MLS Playoff Preview: Chicago Fire vs. New England Revolution

Chicago needs a win in the return leg to have hopes of moving on after NE's 2-1 win at home last weekend.
Who: Chicago Fire and New England Revolution
What: 2009 MLS playoffs, first round, second leg
When: 7:30 p.m. EST, Saturday, November 7
Where: Toyota Park, Bridgeview, Illinois

The Gist:

Goals from Emmanuel Osei and Shalrie Joseph gave New England the a vital 2-1 edge heading into the second leg between the two Eastern Conference foes. Both sides had additional opportunities to add to their tallies, but the woodwork saved both 'keepers on several occasions.

The two teams met in the same stage last year, with the first leg in New England resulting in a scoreless draw, before Chicago dismantled New England at home, 3-0.

However, the situation this year is a touch different. Mainly, while both teams should be happy with the result (Chicago happy with the fact that they scored a goal), New England does head to Chicago with the advantage, likely down to the fact that Chicago was quite poor at home this season. In 15 games at home this season, Chicago only managed 5 wins. In the only matchup between the two teams this year in the league at Toyota Park the game ended in a 1-1 draw.

A similar result would be perfect for New England, considering it would ensure their passage into the next round.

Chicago by no means should be counted out. They have had success the past several seasons in the playoffs, although usually not by coming from behind. With Cuauhtemoc Blanco playing, anything is possible. In their last match at home, the introduction of Blanco against Chivas USA propelled Chicago to win to ensure their qualification for the playoffs.

Key Players:

Chris Rolfe, Chicago Fire: The scorer of the goal in New England will likely be a beneficiary of Blanco's creativeness and space that is created. His usefulness out wide in the midfield or up top will keep New England guessing as to where he will make his impact from. If Chicago are to advance, Rolfe will have a helping hand in the effort.

Shalrie Joseph, New England: Surely the MVP for New England this season, Joseph made his presence felt immediately in the playoffs, scoring the game winning goal in the 75th minute. Whether Stevie Nicol deploys him up top or in the midfield, Joseph's contributions will be vital to any success for New England.


Chicago 1-1 New England (New England to advance, 3-2 on aggregate)

To Advance:

New England needs a win or draw.

A two goal win for Chicago ensures their passage to the next round. If Chicago wins by a lone goal, thirty minutes of extra time will follow, with penalties an option after that if necessary.

Steven Streff,