The first ticket to the MLS conference finals will be issued on Thursday night, with the Chicago Fire and New England Revolution facing off in a winner-take-all playoff series game two. Their first-leg match ended scoreless, leaving the Revs to have to travel to Toyota Park to beat a Chicago team they failed to defeat in four attempts.
So why should the short-handed Revs believe they can finally beat the heavily-favored Fire? History is on their side in the form of three straight playoff victories against New England. Chicago will take heart in the fact that none of those three losses took place at home.
Here is a closer look at Thursday night’s decisive second leg(8:30pm, ESPN2):
The Fire created few chances and didn’t look very threatening in game one, but the grass surface at Toyota Park should help their passing game and strong counterattack well. Cuauhtemoc Blanco wasn’t particularly effective in game one, but he will need to get more involved for Chicago’s offense to click.
One player who needs to show better in game two is Logan Pause, who saw very little of the ball in game one. Obviously he’s going to lose out to Shalrie Joseph and Jeff Larentowicz in the battle for possession, but he has to have more of an impact. The same goes for John Thorrington.
Should we expect any changes from this game one lineup?:
Barring injury, this same group should go again. Look for Chris Rolfe to get more involved this time around, while Justin Mapp should find room to operate on the left. He had some moments in game one, but floated in and out of the match far too often.
New England Revolution
If you watched game one, you saw a Revs team that wasn’t afraid to run at the Fire and attack. Will the approach be the same in game two, or will New England be more conservative on the road?
The speedy tandem of Mansalley and Dube up top can create problems IF they get some sort of service, but there just weren’t enough good passes coming from midfield in game one. Mauricio Castro showed some flashes and got forward quite a bit, but neither he or Nyassi is known for being a great crosser so you wonder how the Revs will construct attacks.
Here is the lineup we are likely to see:
Chris Tierney did well in game one at left back but you have to think Badilla will regain his starting spot, moving Jay Heaps to left back. Can Shalrie Joseph get more involved in the attack? Can the Revs risk pushing Joseph forward, or will Nicol avoid exposing his team to the Fire’s deadly counterattack?
What do you see happening on Thursday night? Will New England continue its playoff dominance? Will Chicago continue its 2008 dominance?
Tierney will be sidelined with a knee injury he picked up Tuesday. Badilla will get the nod next to Parkhurst while Heaps will slide outside.
The only way the Revs come out vitorious is by playing the ball on the ground. You will not beat Conde and Soumare in the air with Mansally and Dube.
But if Chicago comes out the way they did in Foxboro, they will be sitting on the couch next week.
The longer this game goes on, the better the chance New England has.
The Fire will lose if the play conservativley again. Last week the Fire’s lackluster play kept the door open for the Rev’s. The home team needs to come out blasting!
There is going to be a stream at http://www.mundocramex.blogspot.com
Can’t decide whether I should tune in 120 minutes late for the PK segment of this borefest or play the Blanco diving drinking game.
I’m a Revs fan, so I’m calling it for them- unless Badilla ends up in the starting lineup. I think Badilla is not singularly a bad defender, but when teaming up with parkhurst in a four-man backline, they lack communication and don’t look comfortable. Parkhurst does much better in a four-man backline with Heaps in the center with him. The Revs signed Badilla as a player who, according to the original press release, could play anywhere on the back line, so if Stevie Nichols is so determined to play him, why doesn’t he put Heaps in the middle and Badilla on the outside? I’d rather see a 3-5-2, but without Khano and Tierney, we don’t have many wide wingers… Personally, I’m hoping Tierney plays- not only did he look good last week, he can take good free kicks and PKs…
Got my fingers crossed and my lucky shirt on…
I want chicago to win for a few reasons
1. they have better crowds.
2. They are a better team, their style is more attractive and their players play for every game.
3. New england sucks, not really but they have tanked it for so many games and it just pains me to see them make it after putting on such a horrible display in the cccl.
Thanks Strider, that makes a lot of sense.
Just to be clear, in my previous post wherever you read “# of goals” remember that is TOTAL goals, i.e. from game 1, 2, and, if necessary, the mini-game.
Greg, The second game of each series is a normal 90-min game. The mini-games only take place if there is a tie (# of goals) at the end of the second game. It is still not sudden death, but whoever has the most goals at the end of the 2 full games + 30 min add-on “mini-game”. If the # of goals is still tied it goes to PKs.
Could someone educate me on the 30 minute mini game?This sounds new to me are all of the second round playoff games mini games?
I’m hoping Hamlett will be a little more attacking oriented with McBride and Rolfe up top working the target and speedy forward combination. That should move Johnny Thorrington to the right side and leave Blanco as attacking midfielder with Pause alone as the holding midfielder. With a decimated Revs attack two holding midfielders shouldn’t be necessary. I’d also like to see Marco Pappa get the start on the left since Mapp drifts in and out of matches way too much.
I hope Chicago wins it because I would like to see Columbus v Chicago in the next round but I wouldn’t count NE out. NE is a very resilient scrappy team but I don’t find watching them play as enjoyable as I do most other teams in MLS. There would be some great story lines and match ups with Columbus and Chicago going at it in the next round.
Tierney and Joseph are questionable actually . . . otherwise I think Tierney will get the nod. Badilla has been horrendous. Too much of a risk . . . Shalrie is a must, though, but things do seem pretty serious.
unless the Revs officially forfeit the match, I will be holding my breath until the final whistle blows. Every starter could be injured and they would STILL stand a history’s chance of knocking my team out. not to mention the fact that Busch is now officially jinxed! uggghhh. let’s just get this game over with.
Buzz, Shalrie Joseph is the type of guy that will play through any injury where its still physically possible to be on the field.
“Clever tricks by Nichol, probably.”
I hope so. However, I severely doubt that the Fire are changing their entire game plan based on the chance that Pat Phalen might get into the game.
“Any word on the severity of Shalrie Joseph’s injury? He is listed as questionable for the game.”
Clever tricks by Nichol, probably.
Any word on the severity of Shalrie Joseph’s injury? He is listed as questionable for the game.
Badilla and Parkhurst may be good player seperatly, but together, they have done nothing but bleed goals.
Revs will win 2-1. In the first half Nyassi will get in the box, his shot will be deflected over to Dube who scores a poacher’s goal. Fire tie the game at about the seventy minute mark when McBride gets free for a close range header. At 85 minutes, Albright gets the game winning goal in goal mouth scramble following a Revolution corner kick. Reis makes two fabulous saves in stoppage time to preserve the win.
Not that NE are a terrible team but i cant help but feel that Chicago has this one