FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – League action returns to Gillette Stadium on Saturday night when the New England Revolution host the highflying Chicago Fire in a critical Eastern Conference showdown.
Kickoff between the Revs (5-5-5, 20 pts.) and Fire (8-3-4, 28 pts.) is set for 7:30 p.m., with Brad Feldman, Paul Mariner and Naoko Funayama handling the English call on CSN New England and 98.5 The Sports Hub. Portuguese radio listeners can catch the action on WMVX 1570 AM.
Fans attending the match are encouraged to stay after the final whistle for the second half of an exciting doubleheader, as Special Olympics Unified Teams representing both the Revs and Fire will take the field at Gillette Stadium. At the conclusion of the first-team game, fans will have the chance to move down to The Fort to cheer on our Special Olympians and help make for the most memorable experience.
Those attending the match will also have the opportunity to donate new or gently used soccer equipment to KidsGive, through the New England Revolution Charitable Foundation’s drive series. Donation bins will be available at various locations outside the Gillette Stadium gates.
Current Form: Revs aim to extend home unbeaten run to 12 games vs. highflying Fire
New England’s depth shone through on Wednesday night when Teal Bunbury, Donnie Smith and Zach Herivaux all scored their first goals of the season in a 3-0 win over the Rochester Rhinos (USL).
The win not only booked the Revolution’s spot in the U.S. Open Cup Round of 16 – they’ll host D.C. United on June 28 at Harvard University – but it also pushed their record to 4-1-1 in the last six games in all competitions as they’ve started to approach peak form just as the summer weather heats up.
“It’s always nice to win a game, and this can only give a boost to the whole team,” said center back Antonio Delamea, who recently returned from international duty with Slovenia. “We need to keep this mentality – a winning mentality.”
New England now return to league action for the first time in two weeks, their last result a comprehensive 3-0 win over league-leading Toronto FC that pushed the Revs’ home unbeaten run to 11 games (9-0-2).
“We did really well at home against Toronto,” said Kelyn Rowe. “Going into Saturday, morale is high.”
Chicago could lay claim to being the hottest team in MLS at the moment, having gone 5-0-1 in their last six league games to climb to within a point of TFC at the top of the Supporters’ Shield standings.
Leading the charge is the midfield trio of Bastian Schweinsteiger, Dax McCarty and Juninho, along with David Accam (seven goals, five assists) and the league’s leading scorer, Nemanja Nikolic (12 goals).
“He has a nose for scoring and he’s very tough to defend,” Delamea said of Nikolic, comparing him to legendary Italian forward Filippo Inzaghi. “We need to close him down, we need to be close to him all the time, and we need to communicate where he is at all times.”
Past Meetings: Revs out for “revenge” after comprehensive loss to Chicago in April
Saturday night’s showdown will be the second of the year between the Revs and Fire, and the first meeting back on April 15 at Toyota Park is still fresh on the Revolution’s minds.
Je-Vaughn Watson’s early red card put the Revs in a hole that afternoon and the Fire took full advantage with Nikolic scoring twice in Chicago’s 3-0 win, to date New England’s biggest loss of the 2017 campaign.
“We know what we want,” said Delamea. “We want this revenge for the game we lost there. That’s all that’s in our minds.”
Recent history points to the Revs having the upper hand this weekend as home teams are 8-0-1 in the last nine matches in this series, including five straight wins for the Revolution over the Fire in Foxborough.
Injury Report: Kouassi remains sidelined as he recovers from quad strain
The central midfield battle will be key on Saturday night, but the Revs will have to cope without one of their biggest midfield cogs as Xavier Kouassi continues to recover from a quad strain.
Kouassi’s initial timeline puts him on course to return sometime in late June or early July.
“He’s coming along,” said head coach Jay Heaps. “He’s definitely continuing to push, but at the same time, we don’t want to push him back too soon.”
The good news for the Revs is that the rest of the roster is healthy and much of it is rested after Heaps was able to deploy a balanced lineup for Wednesday night’s win over Rochester.
“We got some guys a much-needed game, but the entire time we knew that it was going to be a big week for us with Chicago at home,” said Heaps.
Final Thoughts: Nguyen says Revs “want to make statements” vs. another top team
“All these games against Eastern opponents are huge,” said Lee Nguyen, who has six goals and seven assists on the campaign. “These are games that can swing six points if we don’t take care of business. We know how important these matches are.
“These are games we want to make statements. We feel like we deserve to be in those top three or four spots, so these are the moments we’re going to have to relish and take our opportunity to make a point.”