Following a momentous win in Columbus last weekend, the Chicago Fire continue their stretch away from Toyota Park with a trip to rivals New England Revolution on Saturday (kick-off at 6:30 p.m.) in hopes of maintaining that winning feeling. Christian Nazarit ended the Fire’s 11 match winless streak with a goal from close range in the 90th minute of the Fire’s 1-0 win over the Crew to give the men in red their first league win since March 26th. New England could now find themselves in a similar situation, having lost their last four matches and slipping to 7th place in the Eastern Conference, level on points with Chicago.
New England: W-L-L-L-L
Five things to watch for:
- Gold Cup regrets? – Having rejected Grenada’s invitation to represent his country in the Gold Cup, Sharie Joseph opted to stay back with the Revolution and help the club move up the standings. The result has not been what he and the Revs would have hoped for, however. Four defeats on the trot has seen New England slide down the standings, with Joseph particularly struggling the past couple of matches. That said, Joseph remains the leading scorer for the Revs with four goals and has proven himself capable of being a match winner in the past, meaning the Fire should still be cautious of what he brings to the table.
- Tightening the ship – After shipping goals from almost everywhere on the pitch in the early stages of the season, the Fire have finally come to grips at the back. Yamith Cuesta and Cory Gibbs have established a burgeoning partnership at the heart of defense, while Gonzalo Segares has continued his fine form at left back. Both Bratislav Ristic and Jalil Anibaba have deputized at right back and have helped contribute to three consecutive clean sheets for the Fire. Sean Johnson also looks to his best, causing us to wonder why he was ever kept out of the side for so long by Carlos de los Cobos. A clean sheet on Saturday will equal the club’s record of four straight clean sheets. Can the Fire maintain their defensive form and keep New England out?
- Runaway top scorer – The Fire couldn’t really ask for a better opportunity to equal its record of consecutive clean sheets. The Revolution have scored just three goals in the last seven matches and looked out of sorts in front of goal during their 0-0 draw with Toronto FC on Wednesday night. In fact, only Joseph has managed to score more than one goal for the Revs this season. Seven players are tied in second with one goal apiece and the club’s total haul of 11 goals scored this season is a league low.
- Attacking options – With Gaston Puerari being transferred to Club Atlas on Wednesday and Marco Pappa still on Gold Cup duty with Guatemala, the Fire’s attacking options will be slightly limited. Patrick Nyarko and Dominic Oduro will most likely start on the wings while Nazarit could partner Diego Chaves up front. If this is the case, we could see Orr Barrouch make yet another substitute appearance if the Fire need more attacking talent on the field as the match progresses. Barrouch has made 12 appearances this season, all of which have been off the bench.
- And then there was one little Uruguayan– Puerari’s departure means a greater burden will be placed on Chaves to deliver the goods (despite Puerari not contributing much in terms of goals). Nazarit will need to contribute as well, but he’s still young and finding his feet in the MLS. Chaves started the season in terrific form but hasn’t scored since his opener in the 1-1 home draw with Houston on April 23rd. The Fire will certainly be hoping for a few more goals out of him. Saturday wouldn’t be too bad of a time to score one.