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Defense issues plague Chicago
by Ridge Mahoney, November 6th, 2009 6:45AM



[MLS PREDICTION] The fifth consecutive playoff meeting between New England and Chicago plays out its second leg at Toyota Park, with the winner set to host Real Salt Lake next week in the conference final.

CHICAGO vs. NEW ENGLAND (aggregate: 1-2), 8:30 p.m. ET, Fox Soccer Channel, Fox Sports Espanol.

Backline issues plague the Fire, which took a 1-0 lead at Gillette Stadium with an early goal in the first leg but seldom threatened after the first 25 minutes and lost, 2-1. Left back Gonzalo Segares aggravated a knee injury after coming on as a sub; central defender Wilman Conde has been disagnosed with a sciatic nerve problem and his status, too, isn't clear.

Fire midfielder John Thorrington, whose range and drive in midfield has been absent for two months as he recovers from sports hernia surgery, went through a full training session Wednesday and should make the subs' bench, at least.

The Revs can prevail by playing tough 'D' and hitting balls upfield for Kheli Dube and Kenny Mansally to turn into chances, and maybe aim high balls for Edgaras Jankauskas, if he's recovered from the flu. Revs coach Steve Nicol has played this game many times before and even though Chicago got the best of New England in last year's playoffs, the Revs may be able to contain Marco Pappa, Chris Rolfe and Cuauhtemoc Blanco, yet must also be wary of Brian McBride on set plays and crosses into the box.

Chicago's tepid home record (5-4-6) during the regular season shouldn't be factor in this situation but whatever advantage its players can draw from the home crowd and a favorable, i.e., grass surface must be exploited. Its 16 goals at home is the lowest total among the eight playoff teams, and its muddled defensive situation probably means one goal won't be enough.
Prediction: Fire 1, Revs 1. (Revs advance)

RIDGE MAHONEY'S playoff prediction: 2-3.



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