The Chicago Fire remain winless even though no Eastern Conference team has scored more. No club has scored less than the New England Revolution, and missing their top defender will only make it tougher to slow down the Fire attack.
New England, though, has improved offensively and the better record going into Saturday's matchup in Chicago.
Reigning MLS Defender of the Year Jose Goncalves is likely to sit out with a right quad injury suffered in a 2-0 win over Houston last Saturday. Goncalves has keyed the Revolution allowing four goals over their last five matches and leading the league last season with 14 shutouts.
Darrius Barnes is likely to start after entering for Goncalves in the 41st minute last week, helping New England (2-1-3) complete its second clean sheet in four games.
"Jose's our captain. He's our top guy," defender A.J. Soares told the team's official website. "... You can't replace him at all. But it shows that the system and the camaraderie's good."
Soares assisted on Jerry Bengston's goal, and Kevin Alston scored as the Revolution had two goals for the second time in three games. They've been blanked in their other four matches.
Chicago (0-5-1) has yet to be shut out, and its nine goals are tied for most in the East with Philadelphia, but the Union have played one more game. All that scoring has yet to bring a victory, however, and the Fire are mired in their longest winless stretch since an 0-7-3 skid in 2011.
They'll tie a league record if they play to a sixth consecutive draw Saturday.
Most of the team, though, felt last weekend's 1-all tie at Montreal was a step in the right direction. The Impact's six shots and two on goal were the fewest Sean Johnson has faced this season, though the Fire defense remained without a shutout.
"I think chances-wise last game was clearly the fewest number of chances we've given up which is definitely a positive," forward Harry Shipp said. "I think just build off that coming into this week, limiting the number of chances. And obviously Sean's great in goal so hopefully we get a clean sheet this week."
The Fire were blanked every time during a three-game losing streak to the Revolution before winning the last meeting, 3-2 on Sept. 14 on Alex's goal in the 86th minute. Reigning MVP Mike Magee also scored, and he's feeling good entering this matchup with a growing comfort level alongside Quincy Amarikwa.
Magee has a goal and two assists in the last two games, and he fed Amarikwa for his team-leading third goal last Saturday. Amarikwa has started the past five games after coming off the bench in his first 15 for Chicago.
"It's going very well. Quincy's obviously playing great," Magee said. "... He's confident, scoring goals. He's been brilliant, exactly what the team needs right now."
The Revolution are 1-10-1 in their last 12 visits to Chicago but won there last season for the first time since 2006.
New England has lost three of its four road games this year.
"We don't want to go there and sit back and fight for the point, and scratch and claw for the point," Barnes said. "We want to go there to get three points. I feel like that's what we have to do if we want to be a championship-caliber team is start going away and getting results."