When the Fire played the New England Revolution on Oct. 17, many saw the match as a possible playoff preview.
Now that the MLS regular season has come to a close those predictions of a Fire-Revolution postseason battle have come true. The sides will begin their two-leg Eastern Conference semifinal series at 3 p.m. Saturday at Gillette Stadium; the second game will be at 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 7 at Toyota Park. Both games will be broadcast on Fox Soccer Channel.
The Fire, which became the sixth MLS team to clinch a spot in the postseason after their win Thursday against Chivas USA, finished 2009 in second place in the Eastern Conference. The Revolution secured their playoff spot Sunday, clinching the Eastern Conference's third seed with a 1-0 win over the first-place Columbus Crew.
The Fire and Revolution played each other three times this year -- twice in league action and once in the SuperLiga tournament. The Fire got the better of New England in the season series, posting a 1-0-2 record.
"They have a competitive team, a team that doesn't quit," Fire coach Denis Hamlett said Sunday. "(But now) you throw the regular season out the window. Now it's about the playoffs and taking care of business in these next two games."
My views on the Revolution as an opponent? Well, I can't say that New England scares me. The Fire has done pretty well against the Revs every time the two sides have run out there and I think that the matchup bodes pretty well for the Fire. I definitely think that a New England matchup is better than the Real Salt Lake alternative and I think we'll see the Fire do well in this series.
That being said, we all know about the playoff history between the two clubs. This series will mark the eighth time the Fire and the Revs will meet in the playoffs and the Revs have generally gotten the best of the Fire in the postseason - seeing their three series win streak against Chicago come to an end only last year.
As far as an early prediction for the series goes, I'll go ahead and say that the Fire will advance to take on the winner of the Columbus-Real Salt Lake series. I just don't see New England having enough to match the Fire's overall talent - especially now that the team is starting to get healthy.
I'll have a lot more coverage on this series as the week moves along and I'll be back today with a brief piece on the rest of the MLS playoff bracket, so stay tuned for that. Until then, feel free to share how you feel about New England as an opponent in the comments section below.