Revs freeze Fire in opener, but will it be enough?
The New England Revolution and Chicago Fire kicked off the Major Soccer League playoffs with a tightly-contested scoreless draw at Gillette Stadium Thursday night. The match was not great entertainment but soccer purists were able to get their fill with some of the tactical aspects of the game that were on display. Mostly, though the match was physical; Referee Alex Prus let a lot go but still handed out five yellow cards.
Neither team was willing to risk much on offense. The underdog Revs seemed content to let Chicago dominate possession but did not give the Fire enough space to establish a creative flow. Denis Hamlett’s team for its part was happy to let the game play out in midfield, while making sure the Revs did not hit them with any quick counters.
The predictable result was a battle for attrition where both teams took jabs at their opponents in the hope that a defensive error would give way to a scoring chance. But that was not to be, as the game saw very few unforced errors, despite the cold weather and plastic turf. A testament to the improving skills of MLS players, perhaps? Only toward the end of the game, as players began to wear down did things open up a bit.
The game’s best chances for a goal came in the waning minutes. Around minute 82, the Fire’s Brian McBride headed a cross past Matt Reis but the goal was whistled offsides. McBride and his teammates didn’t like the call but replays showed it was on the money. Finally, in stoppage time the Revolution decided to throw some numbers into attack and it paid off with two solid scoring chances. On the first, Sainey Nyassi blew by Fire defender Wilman Conde only to get tackled by Bakary Soumare right before he was about to pull the trigger from close range. Moments later, Kenny Mansally drove in from the right wing but his shot was deflected over the end line. The ensuing corner bounced to Nyassi at the edge of the penalty area but his shot was saved with ease by Jon Busch.
In the end, both teams accomplished their primary mission, to not yield a goal. But with Chicago home in the return leg (and the crowd expected to be more numerous than tonight’s 5,221), the Fire will like their chances. On the other hand, Steve Nicol may just have a trump card or two up his sleeve. Injuries or not, don’t expect the Revs to go quietly. The return leg, on Thursday, Nov. 6, should at the very least be worth watching.
Chicago Fire vs. New England Revolution
MLS Playoffs Eastern Conference semifinals, first leg
October 30, 2008 — Gillette Stadium
Chicago Fire — Jon Busch, Brandon Prideaux, Wilman Conde, Bakary Soumare, Gonzalo Segares, Chris Rolfe (Mike Banner 85), Logan Pause, John Thorrington, Justin Mapp, Cuauhtemoc Blanco, Brian McBride,
Substitutes Not Used: Diego Gutierrez, Stephen King, Nick Noble, Patrick Nyarko, Marco Pappa, Dasan Robinson
New England Revolution — Matt Reis, Chris Albright, Michael Parkhurst, Jay Heaps, Chris Tierney, Sainey Nyassi, Shalrie Joseph, Jeff Larentowicz, Mauricio Castro (Wells Thompson 86), Kenny Mansally, Kheli Dube.
Substitutes Not Used: Gary Flood, Joe Germanese, Amaechi Igwe, Brad Knighton, Pat Phelan, Rob Valentino
New England Revolution / Chicago Fire
total shots: 13 (Mauricio Castro 4) / 9 (Cuauhtemoc Blanco 3)
shots on goal: 4 (Mauricio Castro 2) / 5 (Cuauhtemoc Blanco 2)
fouls: 12 (Chris Albright 3) / 10 (4 tied with 2)
offsides: 1 (Kheli Dube 1) /2 (Cuauhtemoc Blanco 1, Brian McBride 1)
corner kicks: 6 (Mauricio Castro 5) / 4 (Justin Mapp 3)
saves: 5 (Matt Reis 5) / 4 (Jon Busch 4)
CHI — Bakary Soumare (caution; Reckless Foul) 16
NE — Kenny Mansally (caution; Reckless Foul) 42
CHI — Logan Pause (caution; Reckless Tackle) 59
CHI — Cuauhtemoc Blanco (caution; Dissent) 69
NE — Mauricio Castro (caution; Reckless Tackle) 73
referee: Alex Prus
Referee’s Assistants: Craig Lowry; Michael Salyers
4th official: Jorge Gonzalez
time of game: 1:45
weather: Cloudy -and- 37 degrees
Revs fans, how do you feel about your team’s chances for the return leg? Vote in the poll and sound off below.