Differing approaches ultimately decided Wednesday night's U.S. Open Cup encounter between the Chicago Fire and New England Revolution.
The Fire emerged victorious, 3-2 after extra time, playing a nearly full-strength side that battled with a plucky Revolution side weakened by injuries, fatigue and scheduling.
Revolution head coach Steve Nicol left out Clint Dempsey, Matt Reis and Michael Parkhurst to rest, while Pat Noonan (ankle) and Steve Ralston (concussion) missed out through injury as they face a fitness fight for Saturday's match against Kansas City.
Nicol started a side including starters Joe Franchino, Shalrie Joseph, and Taylor Twellman, but withdrew Joseph and Twellman at halftime and Franchino after 59 minutes.
"We had to put out a team to respect the competition and be competitive," said Nicol. "I think we've done that [tonight]. We've taken a full-strength Chicago side to extra time."
Injuries and scheduling predicated the moves for Nicol, as his side faces four matches in 12 days beginning with this weekend's encounter with the Wizards. Real Salt Lake visits on Aug. 10, before the Revs head on the road to face FC Dallas (Aug. 13) and Colorado (Aug. 17).
Despite playing the forced hand of a weakened side and exploring his depth in an important match, Nicol was unhappy with the result.
"A lot of things we saw out there, we already knew," said Nicol. "We're disappointed. We were missing guys, and we made some changes. We knew it would be tough."
Chicago Fire head coach Dave Sarachan faces a similar schedule crunch, as his side contests four matches in roughly the same time period. Three home contests against D.C. United (Aug. 6), Kansas City (Aug. 10), and Los Angeles (Aug. 13) precede an Aug. 19 return encounter in Kansas City.
Even with the pending fixture congestion, Sarachan placed his emphasis on winning the Open Cup.
"At the beginning of the year, we said that we wanted to have two trophies," said Sarachan. "We take this competition seriously. There are those who may think that this is a good competition that they can use for the young guys. We want to win."
Chicago adds yet another match to their calendar with the victory, advancing to meet USL First Division club Rochester Raging Rhinos on Aug. 24, who claimed yet another win vs. an MLS opponent with a comprehensive 3-1 victory against the MetroStars at Frontier Field on Wednesday night.
Waging battle on two fronts will force Sarachan to test the depth of his side as the season progresses.
"I think we have [enough] depth," said Sarachan. "We didn't use [Chris] Armas, Gonzalo Segares, [Lubos] Reiter, or [Tony] Sanneh [tonight]. We'll know in two months."
Kyle McCarthy is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.