Revs-Fire preview: Looking to stay on track on road


The Revolution finally broke out of their funk last week, snapping a five-game losing streak with 1-0 win over New York City FC.

With the win, the Revs stopped their tumble down the standings. Over the past month they’ve dropped from second to sixth in the Eastern Conference.

The win, puts them on 27 points and in a tie with Toronto FC for fourth place in the East (although TFC has four games in hand). The positioning in the conference will be something to watch week in and week out, so the win was big for that reason, but more important, how they won.

They took the 1-0 lead in the 12th minute, courtesy of Lee Nguyen, who was set up beautifully by clever passing from Daigo Kobayashi and Diego Fagundez. After that, they were able to continue to create chances but more importantly control the game, limit NYCF’s chances and hold the clean sheet.

The Revs defense has been awful of late (13 goals allowed in the five-game losing streak) and they played with a depleted group against NYCFC. Brad Knighton stepped in for Bobby Shuttleworth (concussion), making three good saves and solid decisions. Also, Jose Gonçalves was serving a red-card suspension so London Woodberry was playing out of position at center back with Jeremy Hall stepping in at right back.

The makeshift group did a solid job and secured the Revs' first shutout since June 13 - 2-0 over the Chicago Fire. The Revs will see the Fire again Saturday night (8:30, CSNNE), but now New England will be playing on the road. Last week’s win helped stop the bleeding, but now the Revs have an opportunity to start stringing together results.

Chicago comes in last in the Eastern Conference with 18 points on 19 matches. The Fire lost two straight league matches, both to Columbus Crew in a weird scheduling quirk. They did win an US Open Cup midweek match over Orlando City to move to the semifinals. Still, despite this success, this team is still trying to find itself. They’ve got some talented young players in David Accam and Harry Shipp but have dealt with a ton of injuries all season, specifically to their veterans like Mike Magee, Shaun Maloney and Sean Johnson.

The Fire have struggled to generate offense, scoring only 20 goals (second-fewest in MLS). Conversely, their defense has struggled. The aforementioned injuries to Sean Johnson were a big part of their struggles. He’s one of the best keepers in the league, but has only played in 12 games. Now, the Fire are just starting to get healthy, so they’ll be hoping to ride the midweek momentum to a result at home.

But the Revs will also be bringing in some key players. No, unfortunately Jermaine Jones is not one of those guys. He has trained with the club and will travel with the team this weekend but he’s not expected to play. However, Gonçalves will be back in the lineup and helping to anchor the middle of defense. Shuttleworth could also make a return to the lineup, but Knighton is one of the best backups in the league if Shuttleworth can’t go.

The midfield has been on constant rotation throughout the year, but given last week’s result and particular the performances Kobayashi and Fagundez turned in, I think they both deserve the start. Jay Heaps has a tendency on the road to go more defensive with Scott Caldwell and Andy Dorman, two true Central Defensive Midfielders to play together.

But Kobayashi’s technical ability and creativity are arguably the best on the squad. I’d like to see him out there from the start at Toyota Park to help dictate the tempo and unlock the Fire’s defense.

Chicago likes to play on the counter, which bodes well for the Revs who like to be the aggressor and control possession.

Although a road game, I’d like to see Heaps employ those same proactive tactics he does at most home matches. Go after this Fire, who have been inconsistent to say the least. This isn’t just a big Eastern Conference clash, which they all will be for the rest of the season, it’s an opportunity to return to their previous form as one of the league’s best. With Jones' return next week, two strong results and the two home games to start August, the Revs could start to look a lot like last year, when they began their run in the MLS playoffs.

This isn’t just a July road game against an Eastern Conference foe; it’s a chance to catapult their season back into the right direction.

Contact Us