Road trip wraps up Saturday night in Colorado
COMMERCE CITY, Colo. – Three days after grinding out a 1-0 win over D.C. United at RFK Stadium, the New England Revolution looks to make it a clean sweep of its current two-game road trip when the club visits the Colorado Rapids at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park on Saturday, July 23.
Kickoff between the rejuvenated Revs (4-9-7, 19 pts.) and defending MLS Cup champion Rapids (7-6-9, 30 pts.) is set for 9 p.m. ET. The match will be televised live in high definition on Comcast SportsNet New England, while the radio call will be available on 98.5 The Sports Hub.
Current Form: Both teams enter Saturday night riding the momentum of critical midweek wins
The sense of relief in the Revolution’s locker room following Wednesday night’s victory over D.C. United was palpable as the club finally put an end to a frustrating nine-game winless run and triumphed away from home for the first time this season. Stephen McCarthy’s 73rd-minute goal proved to be the difference as veteran goalkeeper Matt Reis stopped six shots in a clutch performance en route to claiming his fourth shutout of the campaign.
Now the Revs are focused on turning those initial three points into an extended run of form as they look to steadily climb back up the Eastern Conference standings. A victory over the Rapids on Saturday night would vault the Revolution right back into the mix, as the club currently sits just five points back of the fourth-place Houston Dynamo.
“Any time you win, it’s always a boost,” said head coach Steve Nicol. “Obviously we’d been on a bad run, but it’s good to go into this game with points behind you.”
Colorado found similar success on Wednesday night, riding Sanna Nyassi’s first career hat trick to an emphatic 4-1 win over the New York Red Bulls at DSG Park. Sanna Nyassi – the identical twin brother of Revolution midfielder Sainey – not only scored his first three goals of the season, but also assisted on former New England midfielder Wells Thompson’s strike as the home side rolled to its seventh win of the season.
Past Meetings: Season series up for grabs following scoreless draw in early May
The goalkeepers combined to make just four saves as the Revs and Rapids played out a defensive battle to a scoreless draw on May 7 at Gillette Stadium. Both Ryan Cochrane and Benny Feilhaber hit the crossbar for the Revolution, while captain Shalrie Joseph had a point-blank header stopped by Colorado goalkeeper Matt Pickens.
With the draw, the Revs remained winless (0-3-4) against the Rapids since the start of the 2008 season. New England’s last victory over Colorado came back on Sept. 29, 2007, when the Revolution claimed a 1-0 win in Foxborough.
Historically, the Mile High City hasn’t been particularly kind to the Revs, who haven’t won in the shadow of the Rocky Mountains since 2002. The Revolution’s all-time record of 3-12-3 in Colorado represents one of the club’s worst road marks against any team, but the Revs have managed draws in two of their last three visits to DSG Park.
Injury Report: Feilhaber returns from suspension; Cochrane returns to Boston
For the second straight game, the Revolution will receive a boost from the return of a key player from suspension, this time as Feilhaber is once again eligible after serving his one-game ban on Wednesday night against United. Feilhaber has recorded a team-leading three assists in just nine appearances since arriving in April and adds a unique dimension to the Revs’ attack.
“He obviously has that extra bit of quality,” said Nicol. “He has experience. He sees things a lot better and a lot quicker than a lot of other guys. So if we can add that to what we did [against D.C.], then I’m sure we’ll do well.”
While Feilhaber traveled directly to Denver to join up with his teammates in Colorado, Cochrane traveled from Washington, D.C., back to Boston in order to undergo further tests on the left foot injury which forced him out of Wednesday night’s game in the 22nd minute.
Colorado will be without the services of leading scorer Conor Casey (six goals, one assist) for the rest of the 2011 season after the powerful forward suffered a torn left Achilles tendon in last weekend’s 4-3 loss to Seattle Sounders FC at CenturyLink Field. Casey is expected to need eight to 10 months to complete his recovery, which means he could potentially miss the start of the 2012 season, as well.
Key Player: Revolution goalkeeper Matt Reis
Reis was a critical component in the Revolution’s slump-busting victory over D.C. on Wednesday night, making key stops on Charlie Davies and Dwayne De Rosario while organizing his backline for 90 minutes. The 36-year-old netminder will likely need to be massive again on Saturday to help the Revs shut down a potent Rapids attack which has scored seven goals in its last two games.
“You can’t say enough about Reis – he’s the best in the league,” said McCarthy. “Our back four is really strong and they’re really starting to come together and communicate. That’s the main thing for a team is you have to be strong out of the back. I think we really showed well in the back last game and hopefully we can do the same thing (against Colorado).”
“For us, that’s the most important thing is trying to stay solid defensively,” said Reis. “We’ve done a fairly good job of it this year – a few lapses – but for the most part we’ve been really solid. So we just have to keep doing that and take care of our chances.”
Final Thoughts: Revs prepared to withstand early onslaught
The last time the Revolution visited Dick’s Sporting Goods Park on Sept. 18, 2010, Colorado forward Omar Cummings scored just five minutes into the game and the Rapids never looked back en route to a comprehensive 3-0 victory. With the Revs at the tail end of a two-game road trip which began in the brutal heat of Washington, D.C., on Wednesday night, Nicol is expecting a similarly eager approach from the Rapids this weekend.
“You know they’re going to start quick and try to push us back early on,” he said. “They’ll have seen what happened on Wednesday and they’ll be obviously trying to take advantage of that, but we have to stand up, be strong and fight against it.”