The Chicago Fire and New England Revolution have a budding rivalry based on four straight postseason matchups, but the hobbling Revolution aren't currently looking like a team headed back to the playoffs.
Factor in the club's dismal showing against the Fire last year -- and Chicago's unbeaten start to this season -- and New England faces a tough task when it visits Bridgeview, Ill. on Saturday night.
The Revolution eliminated Chicago from the MLS Cup playoffs three straight times from 2005-07, but the Fire (2-0-5) finally returned the favor last year, winning 3-0 on aggregate in the Eastern Conference semifinal series and scoring all three of their goals at Toyota Park.
Chicago also won three regular season matchups with New England by a combined 9-1 score, and the Revs (2-2-2) enter Saturday's game having lost their last six visits to Bridgeview.
They'll have to face a Fire club that has gone a franchise-record seven straight games without a loss to start the season, but Chicago has not been satisfied with its results lately, settling for four straight draws in MLS play.
"Being unbeaten doesn't mean anything," Fire goalkeeper Jon Busch told the team's official Web site. "Yeah, we are undefeated, but we are in games where we work so hard and end up getting ties. We should be winning these games and we are not and that is what matters."
Coach Denis Hamlett's team outshot Seattle FC 15-4 at home last Saturday but ended up with a 1-all tie, allowing the equalizer in the 74th minute. The goal was the eighth given up by Chicago in its last four games, after the team allowed a conference-low 33 goals last year.
"I'm frustrated and the whole team is frustrated," Hamlett said. "We can't continue down the road this way."
The Fire also have to prepare for the potential absence of defender Gonzalo Segares, who may not play Saturday after suffering a calf contusion against Seattle.
However, their problems seem trivial in comparison with New England's injury woes, which have contributed to the Revolution getting outscored 8-0 while dropping their last two games.
New England was without top offensive threats Taylor Twellman and Steve Ralston for last year's playoff series, and both are still battling injuries. Twellman remains out with a lingering neck problem and has not played this year, while Ralston is questionable with an adductor strain.
Defenders Gabriel Badilla and Chris Albright and midfielder Mauricio Castro are also on the injured list and won't play Saturday.
The Revolution have looked like a short-handed team lately. After an embarrassing 6-0 defeat at Real Salt Lake on April 25, they managed one shot on goal in a 2-0 home loss to Houston on Sunday.
"We just have to be better at everything," New England coach Steve Nicol said. "We're still banged up and we're not getting too many guys back too soon, so we just have to raise our game as far as everything is concerned."
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press