CHI_VS_Preview_santander

MLS Regular Season | Match #30
New England Revolution vs. Chicago Fire FC
Saturday, October 16 | 7 p.m. ET
Gillette Stadium | Foxborough, Mass.

Watch: TV38, myRITV, CoziTV
Listen: 98.5 The Sports Hub HD2 (English), WBIX 1260 Nossa Radio (Portuguese)
Revolution Pregame Live (6 p.m. ET)
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CURRENT FORM

New England Revolution
1st in Eastern Conference (20-4-5, 65 pts.)
Last Result | 4-1 win at CF Montréal

Since last playing on September 29 the Revs have officially secured the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference, a first-round bye in the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs, and homefield advantage through at least the conference final. Now attention turns primarily to the Supporters’ Shield race, as the Revs (five games remaining) hold an eight-point lead over Western Conference leaders Seattle Sounders FC (six games remaining).

Several MLS records remain within reach, as well, with the single-season points record (72) and regulation wins record (22) both attainable through the campaign’s final month. Head coach Bruce Arena, meanwhile, is two wins shy of matching the all-time regular season wins record currently held by Sigi Schmid (240).

New England’s form has been red hot since early July, going 13-1-2 in their last 16 games, including 5-0-1 in their final six matches before the recent international break. They’ve been particularly strong at Gillette Stadium, where they’re a league-best 11-1-2 on the season.

Chicago Fire FC
12th in Eastern Conference (7-16-6, 27 pts.)
Last Result | 3-1 loss at Toronto FC

In danger of missing the playoffs for a fourth straight year, Chicago recently parted ways with head coach Raphael Wicky and put Frank Klopas in charge on an interim basis. Klopas has served with the club for a total of 22 years as a player, coach, technical director, team ambassador and broadcaster.

Chicago, currently 13 points back of the playoff line, aren’t mathematically eliminated from postseason contention but they would be with a loss or draw on Saturday, so they’d require a swift turnaround in their final five games. The Fire are 1-5-1 in their last seven games with just five goals scored in that span, and they’ve struggled on the road all season with a record of 1-11-1.

KEY PLAYERS

Revolution center back Henry Kessler
Second-year defender Henry Kessler has been a stalwart on the Revs’ backline since early July, playing every minute of the last 15 games for which he’s been available. Perhaps his standout performance during that stretch was three weeks ago at Soldier Field, where he scored the Revolution’s opening goal and later cleared a Fire effort off the line in New England’s playoff-clinching, 3-2 victory.

Kessler will be a key figure as the Revs have often stated their desire to keep more clean sheets as they prepare for the playoffs, and on Saturday they’ll be looking to limit a Fire team that has scored just seven goals in their 13 road games this season, and multiple goals on the road just once.

Fire goalkeeper Gabriel Slonina
The youngest goalkeeper to start a game in MLS history – just 81 days past his 17th birthday when he debuted in early August – Gabriel Slonina has made an impressive start to his professional career. The teenager has kept three clean sheets in six appearances, including back-to-back shutouts in late September.

Slonina did, however, concede three goals in the Revs’ 3-2 win at Soldier Field on September 22, and he could be at the center of the action again on Saturday night against a Revolution attack that has scored nine goals in the past three games.

STATUS REPORT

Revolution
Matt Turner, Tajon Buchanan, and Adam Buksa have returned to Foxborough, but their availability for Saturday night remains to be seen after all three featured heavily with their national teams during the World Cup Qualifying window. Turner was rested on Wednesday night after starting the USMNT’s first two games, while Buksa played 71 minutes for Poland on Tuesday and Buchanan went the full 90 minutes for Canada on Wednesday.

“I’m hopeful that they’ll be part of our game day roster,” Arena said of the trio.

Otherwise the Revs are largely healthy, with no players listed on this week’s availability report. Jon Bell recently returned from a lengthy absence with a pair of first-team appearances, Maciel has been rebuilding his fitness with Revolution II, and Emmanuel Boateng has declared himself “ready to go” after missing the last four games.

Fire
Chicago will be without several key pieces on Saturday night, including defenders Francisco Calvo (16 starts), Boris Sekulić (24 starts), and Carlos Terán (10 starts), as well as forward Fabian Herbers (19 starts). Both Sekulić and Herbers are tied for second on the team with four assists apiece.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

New England Revolution sporting director and head coach Bruce Arena
“I think we've mentioned it once. It's not a goal of ours. If it falls into place, that's great, but the goal of ours has been to qualify for the playoffs, to get homefield advantage, and then at that point, it was to try to finish first. And then now, we're well aware of the fact that we're in a race for the Supporters' Shield, and we'll be conscious of that fact, but it's not what drives us every day. The ultimate goal is to get our team prepared for the playoffs, so that's what our focus is right now.”

New England Revolution midfielder Tommy McNamara
“You have to be able to match their energy and their attitude at the start of the game. They kind of almost have nothing to lose, they just need to get points. Giving them an early goal, that definitely kind of just gives them a massive boost and puts us even further behind the 8-ball. So kind of coming out from the start of games, being ready to match that intensity, not being complacent. From there we have quality. So if we get that side of things right, we get the attitude, the attitude correct, being focused, then we have the quality where we can play and do well. But that’s kind of the most important.”