It's been a 14-day hiatus and while international soccer is nice and all, its good to be back to finish out the league campaign. Here are Five Things You Should Know ahead of tonights match at New England (pre-game LIVE 6pm CT on NBC 5.2).
The Turf – Perhaps too much is always made about grass vs. turf but with the vast majority of MLS teams utilizing natural surfaces these days, the debate remains inevitable. I wrote earlier this week that turf teams have an advantage over grass teams (and vice versa) on their respective surfaces but few teams have fared as poorly as the Fire on turf of late.
WATCH: Players Preview New England
It bears repeating that the Fire are winless in the team’s last eight regular season matches played on turf and have gone just 2-8-2 across all competitions on the surface the past three seasons…
The two wins? A 1-0 victory over the Rochester Rhinos in early round U.S. Open Cup play in June 2011 as well as a 1-0 defeat of this same New England Revolution side on June 27, 2010.
Revs Injuries/Suspensions – The turf thing is a bit disheartening but only if you forget that the Fire currently sit 27 points ahead of New England in the Eastern Conference table. Sure there was that 2-0 loss at Gillette earlier this past June but no less than six of the Revs starters from that match including Lee Nguyen, Benny Feilhaber and Saer Sene find themselves on either the injury report or suspended for this game.
That was also a Fire team that had just seen the re-debut of Chris Rolfe and hadn’t yet added the likes of Sherjill MacDonald or Alvaro Fernandez.
Even if turf is an issue, the Fire are only without Pavel Pardo and Guillermo Franco and with those above reinforcements have enough quality to earn a victory over New England even playing on the moon.
Scenarios – Interestingly enough, over the span of about two and a half hours, a lot about the tight Eastern Conference race could be figured out or a lot could still be left to play for in the season’s final week. Sporting KC kickoff at New York at 6pm CT while the Fire/Revolution, DC United/Crew and Dynamo/Union all start a half hour later.
The best scenarios for the Fire at the end of Saturday night…
- A win and a Sporting KC loss puts the team in first
- A win combined with a New York loss/draw AND DC loss/draw guarantees at least second in the East
700 Goals – The Fire have scored three goals in a match five times this season but haven’t hit the back of the net four times in a game dating back almost two years (last time 4-1 win at Chivas on 10/23/2010).
Why is this all important? The team currently sits at 696 all-time regular season goals with two chances left to hit 700. A four-goal prediction in a lot of games would be ambitious but could the Fire wrap up that milestone tonight? If two could also come from Chris Rolfe, he could also wrap up the first 10-goal season in six MLS campaigns...
Watch Party – Want to watch tonight’s game in the company of many a Fire fan? Head to Section 8 Chicago’s official watch party at The Atlantic Bar 5062 N. Lincoln beginning at 6pm CT.