New England has been cruising for most of the season, but one team has had the Revs number all year. The Chicago Fire routed the Revolution the first two times these teams met so Saturday offered New England one more chance in the regular season to prove it could beat the Fire.
No such luck. The Revs saw its one-goal lead disappear as the Fire capitalized on a Shalrie Joseph red card to score two late goals on their way to a 2-1 win at Gillette Stadium. The victory pushed the Fire to within a point of New England in the East standings.
SBI correspondents Stephen Wattles and Andrew Keh took in the thrilling match and provided their takes on the Eastern Conference clash:
Comeback win could be key to season
By STEPHEN WATTLES
If you support the Chicago Fire you don’t need any explanation of what games against the New England Revolution mean in any season. They’re the team that continuously ends our seasons. They’re the big dog you’re going to have to get past if you want to get out of the East and play for an MLS Cup.
As the Fire sit at a critical point in the 2008 season where they look like a legitimate contender for an MLS Championship there was all that significance and then some. New England’s spot at the top of the standings and their recent SuperLiga title, combined with Chicago’s two wins and 7-0 aggregate this season, made this match perhaps the key measuring stick before the MLS Cup playoffs roll around.
There isn’t likely to be a time for the remainder of the season when Denis Hamlett completes a line-up card that there aren’t cries of anguish from some corner of Chicagoland. With Chris Rolfe the victim this week I would be inclined to fricassee Hamlett had the result not gone the Fire’s way but I can understand the hesitancy to play the diminutive player in a lone striker’s role. Besides I was far more upset at the tactical blunder committed in the 3rd minute.
It wouldn’t feel like a game at Gillette Stadium were the Fire not to concede an early goal to Taylor Twellman, but don’t you have to try to stop it from occurring? The Fire’s twin towers, Bakary Soumare and Wilman Conde, can neutralize two of any opponent’s best options on free kicks, and I am still struggling to determine how Twellman is not one of those two. Twellman easily climbed over Logan Pause to put the Fire in the 1-0 hole that is usually the end of these encounters.
The game continued to follow the standard script deep into the second half. It was fairly evenly matched, neither team creating too many dangerous chances, and gradually it descended into chippiness. Typically, Cuauhtémoc Blanco was at the heart of much of it, and despite being reasonably marked out of the game by Shalrie Joseph and company his mind games might just have gotten the best of the big Grenadian.
Joseph’s ejection was clearly the turning point of the match and I imagine most Revolution fans are thus feeling cheated. However, there is little argument that it was Joseph who lost his head not the referee on this occasion. The linesman was clearly signaling for the Fire to take possession, and when Joseph grabbed the ball from Blanco’s hands there was little doubt the second yellow was on its way. Hamlett threw on the fresh offensive options in the form of Mike Banner, and Tomasz Frankowski and some sloppy play under the pressure that ensued did the rest.
Matt Reis makes the save on Gonzalo Segares’ speculative effort at least 999 times out of 1000, but fortunately this was the one. And when Conde was able to clean up the mess from some shoddy marking and push the second and deciding goal into the net the script was left shredded on the NFL lined field turf like so much confetti.
No one will be handing the Fire a berth in MLS Cup for completing the season sweep of the Revs, but those nine points sure make a big difference in the outlook of this season. Even a season split of the points, which is more than any other Eastern rival will muster, would have left the Fire nine points further adrift of New England than the one point they currently stand. The Fire should be left with the confidence that this team is beatable where ever they play them, and the possibility that this autumn it could be in Bridgeview and not Foxborough.
Revs dealt another painful loss by Chicago
By ANDREW KARL
Saturday night’s match was a chance at two invaluable commodities: revenge and redemption. The third and final regular season fixture against Chicago presented the league-leading Revolution with the opportunity not only to redeem themselves for the two early season multi-goal defeats but also to exact revenge on a team that infuriates opposing fans more than it impresses it’s own. Beat-downs like the two handed to New England by the Fire a few months ago sting even more when they come at the hands of a team that features the theatrics of a player like Cuauhtemoc Blanco.
The Revs have been in good form while Chicago has dipped, so while I was expecting a redeeming victory on Saturday night, I was really hoping for a convincing rout of the team in red. To avenge the early season losses with several goals and overall awesomeness would have sent me home a happy fan. This was, unfortunately, not to be.
The Revs grabbed an early goal, perfect service from Mauricio Castro finally benefiting Twellman’s head. For the rest of the first half, and much of the second, the Revs appeared to be the better team. Taylor Twellman and Adam Cristman both held the ball up well and brought their midfield support into the play but couldn’t find another goal. The game heated up pretty quickly, with a throng of yellow card being thrown about. At first this was all well and good, as there aren’t many little pleasures in life that I enjoy as much as seeing Blanco hacked down. That is, until Shalrie Joseph was sent off.
I won’t argue the second yellow that sent the Grenadian packing; slapping the ball out of Blanco’s hands while attempting a throw in was petulant and kind of dumb. The blame for the sending off can’t really fall on a bad call or bad officiating, unfortunately this time it was deserved. Without Joseph on the pitch to lead the team and boss around the opponents, the game quickly went downhill. Exit the midfield bulldog, the enforcer, the best player on the pitch. Enter two garbage goals, the kind of goals we were giving up at the very beginning of the year.
Who could have imagined Reis letting a long shot, no matter how much it wobbled and knuckled, go through his fingers? Not this guy. Who could have imagined we’d not only give up the lead, but lose it all in the dying minutes to a fluky tap-in during a nonsensical goal-mouth scramble? This guy back in April.
At around 9:30 on Sunday morning, a friend and I groggily made our way to a local diner after the United States’ Olympic team’s match with the Netherlands. An extremely awkward atmosphere beset the section of the counter at which we were perched. After accosting me for not saying "omelet" loud enough (maybe she thought I wanted broccoli and cheese pancakes) a presumably hormonal waitress in a terribly foul mood got into an argument with a patron next to us. As several groups of diners, including ourselves, sat in silence, afraid to speak for fear of the pregnant waitress’s wrath, the only words I could find were "Well, at least Twellman scored."