SuperLiga continues against familiar foe

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – The New England Revolution had never faced Pumas UNAM prior to claiming a 1-0 victory over the Mexican club in the SuperLiga 2010 Group B opener on Wednesday night at Gillette Stadium. It’s safe to say the Revs will have a slightly higher level of familiarity with their next opponent.

The Revolution (1-0-0, 3 pts.) continues the group stage of SuperLiga 2010 against fellow MLS side Chicago Fire (0-1-0, 0 pts.) on Saturday, July 17, at Toyota Park. New England and Chicago have played 37 times in the regular season, but it’s been repeated postseason matchups which have fueled one of the league’s most heated rivalries. The sides have met in the MLS Cup Playoffs eight times – amounting to 15 total matches – including each of the last five seasons.

Although the Revs had a firm upper hand in the series for a number of years, recent seasons have seen the tide turn in favor of the Fire. In fact, New England hasn’t beaten Chicago in a regular-season match since May 2007, going 0-5-2 in the last seven league meetings, while the Fire eliminated the Revs from the playoffs in both 2008 and 2009. Most recently, Chicago claimed a 1-0 win over New England in a league game on June 27 at Gillette Stadium.

“For sure,” said central defender Darrius Barnes when asked if he expected another intense meeting on Saturday night. “They’re coming off a loss – a pretty disappointing loss – in their opening round of SuperLiga.”

While the Revolution made an ideal start to its SuperLiga campaign with a shutout victory over Pumas, the Fire had quite a different experience against Monarcas Morelia at Toyota Park. Three first-half goals staked Morelia to an insurmountable 3-0 halftime lead and the Mexicans continued to pile it on in the second half en route to a 5-1 victory.

The results leave the Revs tied with Morelia atop the Group B standings on three points apiece, while the Fire and Pumas are still searching for their first points of the competition. Considering the clubs’ positions in the group standings, Chicago will desperate for a result on Saturday night to keep its hopes of advancing to the semifinals alive, while the Revs will be aiming to clinch a spot in the last four of the tournament for the third straight season.

However, perhaps more important to the Fire than a spot in the semifinals is simply saving face following Wednesday night’s lopsided loss.

“We know how that feels,” said assistant coach Steve Myles, referring to the Revolution’s recent 5-0 loss to Real Salt Lake. “You’ve got to expect they’re going to respond to that.”

The Revs know well enough how a group of players can rally around a difficult loss. Just one week after conceding a season-high five goals in a shutout loss to defending champion RSL on July 2, the Revolution turned the tables on the league-leading LA Galaxy, earning a 2-0 victory and handing the Western Conference side just its second loss of the season.

With that memory fresh in their minds, the Revs will be cognizant of the emotions the Fire players will be feeling – both positive and negative – as they look to redeem themselves on Saturday night.

“We’ll look for them to come back with a good response, but at the same time, we also know what bad results can do for your confidence in terms of a negative effect,” said Chris Tierney, in reference to the Revolution’s run of one win in 11 games from April to July. “We’ll be looking to jump on them early. I think if we get the first goal, we should be in good shape.”

Barnes agreed with Tierney’s assessment, saying it could prove beneficial for the Revs to get an early lead on a dejected side.

“We’re coming off a win, so it’s going to be important for us not to get complacent and get content and sit back,” said Barnes. “We want to make sure we close this deal out, go in there on the front foot, put the gas down and take it to them from the opening whistle.”

The Revolution’s newfound confidence to take the game to their opponents is a direct result of the club’s performances in the last two games, in which the Revs have earned shutout wins over quality teams. Yet Myles was quick to point out that no one in Revolution camp is resting on their laurels because of the back-to-back victories.

“A couple of wins and all of a sudden there’s a little bit of liveliness in the dressing room, and it’s nice to see that,” he said. “But we’re under no illusions. It’s early [in this turnaround], we’re happy with what’s happened, we’re certainly happy with a couple of clean sheets – that’s been one of the pleasing things – but there’s still a lot to work on, and we know that. It’s not about celebrating, it’s heads down and back to work.”