FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Just one point separates the fifth-place New England Revolution (10-10-7, 37 pts.) from the seventh-place Chicago Fire (10-11-6, 36 pts.) entering Saturday night’s pivotal Eastern Conference showdown at Toyota Park.
Comcast SportsNet and 98.5 The Sports Hub will have regional coverage beginning at 8:30 p.m. ET.
Current Form: Playoff hopefuls set to square off in classic six-pointer
A fifth-minute red card issued to goalkeeper Matt Reis dented any hopes the Revs had of extending their three-game unbeaten run last weekend, as Patrice Bernier and Marco Di Vaio each scored twice to send New England to a 4-2 home loss to the Montreal Impact. The Revs did take pride in their effort, however, showing both spirit and ability while goals from the red-hot duo of Diego Fagundez and Kelyn Rowe kept the game within reach.
“Montreal was a tough game,” said Fagundez. “We have to deal with what happened. I think we’re all upset, but we have to deal with it, move on, and just keep getting points. We have to go to Chicago and get points there now.”
Despite falling to Montreal, the Revs remain in the fifth and final playoff spot entering this weekend following favorable results around the Eastern Conference.
Those recent favorable results include a three-game winless run for the Fire, which most recently played to a 1-1 draw with Toronto FC on Wednesday night at BMO Field. With just two points from the last three games, Chicago remains in seventh place entering the weekend, just below the red line in the East.
Past Meetings: Revs aiming to complete regular-season series sweep
Saturday night’s meeting will conclude the three-game, regular-season series between New England and Chicago with the Revolution looking for a clean sweep after a pair of shutout victories in the first two encounters.
Jerry Bengtson’s second-half header earned the Revs the full three points in New England’s season opener all the way back on March 9 at Toyota Park, while Rowe and Juan Agudelo scored to lift the Revolution to a 2-0 win at Gillette Stadium just four weeks ago.
With a pair of victories over Chicago this season, New England has now won four of five meetings with the Fire since Jay Heaps took over as head coach prior to the 2012 campaign.
Injury Report: Shuttleworth set to step in for suspended Reis; Agudelo close to return
Bobby Shuttleworth is in line to make his 22nd start of the season between the pipes on Saturday night with Reis suspended following last weekend’s red card. Shuttleworth had the thankless task of coming off the bench in the seventh minute of the loss to Montreal, but he’ll be eager to get another opportunity against the Fire.
After missing the loss to Montreal with a hamstring strain, Agudelo is getting closer to a return as he participated in most activities during the Revolution’s midweek training sessions. When asked about the young striker’s status earlier in the week, Heaps indicated he could be an option against the Fire.
“Is it worth it to rush him back for a start or to bring him off the bench, or do we hold him for another week?” Heaps asked rhetorically. “I think those are all the decisions we just have to prepare ourselves for over the next few days.”
Chicago forward Mike Magee – who trails only Di Vaio in the Golden Boot race with 15 goals – was removed at halftime of last weekend’s loss to Seattle Sounders FC with an apparent groin injury, but recovered to play the full 90 minutes in the Fire’s midweek draw with TFC.
Final Thoughts: Revs making a late-season playoff push for first time in years
“It’s exciting for everyone in the club,” Shuttleworth said of fighting for a playoff spot. “It’s nice to finally be in the mix. This is the first time that I’ve been in the club that we’ve really had an opportunity to make the playoffs, except for my first year (in 2009). It’s exciting and I think everyone’s really looking forward to it and just trying to strive forward and get that spot.”