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Seize The Moment And Stay In It: Fire @ New England, MLS Week 16 Preview

The Fire have undeniable momentum but their record on the road threatens to put them on the business end of a bayonet

MLS: U.S. Open Cup-Chicago Fire at Saint Louis FC
Fire players huddle for warmth from the St. Louis “fog”. Just kidding, they scored.
Scott Kane-USA TODAY Sports

A USOC win is a great speed boost going into another league game, especially when we rest the key players. While I love the young guys (or “YAM Squad”) [Ed. note: What? -jbg], resting players like Basti and Niko was a clear priority for the squad. The Fire did their jobs against a lesser opposition, Solignac pulled off the Fire’s goal of the season, some younger players got some well-earned game time, and the Men In Red are now unbeaten in eight games in all competitions.

New England are coming into the weekend with back-to-back 3-0 wins. This includes the 3-0 against Rochester in the Cup, but also features, notably, the 3-0 against Toronto FC. Not only did it give the Fire a chance to catch up a bit, but it was a major morale boost for New England, who have been struggling to stay above the red line. Their main weakness has been in defense, where Cody Cropper has honestly been made to look like a star with all they put him through. The Fire should definitely keep an eye on him and try to wrong-foot him as much as possible. Here’s some highlights of their previous games:

vs NYRB 5/27

vs NYCFC 5/31

vs Toronto 6/3

Three Keys

Dax Is Back

For our game against Atlanta, one of my major points was how to deal without Dax. Today, we can talk about how much he means for us that he’s back. While the guy doesn’t make the assists, he creates the chances. But there was also a moment Wednesday night when you kind of realized that maybe he and Basti truly needed each other. Against Orlando, we missed Dax’s killer through balls; but against St. Louis, we missed Basti’s experienced presence and explosive long balls. Now we have this central midfield combo back and I hope that it’ll be like this until the end of the season.

Fagúndez Has Blossomed

While it seems like he’s been in the league forever, Diego Fagúndez is still only 22. In 2013 he had a career year but quickly faded to the background. Until last season. Last season he got 6 goals and 6 assists and he’s already on pace to break past that this season. Not only has he been putting up numbers, he’s been one of the focal points of their attack, getting where he needs to be and putting the ball where it needs to be. It’s always nice to see young players do well and even though he’s on the Revolution, I can’t help but feel happy for him. In terms of this game however, we need to close him down hard. He’ll be on Polster’s side and I think Matt has the experience to take him.

Players vs. Numbers

So taking a statistics class this year really made me reconsider quite a few things about sports, including the idea of reducing players to just numbers. Is it right? I think these two teams are fairly decent examples of it not being so. The Fire have a poor away record while also being one of the strongest teams in the league overall. The Revolution, while struggling a bit this season, were able to demolish #1 Toronto FC 3-0. Statistics are a good guide, this is still a game played by flesh-and-blood human beings.

Projected Lineups

Chicago Fire

New England

How To Watch

Kickoff: Saturday June 17th, 7:30PM EDT/6:30PM CDT

TV/Streaming: CSN-Chicago, MLS Live

So where do you see this going? Will New England present us with another gift by just losing to us or will they be emboldened by the win over Toronto? Tell us in the comments!