BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. – Saturday’s SuperLiga matchup between the Chicago Fire and New England Revolution features two teams headed in different directions.
The Fire, blown out 5-1 in their SuperLiga opener against Monarcas Morelia Wednesday night, are in the midst of a three game losing streak. Not helping matters is the fact that injuries have laid waste to the roster, and could leave as many as seven players unavailable for Saturday’s match.
On the other side of the spectrum are New England. They suffered a seemingly debilitating 5-0 loss to Real Salt Lake on July 2 but have bounced back with an impressive defeat of league-leading Galaxy 2-0 on July 10 and a 1-0 win over Pumas UNAM in SuperLiga play.
On paper, it looks like New England should be able to take Saturday’s match. But the games aren’t played on paper and, despite their poor run of form, the Fire have a definite shot to get back into contention in Group B.
Here are four areas Chicago should key in on against the Revs.
1) Attack Kevin Alston
Kevin Alston is one of the best right backs in MLS. He has Revs defender is great on defense, is very fast, and is good on the ball. So why would the Fire want to run their offense at him? To keep him pinned back, of course.
Alston loves to get forward and makes frequent runs up the right wing to support the midfield and serve dangerous balls into the box. If Fire wingers Marco Pappa and Mike Banner (filling in for regular starter Patrick Nyarko, who’s out with a concussion) can keep Alston rooted in his own half, they’ll successfully eliminate one of the Revolution’s offensive threats.
2) Don’t let Shalrie Joseph take control
The Revs run nearly everything through Joseph. He’s the cog in the center of the field and his tremendous linking play, crushing tackles and bruising runs can make New England a dangerous team.
But the Revs’ heavy reliance on Joseph has a downside. If he struggles, New England tend to struggle too. Fire defensive midfielders Wilman Conde and Peter Lowry (regular starter Logan Pause might be out with a quad injury) know this and will do their best to limit Joseph Saturday night.
“If you give him time and space he’s a great player, but if you can make it hard on him it takes a lot away,” Lowry said. “[We want to] get him to play backwards. Just make things as tough as possible on him.”
Lowry added that he expects the Fire to keep a close eye on Joseph throughout the match.
3) Keep an eye on Zack Schilawski
Four of Morelia’s five goals on Wednesday night were products of poor Fire marking in the area. That’s good news for Schilawski, who has made a habit of scoring from close range in his rookie season.
The Fire will need to communicate better in the back on Saturday or they run the risk of allowing the 23-year-old forward to add to his SuperLiga goal tally.
“We can always improve on every aspect of the game,” Fire right back Steven Kinney said. “Communication, working together, our technique, all that kind of stuff can be better.”
4) Finish your chances
No secret here. The Fire have struggled mightily in front of net for much of the year and will need to take full advantage of their opportunities Saturday night if they plan on getting out of Group B.