FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Every opponent offers a difficult approach and a particular set of challenges, but Chicago present a particularly novel task for New England on Saturday night (7:30 pm ET, watch LIVE online).
Few, if any, teams in the league possess a similar number of creative and speedy attacking options. Fire head coach Frank Klopas has shifted to a 4-5-1 formation in recent games to create a mobile front four capable of breaking quickly and interchanging at will.
ANATOMY OF A GOAL: Fire counterattack
Chicago's ability to sit back, soak up pressure and stun teams on the counter will force New England to adjust how they operate in possession, according to Revolution coach Jay Heaps.
“They counter with numbers and they counter in tight spots,” Heaps told MLSsoccer.com. “We have to make sure we keep the ball and make them work.”
Complicating things is that the onus remains on the Revs to press the game and push numbers forward at Gillette Stadium. It is a burden they accept willingly, but they do plan to fulfill it intelligently to avoid the prospect of players like Patrick Nyarko and Dominic Oduro rushing freely into the gaps.
“When we get into the advanced [areas], if we lose it, where is the next guy?” Heaps said. “It's not always, 'Can I be an option?' It's, 'Can I be an option, and where can I help out if this ball is lost?' There's a mindset that we're going into knowing that they sit in tight, they take away channels and then, if they get the ball from us, we have to make sure they don't get in behind.”
While the Revs' emphasis on proper cover may increase in these particular circumstances, it isn't a new concept for Heaps' charges to implement. New England left back Chris Tierney said that he and his teammates will just have to display more discipline in applying those principles as they go in search of a fourth home win in seven attempts.
“We just have to be smart,” Tierney said. “There are going to be times to go, for sure. But we're constantly thinking, ‘What if?' If the ball turns over, are we in a good spot to defend? Hopefully, more times than not, the answer's going to be 'yes' this weekend. As long as we cover each other well and realize that when one goes, the other covers, I think we'll be in good shape.”