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Know Thy Enemy: Revolution vs. Containing the Firespin
New England is in a bit of a tailspin and containing the damage, or the Chicago Fire, could help stabilize the Revs after a rough month.
The New England Revolution hope to get a home reprieve as they welcome the Chicago Fire to Gillette Stadium (730pm Eastern, AppleTV+).
The Revs have been dealing with multiple injuries all season, but now will certainly add Brandon Bye to the list as he is listed as “Out” on the latest report. Gustavo Bou is also not cleared and the status on Carles Gil and Matt Polster who left the 3-0 loss in Philly with injuries.
While the Revs depth has been tested frequently this year, and players like Noel Buck and Ema Boateng have stepped up to fill voids, losing Carles Gil for any significant length of time would be a major blow to a team that was emerging as a potential Shield contender.
New England certainly can keep pace this week at least against a Chicago team that has their own issues with Frank Klopas in as interim head coach and a defense that has already leaked 21 goals. Even a makeshift lineup at home should be able to claim three points, but the Revs will have to muster as much attacking prowess as they can to grab and then hold a lead.
I think this would be a wonderful time to break out a two-striker formation with Bobby Wood and Giacomo Vrioni up top. The real question is going to be in midfield because replacing Matt Polster is going to be a headache. Dropping Latif Blessing or Noel Buck back to a #6 role is fine, but then you have to balance out the rest of the group.
A flat three central mid pairing could work well though it’s going to expose one of the fullbacks, and it’s entirely possible we see DeJuan Jones on the right hand side. It’s still the more aggressive option to start with some combination of Buck, Boateng, maybe Jack P or Esmir as well and then pivoting to a more defensive 4-2-3-1 late by taking off one of the strikers.
There’s no rest for the Revs after this week though, with trips to Atlanta and Yankee Stadium on deck, three points would go a long way to stabilizing and bolstering a strong start to the campaign that for the first time was truly derailed by all the injuries New England has picked up.
As always, we chat with our a good friend who is always down for a hot time in Old Town, Ruben Tisch now of Lantern Soccer. Please check out Ruben’s newsletter and my answers to his questions over on his page.
The Fire are unbeaten at home but at what must be a maddeningly frustrating 2W-6D-0L clip, what has been the good and bad for Chicago at home so far this year?
The good has been their ability to score goals. For the last several years, since Nemanja Nikolic left, there has not been a consistent source of goals for this team. Despite the fact that for the most part, the midfield and chance creation has largely not been the problem over those last 5 years, the stream of strikers has been dryy aside for 3 months of Jhon Duran last season. In that respect, Kei Kamara has been a godsend for this team, and not just with his finishing ability. He’s given the confidence that the players around him need to shoot the ball, and the overall volume of shots the team take has increased.
The bad has been the inability for this team to close out games. The Fire have left at least 8 to 10 points on the table They lose concentration at times during set pieces and can get lose as the game goes on. The biggest problem is their inability to get control of the game back when they lose it, letting teams get 10-15 minutes plus of possession in the second half of games. This is changing a bit with the manager change, but I have not been convincewd that it’s entirely gone away.
Ezra Hendrickson got sacked a few weeks ago which seemed a little unfair in our opinion, what if any drastic changes has the legend Frank Klopas made in the recent games?
Ezra Hendrickson had the hardest job in football; Take a club that has become the laughingstock of the league and bring them back to respectability. In that respect, he did a remarkable job. But there were mistakes he was making that all first-time managers go through- bad substitutions, failure to make 2nd half adjustments etc. that cost the Fire points at the margins. Most of the fault comes from the poor roster construction and people above his pay grade not doing their jobs correctly, but as Andrew Weibe said, he was dealt a bad hand but played it poorly.
The biggest thing Frank has done is give Xherdan Shaqiri the freedom to drop deep into the midfield to get on the ball, whereas his defensive assignments would keep him higher up the pitch in a 4-4-2. He’s finding the ball more and is more engaged with his teammates and the game itself. And because of that, he’s been more productive getting either an assist or a hockey assist every game he’s played under Klopas.
TBM: 21 goals allowed so far this year, is improving the defense the best long-term solution for the Fire and how long does this rebuild intend to last?
Like I said earlier, the defense during the run of play hasn’t been particularly bad. It’s small moments that undo good hard work from the defensive unit, and it’s often not the defense at fault-- it’s usually the midfield failing on a rotation or losing their man on a set piece. The back four themselves have performed really well this season--- especially the center-backs. Rafael Czichos and whoever is next to him, usually Carlos Teran, have been excellent center-backs, probably the best the club has seen since Austin Berry and Arne Freidrich in the early 2010s.
As for the question on the rebuild, There’s going to be a whole new technical staff coming in for next season, but they’re inheriting a team on the upswing. I’ve been saying for 3 years now that 2024 was going to be the prove-it year for this core group. It’s going to be the return to the traditional red kit (you can have your look back), and some of the Academy players on the verge of the first team like Javier Casas and Victor Beizerra should be ready to take responsibility.
I expect some light squad rotation coming from the Open cup at the weekend. Xherdan Shaqiri should absolutely not play on that turf, and neither should Jairo Torres. Fede Navarro and Fabian Herbers are also suspended for the match so it should look something like this:
As for a prediction, 2-2 draw.