The New England Revolution stink. Jay Heaps' squad are just 7-17-8 on the year, and yet, they were able to give The New York Red Bulls a game, coming back to tie it in the 91st minute in September. Earlier this year they beat the Fire 2-0 at Gillette, AND they beat the Red Bulls by that same scoreline in July.
Granted, things have changed in that time. Arguably one of the best players of the first half of the season, Saer Sene, had his season ended prematurely. Benny Feihaber hasn't worked out as they would have hoped, and there are rumors that he wants out of Boston. Combine all that with the fact that the Fire seem to be firing (I know, I know) on all cylinders after the slip-ups with KC and Philly, and you'd think that this game would be a walk in the park. Except there's one thing the Revolution have going for them that may swing the game their way, regardless of quality discrepancy between the two teams. And that factor is: field turf.
The Fire are winless on field turf this year, and historically, aren't that good on it either. In their 2-0 loss to New England earlier this year, the turf played a part in them dropping points, as controlling the ball and anticipating the bounces of passes and deflections were difficult. The same problem presents itself on Saturday.
"It's not always a perfect bounce" said Patrick Nyarko, when asked on the differences between grass and turf. "Even though on grass it's not always a perfect bounce, on turf it's five times worse. You think the ball is going to bounce this way, and it bounces the other way."
He also expressed the physical problems with playing on turf. "If you don't step well, if you misstep, you're likely to get injured. It plays mind games with you, and it takes an extra day to recover after playing on it."
Head Coach Frank Klopas thinks his squad is adequately prepared for the hardships of the playing surface. "I think that [going form field turf] is an issue but we've been training on it for a couple days now. And we're prepared for it."
Something else to keep in mind is the mentality of New England. Much like the Union, their players are looking to impress management enough to secure jobs as MLS players next year. And some, like Olympic hero Jerry Bengtson from Honduras, are looking to prove the hype. "I expect exactly what Philly gave us." Nyarko said. "New England is playing at home. Most of the guys are playing for spots. They have to impress their coach. They're gonna come out."Along that same line is that this is a rivalry game, and both teams know it. "They don't like the Fire. We don't like them, they don't like us. It's going to be a battle like it always is."
What To Watch For.
A.J. Soares, Chris Tierney and Juan Toja are coming off injuries, but all are expected to play Saturday evening. Our Friend Stephen Piggott broke down Toja's game in his Tactical Preview at the Fire's Always on the Inside blog.
Toja is a player who wants the ball at all times, often dropping deep to collect it and start an attack. Against the Union, he looked to get the ball wide as much as possible but also looked to take on players whenever the opportunity arose.
Once again, the Fire will be without Pavel Pardo, who didn't make the trip. He's being held out because of the turf issue talked about at the top of the article. Since they lost Pavel to a calf strain in the 2-1 win over Toronto FC, the Fire have a 3-2-0 record, and Frank has played both Daniel Paladini and Alex in Pavel's spot. Assume Paladini will get the nod, as he started in the win against New York two weeks ago.
Alvaro Fernandez did not practice with the team this week, due to his commitments with the Uruguayan National Team, but he is expected to start regardless. He may be tired after getting back with the team midday on Thursday from Bolivia where they lost 4-1.
I found this little gem after following a thread on Big Soccer. If something does happen in some form of protests at the match, you'll know, because the Fort (The name of the Supporters Section (Not the Supporters Group) at Gillette, is the only place that's densely populated these days.
1. A win and a SKC loss move the Fire to first place on the Goals Scored Tiebreaker.
2. Let's all hope the MLS Live crew is Dan Kelly and Evan Whitfield. I know they can be hit and miss, but I don't want to do this again.
Even with the turf issue, and the hunger of the Revolution players the Fire win this one 3-1, but it will by no means be easy. Rolfe and Bengtson get each get one in the first half, and Nyarko and Alex, coming on as a sub, get the two in the second half, with Alex's goal coming close to or in stoppage time.