After three consecutive years suffering playoff heartbreak against the Revolution, the Fire will try to extend their playoff winning streak against the Revs to two series this Sunday, when the two sides meet at Gillette Stadium for Game 1 (1 p.m. on FSC) of their two game Eastern Conference Semifinal matchup.
The series, which could be the last for departing Fire players Chris Rolfe and Cuauhtemoc Blanco, pits the longtime rivals against each other for the eighth time in the postseason. The teams have already met three times in 2009 with the Fire posting a 1-0-2 record in one SuperLiga and two league matches. The Fire will be looking to leave New England with at least a point, to put the pressure on the Revolution to get a result in Chicago next weekend. Should the Fire earn a result, they will be putting themselves in a great position to advance to the Eastern Conference Final against either Columbus or Real Salt Lake.
"We play them every year in the playoffs so we know each other very well," said Fire defender Gonzalo Segares. "It's never easy against them. They've been together for a long time and they'll definitely put a good squad on the field, we just have to be prepared."
The Fire should be prepared for whatever New England chooses to throw at them, as the two sides played to a 0-0 draw only two weeks ago.
"Obviously playing them is still fresh in our minds," said Fire Head Coach Denis Hamlett. "They're going to come out with a lot of energy and we have to make sure were ready from the start. We have to limit their set pieces, throw-ins and corner kicks because they do well with those."
The Fire, who at times have struggled against the set piece, will really want to pay attention to limiting New England's chances with them. The Revolution have two very big targets in Edgaras Jankauskas and Shalrie Joseph -- both of whom are more than capable of finding the back of the net.
Finding the back of the net has been something the Fire has struggled to do lately, as the team hasn't scored a goal of its own since September 26th.
"We're going to create chances," Hamlett said. "We have to make sure now that we can be better and more clinical in the final third as far as finishing the chances that we create."
But enough about the series background, it's time to get down to it. Here we go...
**The Prediction --**
Though the Fire hasn't really been playing outstanding soccer lately (only one win in their last seven matches...) I can't help but shake the feeling that they will come out really strong in this series. I feel like the team has a ton of defensive momentum coming into the game and that the offense (despite its scoring drought) will start to finish some of those numerous chances that they have been creating.
I also like that the Fire is confident going into the series. The team is certainly a very focused bunch and many players have a lot to play for.
Gonzalo Segares summed up how the Fire is feeling going into the series best though when he said, "we have a great team. We matchup against them well and if we're sharp we'll definitely take the series."
Personally, I love that Gonzalo is exuding that kind of confidence. For a player like him, who hasn't been on the field in two and a half months due to injury to come out and say that says a lot about what the team ultimately expects from itself -- a MLS Cup.
So, with all of that, I'll come out and say that the Fire will win this game 1-0 and head into Game 2 at Toyota Park in a great position to advance. I'll say that Blanco gets the game's lone goal and the Fire defense does a good job to earn their fourth shutout in a row. I won't give a prediction for Game 2 right now, but I'll also say that the Fire will win the series for their second in a row over the hated Revolution.
Commenter GoFire came closest to predicting the correct result last week, leave your prediction below and see if you can beat him (and me!) this week.