The Fire may have two regular season games remaining, but they want to clinch their spot in the postseason this weekend when they take on the New England Revolution at Gillette Stadium.
The Fire, who will be able to clinch a berth in the playoffs with a win this Saturday, have played the Revolution twice in 2009 - drawing 1-1 at Toyota Park way back on May 9th and winning 2-1 in Foxboro in the SuperLiga semifinals on July 15th.
"They're a very competitive team. They've dealt with a lot of injuries just like us but you know they still get on the field and compete," said Fire Head Coach Denis Hamlett. "Obviously the stakes are high now because of the importance of the points that are on the board for both teams. It's going be a classic playoff type game."
The Fire and the Revs have certainly enjoyed a few "playoff type games" over the years, as the two teams have met in the playoffs each of the last four years. This weekend's game could be a preview of yet another playoff match between the longtime Eastern Conference foes who - if the current standings hold up - would play each other in the first round of this year's playoffs.
"We know to expect, we know what it's going to be like," Hamlett said. "The team that's good around the box is usually the team that's going to come out on top so we have to make sure we prepare ourselves on both ends."
Though the match features two of the Eastern Conference's top three sides, both teams come into Saturday evening's match scuffling. The Fire is winless in their last five and the Revolution hasn't won in their last three - with their most recent game ending in a 1-0 loss to the shorthanded Columbus Crew.
"To be honest with you they made one mistake and that punished them," Hamlett said of the Revolution's performance against the Crew. "[New England] didn't have a lot of starters on the field either. You can't get caught up in who's not there. It's about who is there and about guys going out and competing and fighting and that's what we have to make sure that we get ourselves ready for."
One of the players that will be out on the field for the Revolution is midfielder Shalrie Joseph. The 31-year-old Joseph has tallied eight goals and eight assists on the year and is the Revolution's most dangerous player. The Fire will need to shut him down if they want to leave New England with all three points.
It's not certain whether or not Fire forward Cuauhtemoc Blanco will be able to play in the game. Blanco injured his hamstring in the Fire's 2-2 draw with Columbus on September 20th and only just returned to action - playing parts of two games with the Mexican National Team over the past week. The issue though, won't be Blanco's health but rather his energy level. The Fire has been reluctant to use Blanco in Saturday MLS matches after playing a game in mid-week so we'll just have to wait and see if he's able to go on Saturday. If I had to guess though, I would say that Temo will be on the field against the Revs.
Ok, enough background info. Let's get to the prediction...
This is a tough one for me to call. Both teams really need the points, and the Fire will be motivated to clinch their playoff spot before their last game of the year. When all is said and done Saturday night, I think the game will end knotted up at 1. Brian McBride will score for the Fire and Kheli Dube will net for the Revs.
Congrats to the winner of the last prediction contest, commenter dj. Dj was the only reader to predict a Fire loss against the Galaxy and thus is atop the prediction perch. Will anyone be able to knock him off the peak? Give a prediction and find out...