It seems like a lot longer than two and half weeks but the Fire return to MLS action tonight against long time rival New England Revolution. The Revs are off to brutal start carrrying a 3-7-2 record into this match (2-1-2 at home) although Steve Nicol perenially does more with less than anyone else in the league despite injuries and marginal talent.
The Revolution have once again been hit with a slew of injury problems. Goalkeeper Preston Burpo suffered a Joe Thiesmann-like broken leg in a match against New York in May, Darrius Barnes has missed considerable time with a foot sprain, Edgaras Jankauskas is out with a muscle strain, and Steve Ralston dislocated his elbow three minutes into his return match.
Matt Reis has returned in goal after missing the every game this season due to pre season surgery. Rookie Bobby Shuttleworth stepped in for two games after Burpo's injury. The back line usually features Kevin Alston on the right and Chris Tierney on the left. Center back Pat Phelan has been paired with Cory Gibbs for the majority of the time. Rookie Seth Sinovic has also seen playing time as a starter.
The midfield as always is controlled by Shalrie Joseph. Everything the Revs do is centered around Joseph's ability to play as both a defensive midfielder and a forward attacker. Joseph also missed time this season after being enrolled in a substance abuse program. Joseph's usual central midfield partner, Joseph Niouky Desire is out of this match with yellow card accumulation. His likely replacement is rookie Zak Boggs. Marko Perovic and Sainey Nyassi are the usual starters on the left and right respectively.
The forwards have alternated from match to match with Kenny Mansally, Kheli Dube, and rookie Zack Schilawski seeing action along with the injured Jankouskas. Schilawski has a nose for goal and leads the team with 5 scores.
The Fire will likely return with the same back four that started the last match against Colorado. Conde, Brown, Krol, and Robinson. Tim Ward is no longer listed on the injury report but he apparently will not be ready for extended minutes until next week.
Carlos De Los Cobos will continue to play the 5 man midfield formation with Pause, Husidic, Pappa, Nyarko, and Mapp as the starters. The only variable will be which side Nyarko and Papppa line up in, left or right.
Brian McBride will continue to start as the lone forward and his back-up will seemingly be missing for this match. Collins John missed time in training again this week and will probably not be available due to the mystery ailment that he has been suffering from for the last several weeks. The Fire has not released information regarding the nature of the illness.
The Fire need to start taking full advantage of sides that are quite frankly, not very good. New England is one of those teams. De Los Cobos stressed communication and concentration over the World Cup break. Two elements that have been sorely lacking for most of the team's matches this season.
New England is missing important players due to injury and suspension and it's high time that this Fire side begin to show some consistency before they play themselves into the lower half of the Eastern Conference table.
Fire 2 Revolution 1
CHICAGO FIRE - OUT: MF Calen Carr (R quad strain), MF John Thorrington (L quad strain)
NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION - OUT: DF Darrius Barnes (R foot sprain); GK Preston Burpo (R leg fracture); FW Edgaras Jankauskas (L adductor strain); MF Steve Ralston (L elbow dislocation); FW Taylor Twellman (concussion), M Khano Smith (R ankle sprain) ; QUESTIONABLE : MF Pat Phelan (head) : PROBABLE: MF Mike Videira (L ankle sprain), DF Kevin Alston (lower back strain)
NE: Joseph Niouky (caution accumulation, thru June 27)
The identity of the Serbian trialist is finally known. Midfielder Bratislav Ratic.
Jeremiah White, 20 year old Mexican defender Victor Perrales, Ratic, and Malaury Martin spent the week on trial. No word yet if any of the four will be offered a contract.
The July transfer window is rapidly approaching. Wilman Conde's contract status still has not been addressed and he will be open game free to sign with any team outside MLS after the season leaving the Fire with no compensation if he were to leave.
The Fire also seem to be in no particular hurry to add a designated player although De Los Cobos has mentioned on numerous occasions that the team needs an attacking central midfielder.
Rumors continue to swirl regarding Thierry Henry's arrival in New York and Hans Backe has mentioned negotiations with another player out of Europe who is a true "number 10". Kansas City may also be on the verge of acquiring Barcelona's Eidur Gudjohnsen.
The referee tonight will be Jair Marrufo.