Chicago v New England, MLS #28 - preview

Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

The third game in seven days for cf97 - will they come out and grab this six-pointer, or will it be a repeat of Wednesday's dud with TFC?

Another away game against a lesser opponent, another missed opportunity to improve cf97's playoff chances -seems like a reoccurring theme for the men in red. The past couple weeks it's seemed tough for the Fire to claim maximum points. It started with giving up a last minute goal in a draw to Houston, followed by a very late own goal to seal an away loss in Seattle, and continued with a lackluster performance in a 1-1 draw to lowly Toronto FC.

Wednesday night started out slowly - I mean really slowly. There was no real urgency from either side to take the game into their own hands and dominate. A lucky play got the Fire on the board first - Dilly Duka lifted the ball over the defense to an on-rushing Mike Magee ... who didn't get a touch on it ... but the ball still found its way into the old onion bag. Sometimes teams need plays like that in order to create some momentum - but this wasn't the case for the Fire. Toronto was able to level the score three minutes later when some lazy defending by the Fire allowed a Bobby Convey cross to slide through the box untouched to Robert Earnshaw, who calmly put the ball away. There were other opportunities in the second half from both sides, but neither side was able to finish those opportunities.

I think Mike Magee said it the best in post game:

"It's not good enough. Like I said, we score a goal and we kind of go back into our shell which has been a reoccurring theme with us. We tend to get up a goal, and we play, well and then we don't know how to manage it. We create some chances and don't put teams away. Like I said we are in a frustrating stretch right now but at the end of the day we are one point out of a playoff spot so we can't keep our heads down even though that is the feeling."

Now comes a six-pointer for the Fire, as they quickly turnaround and host the New England Revolution tonight. Both teams are coming off disappointing results, as New England last week lost to the Impact, 4-2, in a game which saw starting keeper Matt Reis see red. Montreal dominated all facets of the game and the Revs were lucky both to get two goals and to hold the damage at four. Both teams know that with the regular season winding down that every point will be crucial in making a playoff push. Any points dropped could lead to teams missing the post-season party and looking ahead to the 2014 season prematurely.

Lineups

Jay Heaps is missing a few players due to long term injuries, but has the majority of his roster to choose from. The one player that hurt the Fire last time these two teams met, Juan Agudelo, will be out for Saturday. Matt Reis will also be missing due to a red card from last week. Here is the best lineup I think that Heaps can put out there to start the game:

Shuttleworth

Tierney-Goncalves-Soares-Farrell

Caldwell

Fagundez-Nguyen-Toja-Rowe

Imbongo

Frank Klopas will actually have his entire roster to choose Saturday night. Rios and Lindpere both return from international duty. We all know how much Frank does not like variety so this is what he will probably end up going with:

Johnson

Anibaba-Soumare-Berry-Segares

Nyarko-Larentowicz-Rios-Duka

Magee-Rolfe

Key Matchups

  • Fire vs. Fatigue- Wednesday night the Fire looked flat and so did TFC. Both teams had games in the Pacific Northwest over the weekend and had to make the same trip to Ontario. The Fire looked lackluster and seemed just flat-out tired. It's not going to get any better as they host the Revs on three days' rest. We all know that Frank doesn't like to rotate his lineup in order to ensure proper rest for his players. We will welcome back Cacha Arevalo Rios but he also played a full 90 minutes on the other side of the equator. Lindpere comes back having only featured in one of Estonia's games over the past week so look for him to see significant minutes especially if he comes in off the bench. The main problem is the other players that have been playing game in and game out - I'm talking about Magee, Chris Rolfe, Jeff Larentowicz, Duka, and the Fire's back four. Watch them closely Saturday night and you may see some telling signs of physical and mental fatigue. These impacts could be lapses in defense, not being able to connect passes, not being able to move the ball quickly on the counter (a system that Frank employs), not winning 50/50 balls, and not being able to create any offensive chances. If this does happen, we could see a repeat of the home opener.

Outcome

The inability to finish games this season, especially lately, is going to kill the Fire in the end. Magee also said after the game Wednesday:

"It's been frustrating over the last stretch of games. It feels like every game we have the inability to score two goals and the inability to get a shutout. Playoff teams get shutouts and playoff teams put teams away so we're not doing it on either end. It's a lot of bad feelings after games to say the least."

This season the Fire are winless versus the Revs through the first 2 games. In the first meeting the Revs were lucky to come to Chicago and leave with all 3 points at the beginning of the season. The second meeting saw New England completely dominate the Fire at Gillette Stadium. The Fire must win the match Saturday; anything less than three points will be unacceptable for the cf97 nation. This is one of those games where they can't bunker down after getting the lead. I'm going with a 2-0 win for the Men in Red on Saturday night with Magee and Duka getting the goals.

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