It's time for Daniel Paladini's grit, toughness, and tenacity to return to the Fire Starting XI. (Photo by Ned Dishman/Getty Images)
The rivalry between the Fire and Revolution has been gaining strength the past few years, and there is never a shortage for action and intrigue when these two teams meet. Tomorrow night shouldn't be any different. Although the Fire come into the matchup without their captain Logan Pause, the Men in Red are definitely heading in the right direction. The same cannot be said for the Revolution. They are all but out of playoff contention, and as my 3 questions exchange addressed, many fans are just hoping for a decent run of form to close out their 2012 MLS season. Indeed, this campaign is a lost cause for New England. And that means the Fire not only can, but should get all 3 points Saturday night at Toyota Park.
Follow me after the break where I set the stage for tomorrow's matchup, followed by a few key points I am thinking about heading into Saturday Night. Here we go...
Let's start by quickly recapping the past few Fire/Revolution matchups. The Fire split a 1-1 decision with New England on June 18th, 2011 at Gillette Stadium. Dominic Oduro and Rajko Lekic scored the goals, respectively. The Fire would notch a win at Toyota Park on September 25, 2011 with a 3-2 victory. This match occurred with the Fire on a red hot playoff push. Although they fell just short, the Men in Red got a vital victory over their rivals that night. Grazzini, Oduro, and Nyarko netted for the Men in Red, while Ryan Guy notched a brace in stoppage time.
On June 2nd of this year, the Fire went into Gillette Stadium still reeling from their USOC flame-out against the Michigan Bucks. Rather than grabbing a win to get back on track, Chicago looked very lackluster and fell 2-0 to New England. Kelyn Rowe and Benny Feilhaber scored the goals for the Revs. The Fire play the Revolution 2 more times (including Saturday Night), so there is a big 6 points on the line for Chicago. This is a team that we should take 6 points off of without a doubt, and we need to take care of business. Considering every remaining Fire match this year is against an Eastern Conference foe, every victory is a vital 3 points in our march towards the playoffs and towards the top of the Eastern Conference standings. Toyota Park has pretty much been an impenetrable fortress against East teams the past couple of years, and hopefully the Men in Red continue to keep it that way.
Planning For Life Without Pause
This is a blatantly obvious point to mention, but it is a valid point nonetheless. Almost all Fire fans seem to be wondering what Frank will do to fill in for the injured Logan Pause. Our own Stephen Piggott, who now writes his tactical previews for the official Fire website, took a look at this dilemma too. I also mentioned my ideal starting XI in the 3 questions exchange, which I linked to above. It would seem the consensus opinion is to slot Daniel Paladini into Logan's slot, and I agree.
I have seen talk about trying to slide Alex or even Flaco back into a holding role with Pardo, but I don't think that's the ideal look. Why slot someone out of position if we don't have to? They may be able to play DM, but that doesn't mean they should unless it's an emergency. Paladini is perfectly capable of not only handling the role, but doing a good job at it. There is no question in my mind that Paladini should get the nod to start tomorrow night.
Time for A Sherjill MacDonald Breakout
I am going to call this right now, it's time for a Sherjill attack. He had a nice assist last week, and has looked very good for the Men in Red in his short time here. He has all the tools of a striker that we not only desperately need, but one that we haven't had for awhile in terms of a true, hold the ball up presence. While his continued good play may relegate Dominic Oduro to more of a sub role, I think the team may be better off for it.
Sherjill has come close to scoring a few times as well, and I think he is primed for a huge breakout game. Keep in mind he is not fully fit yet either. Imagine what he can do at 100% fitness. I am seeing a 2 goal, 1 assist game in his future. While most of us doubted this signing at first, I am happy to say it seems we are wrong. If Sherjill can keep up the play he has shown so far and start putting the ball in the net, this could really prime the Fire for a serious, deep playoff run. I am confident he can and will do that, and it's going to be fun watching him for the rest of the year.
Gargan or Anibaba?
In terms of a true RB, there is no question that Gargan should be out there. I am a big fan of Jalil, but CB is his stronger position. He can play an admirable RB, but Dan Gargan brings experience that is always invaluable to have out on the pitch. We have seen Jalil start ahead of Dan a few times the past month or so, which is good in terms of getting an older Gargan some rest. He may not be as quick as Jalil, but I want to see him out there starting tomorrow night. It's time to get him back in the lineup.
Of course, Dan starting comes at the expense of Jalil heading to the bench. Berry and Arne are too good in the middle to break them up. I don't want to see any sort of regression happen to Jalil as a 2nd year player having to sit on the bench, but Frank has to put the best XI on the pitch that he has. And that best XI is Dan Gargan at RB rather than Jalil. It's a tough call to be sure, but I am confident that Anibaba and Berry will be a great young CB duo for years to come with the Fire. Jalil will get his time, he may just have to be a team player and wait a bit for that.
In case you missed it in my 3 questions exchange, I am going with a 2-0 Fire win. The Revolution offense has simply been too anemic, and I don't see them putting up much of a fight Saturday night. Our defense is locked in, and the Fire offense has had a dangerous look about it with Sherjill and Flaco inserted into the equation. I tabbed Rolfe and Sherjill to tally goals for the Fire against the Revs. As usual, we will have a gamethread up tomorrow night for the game. We encourage you to join us. Let's go Fire!