FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – A classic MLS rivalry will be renewed on Saturday night at Gillette Stadium, where the New England Revolution will host the Chicago Fire in a match with massive playoff implications.
The sixth-place Revs (9-9-8, 35 pts.) and 10th-place Fire (8-11-9, 33 pts.) are separated by just two points in the Eastern Conference standings, making this weekend’s showdown another six-pointer. A win would send New England five points clear of Chicago with two games in hand.
Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m., with NBC Sports Boston televising the match and streaming the action live for authenticated subscribers on NBCSportsBoston.com and the NBC Sports mobile app.
Brad Feldman, Paul Mariner, and Naoko Funayama will have the English call both there and on 98.5 The Sports Hub, while Portuguese radio listeners can tune into 1260 AM Nossa Radio USA.
Pregame coverage begins at 6:45 p.m. with Revolution Pregame Live, as Elizabeth Pehota and Jeff Lemieux will break down the starting lineups and biggest storylines, streaming live on the Revolution’s official Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube channels, as well as on revolutionsoccer.net.
Revolution Postgame Live will begin immediately after the final whistle on NBC Sports Boston, while Rob “Hardy” Poole and former Revolution midfielder Clyde Simms will take calls during 30 minutes of postgame coverage on 98.5 The Sports Hub.
Current Form: Revs return home after pair of road draws; Fire have won three of four
New England stretched their road unbeaten run to a club record seven games (3-0-4) with draws in Seattle and New Jersey the past two weekends, coming from behind on both occasions. Those could prove to be critical results in the Eastern Conference playoff race, particularly last weekend’s 1-1 draw with the New York Red Bulls.
However, the Revs weren’t satisfied with their performances in either of those contests, and they know they’ll need to be sharper through the final eight games if they hope to make a legitimate playoff push.
“Both of (those draws) came from losing positions, but in saying that, we didn’t play particularly well for 90 minutes in either game,” said Turner, who signed a new multi-year deal with the Revs on Wednesday. “We know that we need to start putting together full match performances if we want to make the playoffs.”
Points will be at a premium through the final seven weeks of the season as just six points separate fifth from 10th place in the East, and three of the Revolution’s next four games are against teams directly behind them in the standings.
“It’s tight, but it’s been a while since we’ve had something to kind of chase and be a part of,” said Andrew Farrell, who went to the playoffs each of his first three seasons with the Revs (2013-15). “I think that motivates the guys. We’re in there. We’re right in there.
“Obviously a couple points here and there and we can get a little bit of a gap and space. We play three teams that are below us, we play teams that are in front of us, so it’s an important stretch here.”
Chicago, meanwhile, have gotten themselves back into the playoff race by winning three of their last four, including a 2-0 victory over the Philadelphia Union last weekend. Nemanja Nikolić scored both goals against Philly, and the 2017 MLS Golden Boot winner has now scored in four straight matches.
Nicolás Gaitán, who was sent off in that win over the Union, will be available for selection on Saturday after the Fire successfully appealed his red card. Gaitán leads the Fire with nine assists in his debut MLS season.
“They’ve got some really dangerous pieces going forward,” said Turner. “They have so many dangerous pieces that it’s not any reason for us to get complacent or comfortable. We need to make sure that we take care of business and start the game better than we started the previous two.”
Past Meetings: Revs aiming to snap lengthy winless run against Fire
Once upon a time the Revs and Fire featured in one of the league’s most heated rivalries, meeting in the MLS Cup Playoffs a remarkable eight times in a 10-year span from 2000 to 2009. Though the animosity has since faded, the importance of Saturday night’s game could stoke some of those old flames.
The series, however, has been dominated by Chicago in recent years. The Revs haven’t beaten the Fire since 2016, going 0-5-2 in their last seven meetings, including 0-1-1 in the last two encounters in Foxborough.
The most recent meeting was on May 8 at SeatGeek Stadium, where the Fire rolled to a 5-0 win in what proved to be Brad Friedel’s final game in charge, ushering in the Bruce Arena era in New England.
Asked about that loss during his weekly interview on 98.5 The Sports Hub’s “Zolak & Bertrand,” Arena said he hadn’t watched the film from that game, and had no intention of doing so.
“It’s immaterial,” he said.
Injury Report: Farrell returns from suspension; Delamea nearing full health
A big piece of the Revolution’s defensive puzzle will be back in the mix on Saturday night as Andrew Farrell will once again be eligible for selection after missing the draw at RBNY through suspension. Farrell had started 21 consecutive games before missing out on the trip to New Jersey.
“It’ll be nice to have Andrew back,” said Turner. “He provides a lot of coverage for everyone on the back four because he’s just super athletic and able to do that for us.”
Rookie DeJuan Jones is also an option after returning from injury with a brief showing off the bench at Red Bull Arena, while center back Antonio Delamea is inching closer to full health after missing the last two games.
“Getting Andrew back, and Toni will be back soon, DeJuan is now back – that helps us in the backline, for sure,” said Arena.
Final Thoughts: Arena says Revs “can’t be afraid” of meaningful matches
“All the eight remaining games are now big,” Arena said. “We can’t be afraid to say that.”