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CHICAGO FIRE vs NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION
8:30 pm CT (FSN-Chi; FSN-NE)
An anticipated match before the season began, the Chicago Fire and New England Revolution now play as the surprising bottom two teams in the Eastern Conference, and as the ninth and 10th placed clubs in the MLS overall table. The Fire have lost two in a row and haven't won in four games, now having gone almost three complete games without a goal. The Revolution have battled injuries all season and have now lost four of their last five matches, still mired in last place in the Eastern Conference.
REFEREE: Jair Marrufo. SAR (bench): Craig Lowry; JAR (opposite): Fabio Tovar; 4th: Ricardo Salazar
MLS Career: 20 games; FC/gm: 31.5; Y/gm: 3.8; R: 4; pens: 7
Games involving Fire: P6 W2 L2 T2; FC/gm: 34.8; Y/gm: 3.8; R: 3; pens: 2
Games involving Revolution: P3 W0 L1 T2; FC/gm: 25.0; Y/gm: 1.3; R: 1; pens: 0
INJURY REPORT: CHICAGO FIRE - OUT: MD Jesse Marsch (R ankle cartilage damage); DOUBTFUL: DF C.J. Brown (R groin strain); DF Evan Whitfield (R groin strain); PROBABLE: MF Justin Mapp (lower back strain); FW Ante Razov (R ankle sprain) ... NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION - OUT: DF Carlos Llamosa (L knee sprain); FW Joe-Max Moore (R knee sprain); DF Rusty Pierce (R quadriceps contusion); DOUBTFUL: GK Kyle Singer (R shoulder sprain); QUESTIONABLE: GK Adin Brown (concussion); MD Shalrie Joseph (L hip flexor/quadriceps); PROBABLE: DF Brian Kamler (L hamstring strain); MD Andy Dorman (L hamstring strain); FW Taylor Twellman (R hamstring strain)
INTERNATIONAL ABSENCES: CHI: DaMarcus Beasley, Chris Armas (USA; July 11 v Poland)
SUSPENDED: CHI: Evan Whitfield (through July 11)
YELLOW PERIL: none
ALL-TIME (16 meetings): Fire 6 wins (0 shootout), 24 goals ... Revolution 6 wins (0 shootout), 26 goals ... 4 draws
AT CHICAGO (8 meetings): Fire 3 wins (0 shootout), 13 goals ... Revolution 2 wins (0 shootout), 11 goals ... 3 draws
The teams play for the first time of four meetings this season, the first of two at Soldier Field - and in the first game of a home-and-home series over the next three days. They'll conclude the season series with two games over the final four weeks of the season, a Sept. 25 contest at Soldier Field, then a meeting at Gillette Stadium in the season finale (Oct. 16).
Last year, the Revolution were one of just two teams (D.C. United the other) to win the season series against the Fire, winning both games at home while getting a draw in the two games at Chicago. The teams played first to a 1-1 draw at Cardinal Stadium on April 13 (Beasley 35 - Twellman 41) in the season opener for both teams, then on May 17, the Revolution strolled to a 3-0 victory in Foxborough (Twellman 18, Heaps 49, Ralston 56).
The Fire claimed their only victory of the season against New England on July 19 in Naperville (Gray 8; Mapp 34; Ralph 51 pen - Twellman 90), but the Revolution ended a two-month winless run in impressive fashion at home on Aug. 30, a hat trick from new signing Chris Brown highlighting a 5-1 win (Brown 6, 63, 66; Kamler 44; Heaps 88 - Williams 14).
Even despite the lack of success last season, the Fire have won four of the last eight meetings between the teams with one draw.
While the road team failed to win last season, the year before, the home team failed to win - the Fire winning both games in New England and the Revs winning one at Chicago, with the second game there a draw.
Ante Razov leads the Fire's all-time records against the Revolution with 5 goals, 3 assists. Jesse Marsch is next among current Fire players with 0 goals, 7 assists - all but one with the Fire. Only one other current Fire player has more than one goal v New England, Andy Williams (2 goals, 3 assists).
Taylor Twellman leads the Revolution's all-time scoring table against Chicago with 5 goals, 1 assist - in just seven games played. Three of those goals came last season. Jay Heaps has 3 goals, 2 assists v the Fire (2 goals, 1 assist with New England), while Steve Ralston has 1 goal, 6 assists (just 1 goal, 2 assist with the Revs). No other current Revolution player has more than one goal v Chicago.
Coaches record: Dave Sarachan vs. NE: P4 W1 L2 T1 ... Steve Nicol v CHI: P6 W3 L2 T1
The Chicago Fire lost for the second consecutive match - and saw their winless streak extended to four matches - losing away to the Columbus Crew 2-0 last Saturday evening. With the loss - their third in four games - the defending Eastern Conference champions fell to fourth place in the division with 17 points from 14 matches, three behind the leaders D.C. United.
