FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – There’s no doubt Jay Heaps will have his New England Revolution side prepared ahead of Saturday night’s visit from the Chicago Fire. It’s just that in this case, multiple game plans may be necessary to counteract the Fire’s rapidly changing approach.
Chicago typically deploys the speedy Dominic Oduro as a lone forward in front of an attack-minded five-man midfield, but the alignment is easily malleable depending on how the match unfolds.
“They’re fluid within the game,” Heaps said of Chicago. “If they go up a goal or down a goal, they can switch formations pretty quickly. (Patrick) Nyarko can go up top and they can push to a 4-4-2. It’s a team you have to be able to be reactive (against).
“We like to prepare our team as best we can – and I’ve watched Chicago play a lot – but you can only give the players so much information,” Heaps added. “You’ve got to put them in positions to win on our side, but also be aware that there are fluid changes in the match.”
Something the Revs can prepare for regardless of formation or personnel is the Fire’s counterattacking style. Frank Klopas’ side plays a tight defensive shape and prefers to clog up passing lanes before hitting with speed on the counterattack. It’s an approach which has helped the Fire to a respectable 2-3-1 record on the road.
To limit the Fire’s effectiveness on the break, the Revs must take care in possession and constantly be aware of their defensive positioning even when controlling the ball themselves.
“It’s going to be a little different how we possess the ball,” said Heaps. “We’ve got to make sure we keep the ball and make them work. When we have it in our defensive half – meaning our center backs and our outside backs – they’ve got to make sure they control the ball.”
“We’ve just got to be smart,” said left back Chris Tierney. “There’s going to be times to go (forward), for sure. But we’re constantly thinking, ‘What if?’ If the ball turns over, are we in a good spot to defend? Hopefully more times than not the answer’s going to be yes this weekend.”