FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – The big news on Thursday was that the New England Revolution will host the Chicago Fire in a Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup semifinal on Tuesday, Aug. 9 at Gillette Stadium.
But first, the Revs (5-7-8, 23 pts.) will host the Fire (4-9-5, 17 pts.) in the regular season on Saturday night.
Kickoff from Gillette Stadium is set for 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, with coverage in English on both CSN and 98.5 The Sports Hub, and in Portuguese on WMVX 1570 AM.
Stay tuned to CSN afterwards for the postgame show hosted by Dalen Cuff and with analysis from Ethan Zohn, and 98.5 The Sports Hub for the call-in show with Rich Keefe and John Murphy.
For fans attending the game (GET TICKETS), the New England Revolution Charitable Foundation will be collecting new and used books to be donated to More Than Words. Anyone who donates will receive a Revolution calendar featuring Lee Nguyen.
Current Form: Gritty shutout vs. RSL, emotional win over Philly give Revs a boost
New England’s first clean sheet since mid-May was enough to earn a hard-fought point last weekend in a 0-0 draw with Real Salt Lake at Rio Tinto Stadium, where goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth came up with a pair of stellar saves and commanded an organized defensive performance.
The Revs followed that up with an emotional victory in a U.S. Open Cup quarterfinal on Wednesday night, taking down the Philadelphia Union in a penalty shootout after the teams finished level at 1-1 through 120 minutes. Brad Knighton and Je-Vaughn Watson were the heroes for New England on a long night in Boston.
Now the Revolution face the task of recovering from that contest both physically and emotionally ahead of a critical regular-season encounter with the Fire on Saturday night.
“You can’t replicate that type of emotion coming together,” said head coach Jay Heaps. “It’s exciting because you build off that; you build off those moments. But there’s never been a moment where we haven’t thought about Chicago and the game coming up.”
Chicago were also busy advancing to the Open Cup semifinals on Wednesday night, although they did so in 90 minutes with a 3-0 victory over the Fort Lauderdale Strikers (NASL) at Toyota Park. The win pushed the Fire’s home unbeaten run to eight games in all competitions (5-0-3).
It’s been Chicago’s road form that’s plagued them, however, as Veljko Paunovic’s side is 0-7-2 away from home this season and hasn’t won outside the state of Illinois since July 2014.
Past Meetings: Revs have won three straight meetings with Fire in Foxborough
It was just two months ago that the Revolution hosted the Fire at Gillette Stadium, where Lee Nguyen and Femi Hollinger-Janzen scored either side of halftime to the give the Revs a 2-0 win in Kei Kamara’s debut.
The victory was the Revolution’s third straight triumph over the Fire in Foxborough, where the Revs are now 6-1-0 in their last seven regular-season meetings with their longtime rival.
Both players and coaches cautioned against referencing history, though, as Chicago have made a series of key additions since the most recent meeting on May 14.
“They signed a new forward (Michael de Leeuw), they’ve got (David) Accam back in the mix and (Matt) Polster’s back in the mix,” said Heaps. “They’ve got some of the same players, but they’ve added pieces to what they’re doing, and pieces handpicked by the head coach. Those are important pieces, because now they’re playing the way he envisions the team playing.”
Injury Report: Femi joins Agudelo and Davies on lengthy list of injured forwards
Femi won’t be repeating his goal-scoring heroics against the Fire on Saturday night after the rookie suffered a groin injury while warming up for Wednesday night’s Open Cup match. It’s an injury that forced him out of the starting lineup for that game and will keep him sidelined this weekend.
Along with Juan Agudelo (knee) and Charlie Davies (groin), Femi becomes the third Revolution forward to be hit by the injury bug, while both Donnie Smith (hamstring) and Xavier Kouassi (knee) are out, as well.
“In terms of Femi, it’s unfortunate because he’s been really, really good for us,” said Heaps. “He’s had a couple injuries now that have set him back a little bit, so we’ve just got to keep him in the mix, get him recovered and get him back at it.”
Gershon Koffie, meanwhile, remains hopeful that he’ll soon be back from his knee injury after missing his 10th game in all competitions on Wednesday night.
Final Thoughts: Kamara reflects on first two months with Revs before rematch vs. Fire
“I’m clicking with the guys a lot better and I’ve scored a goal since then,” Kamara joked when asked what’s changed since his Revolution debut against the Fire on May 14. “We’re getting wins. I really feel part of the team going forward and hopefully it’s one of those games again, just like the first game, where we can get the maximum points from it.”