Preview: The Windy City beckons as the Revs hit the road to battle the Fire
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – The New England Revolution goes in search of a third win in four games this weekend in the Windy City, traveling to face the Chicago Fire in a nationally-televised contest on Saturday afternoon.
Coverage begins at 4 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Network, while 98.5 The Sports Hub will have the radio call.
Current Form: Revs look to get rolling after big home win; Fire still searching for first victory
Kevin Alston’s first career MLS goal – almost one year to the day after he was diagnosed with leukemia – and a late insurance strike from second-half substitute Jerry Bengtson helped guide the Revs (2-3-1, 7 pts.) to a 2-0 win over the Houston Dynamo last weekend at Gillette Stadium. It was the Revolution’s second win in the past three matches after getting off the mark with a 2-1 victory over the San Jose Earthquakes two weeks earlier.
Now the Revolution’s objective is to turn a couple of positive results into a sustained stretch of success, and with performances like last weekend’s against Houston, the Revs are confident they’re on the right track.
“I feel like there are a lot of good things,” said Darrius Barnes, who was steady in an emergency substitute role against the Dynamo. “This might be the most complete game we’ve played. We started off a little slow, but as the game progressed, I feel like we started to show some of our best stuff.”
Chicago (0-1-5, 5 pts.) enters the weekend in a unique scenario; despite carrying a five-game unbeaten run into Saturday’s meeting, the Fire is still in search of its first win of 2014. Since a season-opening loss to Chivas USA, Frank Yallop’s side has played to five consecutive draws – just one shy of the MLS record.
“Any time we play them, it’s a tough game,” said center back A.J. Soares. “It’s a good rivalry, obviously, with some of the playoff results that we’ve had against them in the past. It’s always a good team.”
Past Meetings: Revs have turned the tables on the Fire in recent years
After enduring a 10-game winless run against Chicago from 2007 to 2011, New England has finally figured out the Fire in recent years en route to a 4-2-0 mark in the last six regular-season meetings.
The Revs so nearly swept the season series last year, winning the first two meetings (1-0 at Toyota Park; 2-0 at Gillette Stadium) and taking a 2-1 lead into halftime of the third matchup in Bridgeview. A pair of controversial – read: incorrect – offside decisions turned the game, however, and New England suffered a 3-2 loss.
Of course, there is also a lengthy playoff history between these two sides; the Revs and Fire met in the postseason eight times between 2000 and 2009, with New England advancing on four occasions.
Injury Report: Goncalves sidelined by quad strain; Rowe and Tierney both questionable
As the Revs set out to limit the top scoring offense in the Eastern Conference on Saturday, they’ll likely have to do so without their captain and central defensive stalwart Jose Goncalves. Last year’s MLS Defender of the Year suffered a right quad strain under the challenge of Ricardo Clark last weekend and the injury is expected to prevent him from making the trip to Toyota Park.
Barnes stepped in when Goncalves limped off last Saturday, sliding into a right back role as Andrew Farrell shifted into central defense. Regardless of the personnel which takes the field this weekend – or any weekend – the Revs are confident they have the depth to continue at a high level.
“It’s all about the system. It’s not about any individual player,” said Soares. “Jose’s our captain. He’s our top guy. He was MLS Defender of the Year last year. You can’t replace him at all. But it shows that the system and the camaraderie’s good.”
While Goncalves is listed as “out” on the official injury report, both Kelyn Rowe (L hamstring strain) and Chris Tierney (L hip irritation) are listed as “questionable” as they push to return. Rowe has been sidelined for the past three games, while Tierney missed his first action of the season last weekend.
Chicago lists just one player on its injury report: defender Steven Kinney (hamstring strain) is out.
Final Thoughts: Revs hit the road in search of maximum points
“We don’t want to go there and sit back and fight for the point, and scratch and claw for the point,” said Barnes. “We want to go there to get three points. I feel like that’s what we have to do if we want to be a championship-caliber team is start going away and getting results, and show that we can play anywhere, whether home or away.”