Thursday, November 08, 2007

Tonight's The Night

Tonight's the night. The night we find out if the 2007 incarnation of the New England Revolution has the moxy it's predecessors had in the playoffs. The night we see if they have that certain, oh I don't know, je ne sais quoi to defeat the Chicago Fire and end their season for the fourth straight year. The night we cheer the boys on from The Fort in frigged temperatures. The night the team mans up to Blanco's bobos and stops their unbeaten streak in it's tracks. The night NBC pats itself on the back for proclaiming Al Gore's movie 100% factual.

OK, so I'm dvr'n the last part and won't get to it until next week. The other stuff in that opening paragraph has me freakin pumped. This is what MLS, in it's current format, is all about. Take away the complete waste of time the last nine months were. Going into training camp, we all knew who the best eight teams were. Maybe Colorado had a say and anyone who bought into LA's hype would have yelped, but not the rest of us. We all knew there would be eight teams in the playoffs capable of beating the other seven. And we all knew Chicago and New England would meet up again, ready for another round of foul and stall.

So now it comes down to tonight. To the winners: a trip to MLS Cup with more than enough time to rest their tired carcasses. To the losers: ten extra days to work on their Halo 3 rankings (no one still golfs, right?).

The matchup isn't that hard to break down. New England will attempt to control the middle of the field with Joseph and Larentowicz while looking for holes to pace through balls to their forwards and wings. Chicago will answer with the muscle of Chris Armas, and Blanco will try to go around the Revs' big boys and launch quick strike attacks.

I can see this one being a grind. However, both Chicago and New England have been known to pack the box if they grab a quick lead. The timing of the first goal, if there is a first goal, will mean everything for the neutrals. However, Chicago relied on quick counterattacks against DC United. The Revs probably won't commit as many players forward as DC did. I can't predict how this game will go, but I'm not alone in thinking this one will be rough and low scoring.

Chicago has made a remarkable run up to this point. They haven't lost since a game in New York at the beginning of September. That was also the last time they played on an artificial surface. Seeing how New England has played nearly every game on the fake stuff for over a month, that could be an intangible. Their timing could be off at the start of the game, and the Revs could capitalize on that advantage. Another bonus for New England is obviously the home field.

Chicago counters with an extra two days off. The Revs also played in inclement weather on Saturday which wears you down. The Fire have to be more fit physically. I would have expected MLS to have seen this unfair setup when ESPN told them what the schedule would be. Then again, I expect my dog to piss on the pee mat, but I gave up being disappointed when it doesn't happen.

So this one, like any matchup possible for the Revs in the MLS playoffs, is a tossup. The Revs have a chance at a bit of history by making three straight finals. They already have made six straight conference finals which is a nice little achievement. But they don't hand out rings for making it there. The Revs are still chasing their elusive first MLS Cup championship. It comes down to the last two games. The first in less than 24 hours. Get down to the stadium after work. It's gonna be a cracker.

Brad Feldman Breaks It Down Even More
Center Holds It
USA Today
The Sports Network
Boston Herald
Boston Globe
Chicago Tribune