FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – The New England Revolution officially hits the midway point of its 2014 regular-season schedule on Saturday night when the Chicago Fire visits Gillette Stadium for an Eastern Conference tilt.
Comcast SportsNet and 98.5 The Sports Hub will cover the action from kickoff beginning at 7:30 p.m., while CSN will also debut a new live postgame show – hosted by Dalen Cuff and U.S. Soccer legend Kristine Lilly – immediately following Saturday night’s match.
Current Form: Revs aim to “fight through” recent skid; Fire approaches league record for draws
After suffering a fourth straight league loss last Friday night at the hands of Real Salt Lake – which benefitted from a pair of penalty kicks – the Revs (7-7-2, 23 pts.) found no relief in Tuesday night’s U.S. Open Cup quarterfinal meeting with the Philadelphia Union, exiting the competition with a 2-0 loss at PPL Park.
The Revs have been plagued by their inability to score the first goal during the current stretch, as they’ve fallen behind in the first half of all five of their recent losses. A stronger defensive mentality from the start will help assuage the issue, according to Chris Tierney, who also said the Revs need to dig deep to grind out a result.
“These are the times you just have to fight through it,” he said. “We’re in the dog days of summer. We’ve got seven games this month alone, so it’s going to be a tough stretch. First thing’s first, we have to dig in and defend well and make sure our work rate is where it needs to be. We know that if we take care of those things, then results will start coming our way.”
Chicago – also struggling for wins in the league – found success in its midweek Open Cup quarterfinal, advancing past the Atlanta Silverbacks (NASL) with a 3-1 win. After claiming victory in Georgia on Wednesday night, the Fire (2-4-10, 16 pts.) traveled directly to Foxborough ahead of Saturday night’s meeting with the Revolution.
Frank Yallop’s side comes to Gillette Stadium having – quite incredibly – drawn 10 of the club’s 16 league matches this season. While the Fire’s two wins represent the lowest total in the league, Chicago’s four losses are the fewest setbacks of any team in the Eastern Conference.
“It’s a very tough challenge for us,” said Tierney. “They’re a team that’s very hard to break down, don’t concede a lot of goals, so we’re going to have to be on our best in terms of our play. Our soccer brains have to be firing on all cylinders and we’ve got to create chances and take them when they’re there.”
Past Meetings: Shuttleworth’s late penalty stop highlighted 1-1 draw in April
Goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth was the hero for New England when these clubs met at Toyota Park in mid-April, saving Juan Luis Anangono’s stoppage-time penalty attempt to preserve a 1-1 draw.
This will be the first of two meetings this season between the Revs and Fire at Gillette Stadium, where New England has found plenty of success against Chicago in recent years. The Revs have won the past three meetings in Foxborough without conceding a goal, outscoring the Fire by a margin of 5-0.
The last time New England and Chicago squared off at Gillette Stadium, Revolution fans were given this memorable moment as Juan Agudelo scored with an audacious back-heel lob. Agudelo’s strike ultimately finished third in AT&T Goal of the Year voting.
Injury Report: Leading scorer Nguyen suspended for NE; Joya/Nyarko doubtful for Chicago
If the Revs are to snap their losing streak on Saturday night they’ll do so without the services of leading scorer Lee Nguyen, who’ll serve a one-game suspension after the MLS Disciplinary Committee handed down a ban for this incident in last Friday’s match at Rio Tinto Stadium.
Revolution head coach Jay Heaps confirmed that the Revs were aware of Nguyen’s impending suspension before Tuesday night’s Open Cup match – Nguyen played 90 minutes at PPL Park – and were able to plan accordingly. Now it’s just a matter of someone rising to the occasion on Saturday night.
“I think it’s important for guys to step up,” Heaps said. “We need to have a really balanced team. Last year, when someone would step out, someone stepped in. This year, same type of thing; when someone goes out, someone else steps in and there’s another opportunity.”
Chicago could be without a pair of influential attackers as both Benji Joya (quad tightness) and Patrick Nyarko (knee sprain) are listed as doubtful on the Fire’s official injury report. Joya has notched one goal in 11 appearances this year, while Nyarko has recorded one goal and two assists in nine appearances.
Final Thoughts: Goncalves believes Revs just need one win to get back on track
“We’ve been going through a difficult few games with four losses in the league,” said captain Jose Goncalves. “I believe in the team and I know that we will get back onto the winning road very soon. It’s a matter of working hard, getting back the confidence, defending better and also scoring goals. It’s a lot of stuff, but we have a team who can do that and I know that when we are flying, then we will be flying for a long time.”