Eastern Conference Semifinals - First Leg
New England Revolution vs Chicago Fire
Sun., Nov. 1, Gillette Stadium (2 p.m. ET; FSC/FSE)
DF Chris Albright (L lateral meniscus tear); MF Steve Ralston (R ACL tear); FW Taylor Twellman (concussion)
That is pretty much the meats and bones of the team gone there. But the Revs have managed to play rope a dope soaking up the pressure with their defense. Their back four Emmanuel Osei, Kevin Alston, Jay Heaps and Darrius Barnes along with Matt Reis have been stingy. Their ultra defensive tactics have drawn criticism from some quarters including Kevin Payne, DC United's CEO, arguably sour grapes but declining attendances give some credence to his grouse.
The meeting between these two is an almost automatic, their fifth in a row in the playoffs. The Fire beat the Revs last year halting a three year losing streak.
Today's match will pit Cuauhtemoc Blanco, one of the MLS most creative midfielders against Shalrie Joseph, the Revs spark on attack. Blanco has been in the news for his purported move to second division Veracruz in the Mexican league after the playoffs to prepare for the WC and his return to the Fire is in question. This could be his last few matches for the Fire and he takes the pitch after some concerns over his fitness.
Forwards Edgaras Jankauskas and fKheli Dube will be the men to watch for but only an amnesiac will give them an edge over the Fire in an area dominated by Brian McBride and Chris Rolfe. McBride has continued to do what he did after leaving Fulham and provide big time goals for the Fire. and like Blanco could be making his last few appearances. He is out of contract after this season.
The Revs have an edge in Shalrie Joseph, arguably the best attacking midfielder in the MLS today whose midfield control will be critical. He has to do two things, keep the ball enough to create chances against a rejiggered Fire defense and minimize giveaways that give the Fire an advantage.
Attrition will be key between these two defensive minded teams. The Revs have given up 37 goals, the Fire four less. The Revs will clog up midfield and get markers behind the ball to disrupt the Fire flow and hope that Joseph can create enough for a matchwinner. He makes few goal attempts but he is deadly accurate. 8 goals in 12 SOG is very impressive. In fact, this could turn out to be a key stat.