2007 Eastern Conference Championship - Chicago vs. New England
7:30pm ET/4:30pm PT
Tonight decides who will represent the Eastern Conference in MLS Cup 2007. Will it be the hard charging, Blanco fueled, giant killers Chicago Fire or the always dependable, Matt Reis backed New England Revolution?
Without a doubt, Chicago has had a good run of form over the last couple months, but it really has not been as impressive as it sounds. Yes, they have not lost in their last 10 league matches, however, six of those games ended in ties and they scored one goal or less in seven of them. It makes for a good record but when you are in a must win situation, it doesn't hold up as well.
The Revolution have had a bit of a bumpier ride in terms of results and they looked a little soft against New York in the first round, but overall, they hold a number of key advantages. First, they are playing on turf in their own house. Second, they have a goalkeeper who is getting close to top form. Third, they have multiple scoring options. Fourth, unlike DC, injuries are not hurting a number of key players.
All of these will make Chicago's job extremely difficult, but there biggest issue is the same one they have had all year, failure to score. The Fire have the fewest goals of any playoff team (31) and are second worse when compared to the league as a whole (TFC holds the bottom spot at 25). This lack of attack, especially up against a keeper like Matt Reis, is what will doom them.
On the other side of things, the Revs have one of the most productive offensives in the league and with seven of their regular starters having two or more goals, this productivity is not limited to one area. This will force Chicago to pull players back behind the ball, meaning they will again be counting on break aways and counter attacks to see them through this match.
A very telling thing to look at concerning the Fire is the way they played in the first leg of the DC series. When they went up a goal, they said that they were going to push it in order to get a second. But what happened? The team didn't know how to push forward and instead they wasted the clock and helm off a limping United. So even when they decided to push forward, they could not.
Without a doubt Blanco will play a major role in Chicago's night, but which Blanco will it be? Will it be the Blanco from the first leg who gave away the ball over 40 times or the Blanco of the second leg who was placing the balls were needed and catching the United defense cheating? But the center of attention might not be the most important person to watch as the Fire will need Chad Barrett and Chris Rolfe roaming into the final third regularly if they hope to beat Reis.
The Revs will call on one of the best midfields in the league to dictate this game. Steve Ralston and Andy Dorman have made trouble for their opposition all season with Jeff Larentowicz and Khano Smith adding a great fight to the center. On defense, Michael Parkhurst has been making a case for international duty with his 'defend hard, defend everywhere' style while Jay Heaps likes to get involved when numbers are needed. Combine all this will Pat Noonan and Taylor Twellman and you have all the makings of a whooping.
Chciago might be able to hold off that whooping due to their strong defensive work, however that normally is the result of keeping 10-players behind the ball, meaning that if they go down to the Revs, their style will open up as they push forward, resulting in more possible chances for New England.
Me: CF 0-2 NE
Wife : CF 2-1 NE
But the wife did not stop there, she predicts that NE will go up a goal in the first half hour, Chicago will tie it just a few minutes after halftime and get the winner sometime between the 82-86'. Specific enough for you?