BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. The New England Revolution clinched a spot in the SuperLiga 2010 semifinals courtesy of a 1-0 win over the Chicago Fire on Saturday night at Toyota Park. Marko Perovic scored the only goal of the game in the 76th minute and goalkeeper Matt Reis made three saves to secure the Revolutions third straight shutout in all competitions.
The victory combined with the 2-2 draw between Monarcas Morelia and Pumas UNAM in the second half of the evenings doubleheader guarantees the Revs a spot in the SuperLiga semifinals for the third straight year. New England won the competition in 2008 and was eliminated by the Fire in the 2009 semifinals.
After the first two group games, the Revolution (2-0-0, 6 pts.) sits on top of Group B ahead of Morelia (1-0-1, 4 pts.), Pumas (0-1-1, 1 pt.) and the Fire (0-2-0, 0 pts.). The Revs will meet Morelia in the final group game on Tuesday, July 20, in a match which will decide whether New England finishes in first or second place in Group B. A win or a draw against Morelia will clinch the top spot for the Revolution, while a loss would mean the Revs would finish second behind Morelia.
The only goal of Saturday nights contest came in the 76th minute, when second-half substitute Kheli Dubes hard work forced a turnover in the attacking third. Perovic pounced on the loose ball and drilled a shot past Fire goalkeeper Sean Johnson to register his fourth goal of the season in all competitions.
There were two changes to the Revolution lineup which beat Pumas 1-0 on Wednesday night. Reis returned between the pipes in place of Bobby Shuttleworth, while Sainey Nyassi replaced Dube. Nyassi took over his customary right midfield role, while Perovic pushed up into a withdrawn forward position.
Chicago controlled possession in the opening stages and almost capitalized with the games first quality chance in the 12th minute. Mike Banner connected on a 25-yard shot which comfortably beat Reis, but the effort struck the face of the left post and the Revs were able to clear the ball to safety.
After absorbing the early pressure, the Revs slowly began to work themselves into the game and found much of their success down the right wing. In the 28th minute, Nyassi used a couple quick stepovers to burst past his defender and into the box, but his low cross from the endline was cut out by Johnson. Right back Kevin Alston followed that up with a 20-yard shot a few moments later, but his effort was hit directly at Johnson.
The Fire responded and almost grabbed a halftime lead through Marco Pappa in first-half stoppage time. Pappa who scored the lone goal when the Fire defeated the Revs 1-0 on June 27 at Gillette Stadium ran onto a long pass and broke into the right side of the box, but his curling effort toward the far post was just off the mark.
While New England began the second half with the same 11 players who started the match, Chicago made three substitutions at the break. Brian McBride, Justin Mapp and Tim Ward all came on, while Corben Bone, Krzysztof Krol and Steven Kinney went to the bench.
Mapp almost made an immediate contribution as Pappa found him free at the back post in the 54th minute, but the halftime substitutes header looped over the bar.
Revolution head coach Steve Nicol didnt wait long to dip into his available substitutes, inserting Khano Smith (62nd minute), Dube (65th minute) and Pat Phelan (69th minute) while taking off Kenny Mansally, Zack Schilawski and Joseph Niouky.
Dube was lively from the moment he entered the game and although it wont show up in the box score, it was his tireless work which led to Perovics goal in the 76th minute. Just one minute after almost scoring himself, the Zimbabweans harassment of Fire defender Kwame Watson-Siriboe forced a turnover 30 yards from goal. Perovic was the recipient of the loose ball, and he made Chicago pay by depositing a left-footed shot inside the right post.
Desperate for a result to keep its hopes of a semifinal berth alive, the Fire pushed for an equalizer but never seriously threatened late in the match and the Revs held on for their first win in Chicago since 2006.
SuperLiga 2010&8232;New England Revolution (2-0-0, 6 pts.) at Chicago Fire (0-2-0, 0 pts.)&8232;July 17, 2010 Toyota Park (Bridgeview, Ill.)