FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – A pair of playoff contenders separated by just one point in the Eastern Conference standings will clash on Saturday night when the New England Revolution hosts the Chicago Fire.
Kickoff from Gillette Stadium between the Revs (8-9-6, 30 pts.) and Fire (9-9-4, 31 pts.) is set for 7:30 p.m. Comcast SportsNet and 98.5 The Sports Hub will cover the game regionally.
Current Form: Resurgent Fire climbs ahead of the Revs to set up critical showdown
After back-to-back road victories to close the month of July, the Revs have opened August with consecutive losses, both by shutout. It’s the first time the Revs have been blanked in back-to-back games since they were shut out four straight times through March and early April.
But clear-cut chances have been created in both losses, leaving the Revs in search of the finishing touch.
“We have to have confidence,” said Kelyn Rowe. “We’re a good enough team to know we can score every game. We can score multiple goals every game. For me, it’s just that final ball and that final finish needs to be better.”
Chicago has taken advantage of New England’s recent stumbles, using a four-game unbeaten run (3-0-1) to vault over the Revs into sixth place in the East. The recent resurgence has helped the Fire climb back into playoff contention, going 7-2-2 in the past 11 games after a dismal 2-7-2 start to the season.
Past Meetings: Five months have passed since Revs’ season-opening victory in Chicago
The Revolution last battled the Fire on a frigid day in early March, riding Jerry Bengtson’s second-half goal to a 1-0 victory in what was New England’s 2013 season opener. Each side has played 20-plus games since that early-season meeting at Toyota Park, and both clubs will look vastly different on Saturday night.
“For us, they’re a totally different team,” said head coach Jay Heaps. “Chicago has added some really quality players. Not only that, but I think they’re playing better football. We caught them in the second game of the year for them, first game for us, so we’re a completely different team, as well. So I think it’s going to be a unique matchup on Saturday.”
The season-opening victory did continue the Revolution’s recent success against the Fire, having won three of four meetings since Heaps took over prior to the 2012 campaign.
Injury Report: Agudelo, Davies hope to spark Revs; Fire’s Magee likely to return
After missing eight games with a right knee sprain, Juan Agudelo has been upgraded to questionable and is hoping to make his return on Saturday night after going through a full week of training.
At some point Agudelo could find himself playing alongside newcomer Charlie Davies, who trained throughout the week in the hopes of making his debut against the Fire.
“They’re both good players,” said Diego Fagundez. “They both do basically the same thing and it’s going to be a good add when they’re both back on the field. Hopefully they get a chance to get in on Saturday and give it a go.”
Agudelo and Davies would provide an attacking spark in the absence of fellow forward Dimitry Imbongo, who’s suspended – along with Andy Dorman – after being red-carded in last weekend’s loss to Sporting Kansas City.
Chicago is also hoping to regain the services of a star forward as MLS leading scorer Mike Magee (R calf tightness) returned to training this week after missing last weekend’s win over the Montreal Impact. Asked earlier this week if he’d be available against New England, Magee indicated he would be ready to go.
Officially, Magee is listed as questionable along with two other attacking cogs – Patrick Nyarko (concussion symptoms) and Chris Rolfe (L hamstring tightness).
Final Thoughts: Revs looking to reverse course after pair of disappointing home losses
“I think there’s a collective frustration that we haven’t gotten the points at home that we want to get,” said Heaps. “Our record at home isn’t good enough. We need to take the last six games at home and maximize every opportunity. When you draw a line in the sand, it’s a mindset, it’s about a collective commitment and that’s what we need to have the rest of the way.”