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Revolution look to continue to rally against Chicago Fire

New England Revolution forward Teal Bunbury (10) celebrates his goal during the second half against the Chicago Fire at Bridgeview Stadium. The match ended in a draw
Jun 9, 2018; Chicago, IL, USA; New England Revolution forward Teal Bunbury (10) celebrates his goal during the second half against the Chicago Fire at Bridgeview Stadium. The match ended in a draw. Mandatory Credit: Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

The New England Revolution look to keep their playoff hopes alive Saturday night against the Chicago Fire, which visits Gillette Stadium for the first and only time this season.

Chicago and New England have both recently snapped losing runs and will look to build momentum, but it’s more imperative for the Revolution to capture three points given the current breakdown of the Eastern Conference standings.

The Revolution have just six games left in the regular season and sit five points out of a playoff spot, while the Fire are second to last and are on the brink of being eliminated from post-season contention.

Essentially, the Revs are playing for their season while the Fire can really only play spoiler.

Players to watch

It’s been hard to pinpoint the Revolution’s most influential player in recent months, even if the team snapped a nine-game winless run by taking four points from two consecutive road games over the last three weeks.

Revolution coach Brad Friedel has dipped into his arsenal of players and changed up tactics significantly, which seems to signify that this final stretch of the season is going to be an all hands on deck effort.

That said, no team in the league – especially the Fire who are weak in defense – can afford to give Cristian Penilla too much time on the ball. The speedy winger, who has nine goals and six assists so far this season, is likely to go at the opposition and drive toward goal, either to create chances for himself or his teammates.

Meanwhile, the Fire have had a litany of marquee players hurt the Revolution over the years – Chris Armas, Cuauhtemoc Blanco, Brian McBride, to name a few – and now Bastian Schweinsteiger is enjoying the role.

Schweinsteiger and his Chicago teammates stifled the Revolution in all three of the two teams’ meetings last season. In those games, the German icon was used as a hybrid central defender, helping out in transitions and only selectively joining in the attack.

Though Chicago has been unable to string together positive results this season, Schweinsteiger is still the same, dangerous player. He scored against New England earlier this season and has been the glue that’s kept his team together.

Head to Head

Though tempers have eased considerably since the mid-2000s, New England and Chicago share one of the best and most-heated rivalries in MLS.

The two teams have met numerous times in the playoffs and typically clash multiple times per year in the regular season.

Saturday will mark the two clubs’ 60th all-time regular season meeting. Chicago leads the all-time series 21-26-12.

Chicago and New England tied 1-1 in their most recent meeting, which came on June 9 at Toyota Park. Bastian Schweinsteiger gave the Fire the lead but Teal Bunbury equalized late for the Revolution.

The stakes

There’s more than rivalry bragging rights at stake for the Revs on Saturday night.

New England’s post-season hopes hinge on the team dropping as few points as possible as the regular season nears its end, so let’s get something straight: If the Revolution don’t win their last three home games – against Chicago on Saturday and then against Orlando (Oct. 13), and Montreal  (Oct. 28) – there’s no way they’re making playoffs.

Quite frankly, if the Revs can’t beat the struggling Fire, who visit Gillette Stadium with just one win their last 10 games, they definitely have no business being a post-season team.

Of course, mathematically New England can afford to tie or even lose to Chicago this weekend. But the odds are already in the Revs favor, as FiveThirtyEight has club’s chances of reaching the post-season pegged at 10 percent.

The Fire haven’t been eliminated from playoff contention, either, but they’re realistically looking to play spoiler against New England.

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