Edson Buddle and Jeff Cunningham scored goals a minute apart just before halftime as the Crew snapped a two-match losing streak to leapfrog the Fire into third place in the East.
Buddle ran on to a Ross Paule chip over the Fire back line, expertly chipping over 'keeper Henry Ring as the flag stayed down (43), then barely a minute later Cunningham's blast from inside the box took a wicked deflection before flying high past Ring inside his right-hand post.
"Cunningham and Buddle are always a handful," Fire coach Dave Sarachan said. "Sooner or later if you don't have the ball and they're coming at you, they're going to get their chances. It's disappointing that we didn't come out and compete on that level."
Sarachan made two changes to the team that lost 1-0 to the Los Angeles Galaxy on a wonder goal the previous Sunday at Soldier Field. Justin Mapp came into the team on the right flank for Orlando Perez, while Logan Pause came off the substitutes' bench, replacing Nate Jaqua as DaMarcus Beasley also moved back to his usual wide left role.
Here's Sarachan's team (3-4-1-2): Henry Ring - Evan Whitfield, Jim Curtin, Kelly Gray - Justin Mapp (Sumed Ibrahim 77), Chris Armas, Logan Pause (Nate Jaqua 71), DaMarcus Beasley - Andy Williams - Damani Ralph, Ante Razov (Orlando Perez 80)
"We got outcompeted and we got outplayed tonight. We never really got into a rhythm of passing. Columbus put a lot into it tonight," Sarachan said. "...We have to realize that we just can't walk on the field and win. We've got to put more into it. Our soccer needs to get better."
The 2003 MLS Cup Finalists have won just four games on the season - two games back-to-back on two occasions, the last May 29 and June 5. "We have some work ahead of us," Chris Armas said. "We have to sort out some things as a team. We're not doing all the little things right.
Once again, the Fire could be without a pair of national team performers as Chris Armas and DaMarcus Beasley have been called in by Bruce Arena for U.S. national team's friendly against Poland. The only good thing is that it's at Soldier Field before the Fire's league match, meaning there is a slim chance they could do double duty.
"I think the traveling [of the World Cup players] kind of slowed the team down," Andy Williams said. "That's why the team is in a funk right now. This year we haven't been consistent, but when our backs are against the wall we're going to pull out all the stops for wins."
NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION
After snapping a three-game losing streak with a win against the MetroStars, the New England Revolution were once again on the losing end of the scoreline on July 4, falling 1-0 away to the Colorado Rapids in the annual Fourth of July extravaganza in Denver. With their fifth defeat in seven games, the Revolution remained in fifth place in the Eastern Conference with 12 points from 14 matches, eight off the pace of East leaders D.C. United.
The Rapids won for the third match running and maintained contact with the West leadership, also continuing their dominance on the Fourth of July. The Rapids have won eight times in nine matches at home on Independence Day, also marked by huge crowds for the post-match fireworks extravaganza.
The game's lone goal came against the run of play 11 minutes from time, Cuban striker Alberto Delgado claiming his first MLS goal, prodding the ball over the line and the fallen Matt Reis after Chris Henderson's header was pushed off the face of the bar by the Revs 'keeper.
"We need to score when we get the chance and the goalkeeper was man of the match against us," Revs head coach Steve Nicol said. "The players gave a professional performance, they were disciplined, moved the ball, and created chances. We played well but we can't keep crying about it."
Nicol made just one change to the team that defeated the MetroStars 2-1 the previous weekend - goalkeeper Matt Reis again deputizing for Adin Brown as he recovered from a concussion - but Nicol greatly changed his tactical scheme.
The Revolution boss returned to a back four, with Steve Ralston detailed to right back as Jay Heaps and Avery John formed the central partnership. Felix Brillant moved to the left flank with Pat Noonan left on his own up top, Jose Cancela playing in the hole behind Noonan in the midfield in front of a four-man block.
Here's Nicol's team (4-4-1-1): Matt Reis - Steve Ralston, Jay Heaps, Avery John, Marshall Leonard - Richie Baker, Joe Franchino, Clint Dempsey, Felix Brillant - Jose Cancela - Pat Noonan
"We had great communication in back. Stevie Ralston is a great player and he was a threat going forward late in the game," Heaps said. "It's a cliche, but I would rather play a game like this that shows we are a team again. We lost a couple of games early and we deserved to lose them. But now we have the confidence and we are starting to click. It's halfway through the season and that's when we have made our move the last couple of years."
Nicol had just two available substitutes - midfielder Bobby Thompson, signed to a developmental contract just the day before the trip to Denver, and league substitute goalkeeper Clint Baumstark, an emergency call-up. Neither were used.