New England Revolution vs. Chicago Fire FC
Saturday, March 7 | 1:30 p.m. ET
Gillette Stadium | Foxborough, Mass.
Watch: NBC Sports Boston, NBC Sports mobile app
Listen: 98.5 The Sports Hub (English), 1260 AM Nossa Radio Boston (Portuguese)
Pregame Live: Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, revolutionsoccer.net (12:45 p.m.)
Postgame: NBC Sports Boston, 98.5 The Sports Hub
Referee: Fotis Bazakos
New England Revolution
T-7th in Eastern Conference (0-1-0, 0 pts.)
Last Result | 2-1 loss at Montreal Impact
Bruce Arena’s first full season in charge of the Revs began with a frustrating result north of the border, where Teal Bunbury opened the scoring in the 13th minute only for the Montreal Impact to respond and hand the Revs a 2-1 loss to open the campaign. Arena said he couldn’t be too critical of the Revolution’s performance because of the surface at Olympic Stadium, and he believes Saturday’s match vs. Chicago will serve as a better barometer.
Chicago Fire FC
T-7th in Eastern Conference (0-1-0, 0 pts.)
Last Result | 2-1 loss at Seattle Sounders FC
Just like the Revs, Chicago Fire FC went on the road and took a lead through new DP signing Robert Berić, but ultimately suffered a 2-1 loss as Seattle Sounders FC turned up the pressure in the final 30 minutes. There were unquestionably signs of promise from the Fire, playing their first game under new head coach Raphaël Wicky.
It remains to be seen what New England’s central midfield pairing will look like on Saturday, but there could be a role to play for Wilfried Zahibo, who earned praise from Arena after coming off the bench at halftime in Montreal. The 26-year-old midfielder completed 25-of-28 passes in his 45 minutes, and provided “a little bit more bite,” winning three tackles and helping dictate the attacking tempo.
Zahibo can also be a threat going forward, as he saw a goal disallowed via Video Review in Montreal and scored the opening goal in the Revs’ 2-1 win over the Fire when these sides last met August 24 at Gillette Stadium.
One of several high-profile additions to a new-look Fire squad, Berić displayed his goal-scoring chops last weekend in Seattle, blasting home his first MLS goal with a first-time finish inside the box. The 28-year-old striker has scored goals everywhere he’s played, and New England’s center backs will need to be cognizant of his movement on Saturday afternoon at Gillette Stadium.
Carles Gil appears to be on the verge of a return from the foot injury that sidelined him for last weekend’s opener in Montreal. Last year’s MLS Newcomer of the Year recently returned to full training, and he’s officially listed as questionable on the Revolution’s injury report.
Also listed as questionable are goalkeeper Matt Turner – dealing with knee irritation after an incident last weekend at Olympic Stadium – and center back Antonio Delamea (hamstring), who missed the opener.
Left back Alexander Büttner will have to wait to make his MLS debut as he’s listed as out with a quad strain, while central midfielder Luis Caicedo is also out with knee irritation.
CJ Sapong could be in the mix for the Fire on Saturday after missing last weekend’s opener with a chest injury. The 10-year MLS veteran was Chicago’s leading scorer last year with 13 goals and two assists, and has totaled 33 goals and 10 assists in the last three seasons combined.
Chicago also have several new signings still awaiting visas, including DP midfielders Gaston Gimenez and Ignacio Aliseda, as well as TAM signings Luka Stojanovic and Boris Sekulic.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
New England Revolution head coach Bruce Arena
“The season opener’s a tough one. (It was) really difficult conditions playing in Montreal, so it’s a real tough game to be real critical on your team. I think this game will be a better indicator. But certainly we have to have better concentration on restarts – we conceded a goal off a corner kick. We had a couple chances to get the second goal and failed to do that. We’ve just got to be better over 90 minutes, more consistent with our play.”
New England Revolution center back Henry Kessler
“Something I noticed in preseason was (if) you give a guy half-a-yard in the box, they score. That doesn’t always happen in college. I think especially the attacking players are much better (at the professional level), so that’s something I need to improve on and be aware of.”