Prime Your Fire Pump: Chicago Fire vs. New England Revolution
OTF’s Jon Denham is here to explain why his glass is half full, while Seth Macomber of Total MLS provides a glimpse into the New England camp…
These days, Fire Nation seems to fall firmly on one side of the fence or the other. The Men In Red are either better than they were in 2013, and will continue to improve and turn draws into wins soon enough, or, leaving precious points on the field is a signal that things must change if they’re to stay out of the East’s cellar, let alone fight for a playoff spot.
As is usually the case, the truth is probably somewhere in the middle. If the core of the roster stays healthy and Frank Yallop and CJ Brown continue to learn about and hone their squad week to week (and through the World Cup break) the Fire won’t be at the bottom of the standings come October. That said, they’re not strong enough — as currently built — to sniff the Supporters’ Shield. Yallop and captain Jeff Larentowicz haven’t kicked over any coolers or yelled at reporters out of frustration, yet.
So far, only the Mike Magee missed penalty kick against the Union sticks out as a significant point of frustration. But this is soccer. The idea that a team “deserves” three points or another team “clearly didn’t deserve” any points from this game or that game is silly. There’s more than one way to earn a win, a draw, or fail to earn any points at all.
The Revolution don’t care about our fence or which side we fall on. After a slow start, Jay Heaps’s boys are revitalized and coming for three points. On Saturday, the Fire has a chance to show the home fans (and national television audience) they’re capable of learning from their early season mistakes, capable of keeping a clean sheet, capable of finishing scoring chances in different ways over 90 minutes, and capable of winning.
As we focus our attention to the Revolution, let’s not forget what Yallop has shown us so far in 2014: He’s given Mike Magee more money, included Victor Pineda in more than one match day 18, and thrown Harrison Shipp, Quincy Amarikwa, and Benji Joya into the mix.
So let’s not race to either side of that fence just yet, Fire Nation. And while we’re not yet ready for the “Where They Stand In The East” section here at Prime Your Fire Pump, know that three points against the Revs will guarantee a three-team leap in the standings, which could be five if Houston and DC United both stumble on the road during the coming days.
Lineup & Tactics
The gaffer should leave well enough alone and roll out this 4-4-2 at Toyota Park on Saturday afternoon:
Based on the way the Fire started last week, Yallop probably believes this group is good enough to earn three points at home. Quincy Amarikwa and Mike Magee are locked into their spots and seem to be finding each other’s feet with more frequency.
The midfield looked better going forward against Montreal Impact last week. With any luck, they’ll build on that. The best way to help the Magee/Amarikwa duo is to give Larentowicz and Alex plenty of room to work, meaning the wide players need to start wide, stay wide, push the byline, and spread and pierce a strong New England back four.
Chicago’s back four must keep an eye on Teal Bunbury, but perhaps more on the players immediately behind him; primarily Lee Nguyen, Daigo Kobayashi, and Diego Fagundez. Sean Johnson must wake up thinking clean sheet and do his part to keep it, even if there’s a hiccup in front of him.
My bench: Reynish; Franco, Ianni; Duka, Joya, Pineda; Anangonó
Prediction to argue about in the comments…
Chicago Fire (3), New England Revolution (1)
The flood gates open as the Fire tally before the break, with a 1-0 halftime lead coming from Mike Magee. Then, Bakary Soumare and Jeff Larentowicz sandwich goals around a Diego Fagundez strike in the second half.
My 2014 record = 1-5
BONUS PREDICTION (!): WNY Flash (2), Chicago Red Stars (2)
Defending the Fort with Seth Macomber
New England Revolution will likely enter Toyota Park without captain Jose Gonçalves, who is suffering from a quad strain. Sophomore Andrew Farrell is expected to partner with AJ Soares in the middle, while Kevin Alston and Darrius Barnes will patrol the peripheries. This setup, which Farrell called “jimmy-rigged,” was used after Gonçalves departed in the 41st minute last week and prevented Houston Dynamo from getting a shot on goal. Question is though, can the Revs replicate this form on the road in Chicago?
New England could also be without Kelyn Rowe on Saturday, who is listed as questionable and has missed the last three games because of a hamstring injury. Rowe is a dynamic midfielder with great vision and a dangerous shot who is critical to the Revolution attack. If he isn’t able to go, expect Daigo Kobayashi, who helped create Alston’s goal last week, to start in his place.
If the Revs are going to earn back-to-back wins, they must be efficient with the ball. The team has one of the worst shooting accuracies in MLS and can sometimes be too methodical in their approach. New England performs best when it moves the ball quickly and confidently. The first goal will be crucial, as the Revs are 2-0-0 when scoring first this season.
With four goals in six games, Jay Heaps and company have the slowest goal scoring pace in the league. The good news? Chicago has allowed ten goals in six games, which ties them for second-worst in this category, league wide. Saturday’s match is a great opportunity for both clubs, as the Fire look for their first win of the season and the Revs hope attackers Teal Bunbury, Diego Fagundez, or Saer Sene can break their respective scoring droughts.
OTF’s Jon Denham grew up about seven miles north of The Harlem End. He now lives in Dubuque, Iowa, and may be its only resident with the MLS Direct Kick package. Jon’s the goalkeepers’ coach at Loras College, your go-to guy for t-shirts and promotional products at Envision Sports Designs, and writes some other stuff at Inclusive Beechwood Aging. Follow Jon @Denham_Jon
Chicago Fire vs. New England Revolution
Saturday, April 19, 3:00 pm cst at Toyota Park
Television: NBC Sports Network
La radio en Español: La Ley 107.9 FM en Chicago