regular season contest on Saturday. Ralph, who finished second on the team in scoring last season with 28 points, will become only the third different player in the team's seven-year history to claim the scoring title, as he will take over the crown from five-time champion Ante Razov ('98, '99. '00, '02, '03). Recent National Soccer Hall of Fame inductee Eric Wynalda is the only other player play in Fire history to win the Budweiser Scoring Championship, as his 25 points in 2001 were enough to take home that season's title.
Quick hits vs. New England