New England Revolution boss Bruce Arena and Chicago Fire FC counterpart Raphael Wicky have stressed the importance of taking it game by game during a hectic run of fixtures.
The sides face off at Soldier Field on Wednesday for their third of six matches in a two-and-a-half week period as the MLS regular season races to its conclusion.
The Revs lead the way in the Eastern Conference and overall standings, despite being held 1-1 by Columbus Crew last time out, and Arena is planning changes in midweek.
“We take it one game at a time and see how the players come out of each game before making a decision on the next game,” he said when asked about his team selection.
“The priority is to put a team on the field that can win the game. We’ve rotated pretty much every game and that won’t change. The travel makes it more difficult.
“We’ve got to take into account our opponents’ schedule as well and where they’re at. It’s about putting out a team that is fresh as it can be and getting the three points.”
The Revs have won only two of their last four games in what can be considered a blip for the runaway leaders, though they will be confident of putting that right against the Fire.
Chicago have lost three matches in a row, most recently going down 2-0 to CF Montreal, but Wicky is not ready to turn focus to 2022 just yet with his side 12 points off the playoffs.
“That’s not part of my process,” he said. “I’m a coach and take it game by game. I want to win the next game, which is against New England on Wednesday.
“So I’m thinking about that and how I can win it, not about 2022. That’s how we approach the games. I think that’s the way to do it.”
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Chicago Fire FC – Federico Navarro
After making a couple of substitute appearances since joining in August, Navarro was handed his full debut in the loss to Montreal – Chicago’s third straight game without scoring.
The holding midfielder is not in the team to score goals and he made an impact in the last match, with nobody able to better his 39 attempted passes and 34 successful passes.
New England Revolution – Adam Buksa
Arena was not pleased with his side’s inability to put away chances in their draw with the Crew, a game in which New England matched a club record for shots attempted in a single match (33).
Buksa led the way with a career-high 11 of those efforts and found the net from one of them, making it seven goals in his last seven games for the Revs and national side Poland.
KEY OPTA FACTS
– The Revs are unbeaten in four straight matches against the Fire (W2 D2), including a 2-2 draw in the opening match of this season. The four-match run is New England’s longest-ever unbeaten run against the Fire (80 matches, including playoffs).
– The Fire have lost only one of their last eight home matches dating back to late June (W4 D3), winning the last two in a row. All but four of Chicago’s 23 points this season have been earned at home.
– New England’s 1-1 draw with the Crew on Saturday was just the third time they have failed to win in their last 13 MLS matches (W10 D2 L1). The Revs’ 56 points are the third-most after 26 games in MLS history, after Los Angeles FC (61) in 2019 and LA Galaxy (58) in 1998.
– Chicago have gone three straight games without scoring, the third time this season the Fire have failed to find the net in three straight matches. Chicago have not gone four straight matches without a goal since September 2010.
– Buksa scored a 62nd minute equaliser in New England’s 1-1 draw with the Crew, his 11th goal of the season and the eighth in the final 30 minutes of matches. Only Raul Ruidiaz (nine) has scored more goals after the 60th minute this season.