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Stakes high as Revolution take aim at Chicago Fire

New England Revolution midfielder Kelyn Rowe battles for possession
Aug 5, 2017; Chicago, IL, USA; New England Revolution midfielder Kelyn Rowe (11) goes for a header against Chicago Fire midfielder Drew Conner (18) during the second half at Toyota Park. Mandatory Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

The New England Revolution won’t clinch a playoff berth by beating the Chicago Fire at Toyota Park this Saturday, but earning three points could do a lot to boost their chances of reaching the postseason.

This weekend’s contest is probably the Revolution’s most important game to date this season.

New England is ahead of the Fire by five points in the Eastern Conference standings. The two rivals will play each other just one other time this season, at Gillette Stadium Sept. 22, when the playoff picture will be clearer than it is now.

Plus, the Revs, who are tied for fourth place in the East, have signaled for weeks that they’re a playoff-caliber team. New England is looking to maintain that reputation through the nearly three-week World Cup break all Major League Soccer teams are taking from June 14-30.

“It’s going to be huge,” Revolution forward Teal Bunbury said of maintaining momentum ahead of the stoppage. “We have to be alert, be ready, because Chicago and San Jose [on June 13] are both really good teams and we are playing on the road. But before a big break, if you can get some results, especially on the road in this league, we’re going to be sitting really nice coming back from that World Cup break.”

New England hasn’t won in Chicago since March 9, 2013, though the Fire appear to be vulnerable heading into this weekend.

Chicago has a league-high four home losses, the East’s second-worst defensive record, and has at least six players out injured, with key central midfielder Dax McCarty (hamstring) also listed as questionable.

The Revolution have an ax to grind in Chicago as well. Fierce rivalry aside, the Revs are coming off a disappointing and shocking 3-2 loss to Louisville City, a United Soccer League side, in the U.S. Open Cup; New England was second-best throughout that contest and seem eager to turn the page in the Windy City.

Plus, given the current standings and the stakes, the Revolution sound like they’ve sniffed blood.

“I think there’s going to be a great response,” said Bunbury, New England’s leading scorer with eight goals. “I think sometimes in games, and even in training session, there’s times when the effort isn’t there. That should never be the case and I think everyone knows that.

“It’s a new day, we have a new challenge. We have another game coming up…we have league games now that are very important.”

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