The Fire have a chance to eliminate long-time rival New England Revolution from the MLS playoff hunt with a win. The Revs are 1-8-6 on the road and have only one win in their last nine matches. Games against the Revolution are almost always entertaining and this one should be no exception.
Defensively New England has been one of the worst teams in the league allowing 46 goals over the course of 29 league matches. Matt Reis is still their man in goal but Steve Nicol will have even more defensive problems in front of him due to injury. Rookie of the year candidate AJ Soares has an abductor strain issue and his partner at center back Franco Coria has been struggling in training with a facial fracture suffered last weekend in Portland. Coria could play with a mask on but Soares has been ruled out. If Coria can't go, left back Darius Barnes could move into the middle with Ryan Cochrane. Kevin Alston at right back has shown some promise but doesn't seem to be playing as well as has in the past two seasons.
As always, the New England midfield is controlled by Shalrie Joseph but Benny Feilhaber adds another dangerous element when he is playing well. The outside midfielders are fairly average by MLS standards with Chris Tierney and newcomer Monsef Zerka the starting combination of late. Zerka is also on the injured list and could be replaced by Kenny Mansally, Zak Boggs, or Ryan Guy.
The Revs also have issues at forward as well with Rajko Lekic out of this match due to an ankle sprain. It's likely that second year man Zach Schilawski will team with Argentine designated player Milton Caraglio up top. Caraglio has been just "okay" since joining New England in early August. He has 2 goals in seven matches.
Cory Gibbs will miss this match due to a mandatory red card suspension so Frank Klopas' first choice back line will not be intact yet again. Dan Gargan should resume his spot at right back after serving a one game ban for yellow card accumulation moving Jalil Anibaba back inside next to either Josip Mikulic or Yamith Cuesta. Mikulic should be the choice here. Gonzalo Segares should be able to neutralize whoever Nicol chooses to start on the right side of their attack.
The Fire's best midfield combination however will be intact for this match. Sebastian Grazzini and Pavel Pardo will get their first tastes of the Fire/Revs rivalry and Logan Pause and Marco Pappa are ready to go. Klopas suggested that Pappa could be suffering from some fatigue after recent international travel but the Guatemalan hasn't scored a goal since June 26 and needs to find his form quickly if the team is going to maintain any playoff dreams.
The New England back line will have some issues dealing with the pace of Patrick Nyarko and Dominic Oduro in this match so I'm expecting Nicol to attack this match conservatively in an attempt to avoid getting caught with one of the Ghanians behind his defense. New England is playing to stay alive so a tight, physical approach should be expected.
CHICAGO FIRE -- OUT: MF Gabriel Ferrari (L knee ACL reconstruction); DF Steven Kinney (lower abdominal strain)
NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION -- OUT: FW Rajko Lekic (L ankle sprain); MF Stephen McCarthy (L shoulder surgery); MF Sainey Nyassi (R hamstring strain); DF A.J. Soares (L adductor strain); DOUBTFUL: MF Monsef Zerka (L quadriceps strain)
The Revolution are lacking a proven finisher up front and Sean Johnson's recent form doesn't bode well for them given that they've only scored 17 goals in 15 road matches. Mid week results have fallen the Fire's way and the team is aware that three points is a must.
Fire 2 Revolution 0
The Rest of the League
FC Dallas 2 Houston 1 - The Hoops have fallen out of the top three in the West and have only one win in their last five but the Dynamo is winless on the road. I think Houston is in trouble of falling out of the playoff race with four tough matches remaining.
Real Salt Lake 2 DC United 1 - Look out.....Javier Morales is close to returning and Jason Kreis has RSL inching back toward the top of the table.
Los Angeles 1 Columbus 0 - The Crew is 0-3-1 in their last four and trying to cling to the top spot in the East.
New York 1 Portland 0 - Rafa Marquez has been suspended for this match for his silly post game comments. If the Red Bulls don't win this game at home they may not win again for the rest of the season. This could be a rally or a disaster.
Colorado 1 San Jose 0 - The Rapids are in a bad run of form but they're at home at the Earthquakes just aren't that good.
Seattle 2 Vancouver 2 - Let's see what Seattle can do without Mauro Rosales. Should be an open match since Vancouver has nothing to play for but pride.
Toronto FC 1 Chivas USA 1 - Aron Winter's side is finally playing better with three wins in their last five. The loser here can kiss any playoff hopes good bye.
This match will be carried live on Comcast SportsNet Plus and will be shown on tape delay on CSN at 7:30. Did anyone at MLS bother to check the NFL schedule when this match was put on the docket. Bears/Packers will kick off at 3:15 from Soldier Field.
1981 Sting Return to Comiskey (sort of)
The White Sox will honor the 1981 NASL Champion Chicago Sting before their game on Sunday. Lee Stern, Willy Roy, and Sting players will be in attendance for a brief ceremony behind home plate before first pitch at 12:45. I know it's not the old Comiskey Park where the Sting drew 39,000 fans for their playoff win over San Diego but it's close enough.