Earlier this season, Revolution players and coaches often spoke about making a Gillette Stadium a "fortress." A place where the opposition dreaded playing. A place where the guests would struggle to assert themselves. A place where the Revolution were at their strongest.
The Revolution did well to back their words in the first half of the season, going 5-1-3 in their first nine home contests and coming within one win of leveling their overall mark at 6-7-3.
Then, things took a turn for the worse. Once the second half of the season arrived, the Revolution struggled mightily at home, and went 1-3-3 in front of the home fans. Clearly, there was nothing imposing about New England's home park anymore.
But with Saturday's home finale on tap, the Revolution will seek to re-establish the stadium's early-season reputation one last time when they face the playoff-bound Chicago Fire.
The second-place squad enters the contest coming off a statement win over conference rival New York at Red Bull Arena on Oct. 6. Both went into the game level on points (53) with a playoff berth at stake. Although the Red Bulls looked ready to run away with the win, it was the Fire that found a pair of goals from Sherjill MacDonald en route to an emphatic 2-0 win, which allowed the club to secure a playoff spot.
While the Fire and Red Bulls were battling for playoff positions two weekends ago, the Revolution continued their reeling form on the road, thanks to a 1-0 loss in Philadelphia. Head coach Jay Heaps was forced to use a makeshift lineup due to a litany of injuries, and nearly held on for a draw. But that was until Jack McInerney headed home the lone goal of the game in the 73rd minute to give the similarly embattled Union maximum points.
On its face, Saturday's matchup has all the makings of an easy win for the Fire. In terms of available talent, the Fire have the clear upper hand.
But with a playoff bid already in their back pocket, Fire coach Frank Klopas might be more focused on preserving his regulars, even after the international break. At this time of the year, there's no such thing as too much rest, especially for a team preparing for a postseason that'll extend to Dec. 1 this year. In light of that, the Revolution may have caught Chicago at just the right time.
Meanwhile, Heaps will continue to piece together his strongest 11 players, despite a lengthy injury report. Benny Feilhaber will be forced to the role of spectator due to red card suspension, but Heaps is expected to have left back Chris Tierney available after a four-game absence, as well as center back AJ Soares, who left the field in Philadelphia prematurely with a knee injury.
The last time the Fire came to Foxborough, the Revolution staked a 2-0 win on June 2. At the time, it was a sure sign that the Revolution were a club to be reckoned with at home. On Saturday, the hosts hope to make their home field a fortress one last time in 2012.