Just three days after tying Columbus to eliminate the Crew from playoff contention, the Chicago Fire can play spoiler again in the home finale.
The Fire host the New England Revolution, which sit seventh in the Eastern Conference, on Sunday. A loss for New England (10-13-9, 39 points) would virtually eliminate the Revolution, barring a shocking double-digit turnaround in goal differential, while even a tie could see them eliminated if Philadelphia tie or beat Orlando. All five Eastern Conference games on Sunday will kick off at the same time to create extra drama around tight playoff scenarios like this.
The game will be televised on CSN+ with coverage beginning at 1:30 p.m. with Fire Pregame Live. The match will kick off just after 2 p.m.
It is the Fire’s final home match of the season. Picking up one more win in front of the home fans is something coach Veljko Paunovic emphasized after the draw against Columbus.
“This game we have to win it for our fans because the people supporting us during the whole year, we appreciate that,” Paunovic said. “We got to give them a win next game. Guys we got to win.”
The Fire have a 5-3-8 record at home, which is tied with three other teams for the fewest home wins in the league. The team is hoping to leave Toyota Park for 2016 with a good memory.
“It was disappointing to not to get the win for the fans (against Columbus) and for us, but I think we need to move past it now and try to get those three points on Sunday against New England,” midfielder Matt Polster said.
In addition to trying to finish with a win to close out the home schedule, the Fire (6-16-10, 28 points) are trying to keep hope alive to avoid finishing in last place in back-to-back seasons. Houston is five points ahead of the Fire.
Both the Fire and Revolution enter without any significant injuries and Paunovic has said he intends to play a strong lineup to try to get the win as opposed to rotating the squad to give younger players some minutes.
“I want to see our guys working hard and giving our best to win the game,” Paunovic said. “That’s all I want for the next game and we have to do everything to do that.”
This will be the fourth time the Fire and Revolution meet in 2016. All three previous meetings were New England wins in Foxborough. New England won 2-0 on May 14, 1-0 on July 23 and 3-1 in a U.S. Open Cup semifinal on Aug. 9.
New England has won four of its past five matches to get back in the playoff race. Juan Agudelo has scored three goals in that stretch while Kei Kamara has had two goals and two assists.
Typical play-by-play announcer Dan Kelly will be doing a national broadcast for Sunday so Michael Watts will be taking his place alongside Frank Klopas in the booth.