Bridgeview, IL – Alvaro Fernandez and Sherjill MacDonald started together for the first time last week, and the early results look good for the Chicago Fire.
Fernandez and MacDonald, both designated players, were added during the season and showed the potential to be difference makers over the rest of the year.
"Those two need to be commended because they've come in and done a great job for us so quickly," Chicago forward Chris Rolfe said. "They're really easy to play with, both of them know the game so well, and they know their roles."
Chicago (11-7-5) sits fourth in the Eastern Conference, just five points below first place with one match in hand on Sporting Kansas City, Red Bull New York, and the Houston Dynamo - the three teams ahead of it in the table.
The Fire host the New England Revolution (6-12-5) on Saturday at Toyota Park.
With Fernandez and MacDonald settling in already, coach Frank Klopas could put together a run at the summit over the remainder of the season.
Rolfe, another midseason addition, scored twice last week in a 3-1 win against the Philadelphia Union as the Fire won their second straight match. MacDonald and Fernandez did not score, but both did their parts.
Chicago, unbeaten in three matches, will be confident against the Revolution, who are winless in six, but will have to adjust to the loss of Logan Pause due to injury.
Pause, a midfielder, suffered broken ribs and had a collapsed lung against the Union and will be sidelined four to six weeks. He had started all 23 games for the Fire.
"We're going to miss Logan," Klopas said.
New England has struggled all season, and lost its most recent game 1-0 at the Montreal Impact. With just a 1-8-2 mark on the road this year, the Revolution face a tough task in Chicago, where the Fire are 7-2-2 this season.
The Revs did beat Chicago at home in June, when Kelyn Rowe and Benny Feilhaber scored in a 2-0 victory at Gillette Stadium. But New England was shut out for the ninth time last week.
New England defender Chris Tierney believed the team was playing well overall, but has to put it all together.
"Just that final ball is lacking. I think we're getting into decent spots, we have good spells of possession, but when we get into that advanced third of the field it's just about putting the ball on the money and committing to getting runs in the box and we haven't been doing that lately," New England defender Chris Tierney said.
"We just have to have that full commitment to lay our bodies on the line, make those runs, and do what it takes to score goals."
New England is tied for eighth in the Eastern Conference, and sits 13 points out of fifth place and a playoff spot. A loss in Chicago could all but end any hopes of a late run this season.