Originally posted on Total MLS  |  Last updated 8/17/13
The New England Revolution last played the Chicago Fire in their season opener on March 9th. As is the case with most early season affairs, both team struggled to hold the ball and create opportunities. The Revs collected three points that night after Jerry Bengtson finished off a feed from Kelyn Rowe. Each team has made adjustments since then and Saturday’s matchup will be a showcase of who has grown more. “They are a completely different team,” head coach Jay Heaps explained. “Chicago has added some really quality players. Not only that, I think they’re playing better futbol.” The Fire, who went winless in their first four games, is currently on a four game undefeated streak with the playoffs in sight. A big part of the team’s revival has been the arrival of Mike Magee. The Chicago native has collected eight goals and two assists since joining club while guiding them to a 7-2-2 record. “What’s so difficult about Mike is that there’s not really one thing that he does poorly,” Heaps remarked. “He’s excellent at holding the ball, he finds the gaps. He’s not overly strong, so it’s not like you need to body him up. I think where he does well is that he’s elusive.” The Fire supplemented the Magee acquisition by adding Juan Luis Anangono and Arevalo Rios. Anangono has only played one game but has the speed and strength to become an impact player. Rios, who played in the 2010 World Cup with Uruguay, is expected to bring bite to the midfield and could see his first MLS minutes on Saturday. “Arevalo is going to bring a lot of experience from the World Cup, from Confederation Cup, from Olympics,” commented Fire assistant coach Leo Percovich. “He’s a very talented player but he’s very humble, very hard worker and for sure he’s coming to help the team.” The Revs have also made changes since they last played the Fire. After experiencing scoring woes, the Revs acquired Juan Agudelo from Chivas USA. The move transformed the team, who accumulated a record of 3-1-1 while outscoring their opponents 12-4. Unfortunately for the Revs, the 20 year-old sustained a knee injury that has kept him out of league play since June 15th. To help ease the pressure on Agudelo, the Revs added Charlie Davies on loan from Randers FC of the Danish SuperLiga. Both players have been training full this week and could contribute on Saturday. “They have a really good attack,” former Revolution player Jeff Larentowicz said. “They have plenty of players that can score goals. Charlie Davies is someone that can score goals and he’s played at the highest level. So, if he’s in there then he’s definitely someone to watch.” Although the Fire and the Revolution have already played in 2013, Saturday’s matchup feels unique. Both teams have made personnel and tactical changes, which begs the question: who did it best? Three Things to Look for Against the Chicago Fire 1. No team needs a solid first-half more than the Revs. Slow starts have doomed the Revs in their last two games as both Toronto FC and Sporting KC scored the eventually game-winners in the first half. This is not a recent trend as the Revolution has struggled throughout the season to come out of the gates strong. Given the Fire’s recent form, the Revs need to dictate the game from the opening minute and prevent their opponents from gaining momentum. With this in mind, the Revs may want to start Agudelo, even if he can only play 45-60 minutes. 2. Heaps needs to be smart with substitutions. The Revolution is one of the healthiest teams in MLS with Clyde Simms and Gabe Latigue being the only players that are out due to injury. Furthermore, impact of Dimitry Imbongo’s and Andy Dorman’s suspensions will be lessened by the return of Agudelo and the arrival of Davies. All of this should give Heaps plenty of ways to influence the game from the sideline. With the playoff race so tight, Heaps would be smart to consider defensive substitutions if his team gains a lead. If the Revs are chasing the game, the gaffer needs to make changes early. 3. The game could be decided by flank play. Last week, Sonny Saad punished the Revs from the flank by assisting on both of Kei Kamara’s goals. With players like Joel Lindpere and Dilly Duka roaming the wide areas, the Fire could be looking to replicate Saad’s success. The Revs will also put a heavy emphasis on flank play, particularly with Diego Fagundez returning to the starting lineup. Fagundez has done a great job of challenging defenses and creating opportunities. It’s important that the teen sensation is paired with an equally creative midfielder that is willing freely swap sides. (image courtesy of Kari Heistad)
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