When the Revolution and Chicago Fire do battle at Toyota Park in Bridgeview, Ill., Saturday night, it’ll be a duel between teams hungry for a victory.
The teams — both of which are on the cusp of a playoff spot with a month and a half to go in the MLS regular season — haven’t added to their win columns in about three weeks.
The Revolution are in a tie for fifth place in the Eastern Conference — the final playoff spot — with the Fire just 1 point back of them and the Houston Dynamo.
With a 6-point swing in the balance, the significance of this matchup isn’t lost on the Revolution.
“It’s definitely a big one for us,” said goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth. “There’s six or seven teams pushing for five spots, so every point is going to matter, every result is going to matter, and every goal might matter.”
For the Revolution, the latest blow came Sunday when they fell to the Montreal Impact, 4-2, in Foxborough. Goalkeeper Matt Reis received a controversial red card in the fifth minute, forcing the team to play a man down and with Shuttleworth in net for the remainder of the game.
Goals from midfielders Diego Fagundez and Kelyn Rowe weren’t enough to stop the Impact, who capitalized on a pair of penalty shots and two more tallies from the league’s leading scorer, Marco Di Vaio.
While the Revolution didn’t come away with a win — and haven’t since a 5-1 decision over Philadelphia Aug. 25 — they did get more encouraging signs from their young midfielders.
Rowe, 21, has found the back of the net four times in the last four contests, and he leads New England with seven assists. The goal from the 18-year-old Fagundez was his third in three games and team-high 10th of the season.
“Once you get Diego in an instinctual situation where he has the ability to break teams down, he can be very dangerous,” said Revolution coach Jay Heap.
Reis’s red card means he is suspended Saturday, so Shuttleworth will be back in net. It will be the first start in more than a month for Shuttleworth, though he has started 21 games this season while Reis was out dealing with his injured father-in-law after the Boston Marathon bombing.
Shuttleworth owns a 1.23 goals-against average with nine shutouts this season.
“Nothing has really changed for me,” Shuttleworth said. “Same kind of attitude. This is my fifth year in the league now, so I’ve been there, done that. I’m just happy to step back in.”
New England’s team GAA of 1.07 could bode well for Shuttleworth when combined with the Fire’s 1.22 goals per game.
But if there is one Chicago player who burns the Revolution, it may be midfielder Mike Magee, whose 15 goals are tops on the team and second in the league.
New England stifled Magee in both previous matchups this year. The Revolution came out on top, 1-0, March 9 and 2-0, Aug. 17.
With the teams so close in the standings, New England is hoping for a similar result this time around.
“It’s going to be a tough game,” Fagundez said. “We beat them twice already, so we’re going to go at their home field and they’re going to want the 3 points. We’re going to have to go there and fight them and take all 3 away.”