The Chicago Fire are guaranteed their first trip to the postseason in three years, and positive results in their final two games could land them the Eastern Conference’s top seed.
A disappointing season has left the New England Revolution attempting to play the role of spoiler.
Chicago continues its quest for the conference’s regular-season crown when it visits New England on Saturday night.
Sherjill MacDonald netted both goals as the Fire (17-10-5) earned a 2-0 victory over New York on Oct. 6, and they officially secured their first playoff berth since 2009 when Sporting Kansas City and Columbus played to a 1-all draw the following day.
MLS then took some time off as some players were called into international duty during World Cup qualifying.
“We’re in the final stretch, and it was good for bodies to recover and heel,” defender Gonzalo Segares said of the break. “Now we head into New England and we’re still fighting for the top spot in the conference and we need to win on the road.”
Chicago is three points back of East-leading Kansas City and two ahead of third-place D.C. United. The Fire must win at least one match and Sporting KC and D.C. must suffer at least one loss over the final two contests for Chicago to have a chance at the regular-season title. The Fire host United next Saturday.
“We’re going to focus on ourselves,” goalkeeper Sean Johnson said. “Going into the Kansas City game (a 2-0 loss Sept. 28) with an opportunity to go into first place, maybe we got a little bit ahead of ourselves and put more added pressure on ourselves. We just have to go in, get three points these next two games and dictate where we go the rest of the season.”
MacDonald scored the winning goal in the 25th minute of a 2-1 win over New England on Aug. 18, improving the Fire to 8-1-3 in the last 12 regular-season matchups. The Revolution’s 2-0 home win over Chicago on June 2 ended a 10-game regular-season winless streak in the series.
“This is definitely a team that can punish you if you’re not ready,” said Fire midfielder Daniel Paladini, who tallied one of his season’s two goals in the latest match against the Revolution. “We’re going to train hard this week and be prepared.”
New England (7-17-8), though, dropped to 1-10-4 over its last 15 with a 1-0 loss to Philadelphia on Oct. 6, marking the club-record 12th time it has been shut out this season. It also has its most MLS losses since the 1999 team had 20.
The Revolution are a dismal 1-13-2 on the road in league play, but they’ve earned points in four straight home matches, going 1-0-3.
Benny Feilhaber, who had a goal and an assist in the win over Chicago, received two yellow cards in the last matchup and will serve a mandatory one-game suspension Saturday.
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