Playoff race returns to Foxborough as Revs prepare to host rival D.C. United
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – The New England Revolution could climb back into playoff position this weekend when Eastern Conference rival D.C. United visits Gillette Stadium for a crucial Saturday night showdown.
Kickoff between the Revs (10-11-7, 37 pts.) and United (3-19-6, 15 pts.) is set for 7:30 p.m., with both Comcast SportsNet and 98.5 The Sports Hub covering the action.
Current Form: Back-to-back home games offer chance to rebound after pair of frustrating losses
The Revs were on the wrong end of two incorrect offside decisions in last weekend’s 3-2 loss to the Chicago Fire, but ultimately laid blame on themselves for a trio of defensive lapses which allowed the Fire to escape with all three points and vault ahead of the Revs in the Eastern Conference standings.
“All 11 players were in a position to make plays on – quite frankly – all three goals,” said head coach Jay Heaps. “We need to make plays. Not just center backs. Not just outside backs. Forwards need to defend, midfielders and keepers (need to defend). There are 11 guys on the field that can make a play. Unfortunately, on three occasions, we didn’t do it.”
The loss dropped New England into seventh place in the Eastern Conference on 37 points, but with six games remaining in the regular season, the Revs are well within striking distance of the Fire (39 pts.), Philadelphia Union (39 pts.) and Houston Dynamo (40 pts.).
D.C. United has been officially eliminated from playoff contention, but still has its sights set on the upcoming U.S. Open Cup final against Real Salt Lake on Oct. 1. In the meantime, Ben Olsen’s side will look to play the role of spoiler, which it did as recently as last weekend in a 2-2 draw with the LA Galaxy.
United enters this weekend winless in six (0-4-2) and remains the only team in MLS without a road win this season (0-11-3), but after playing the role of spoiler themselves in years past, the Revs know to still be wary of a team in such a position.
“It’s a rival, so it’s going to be a big game no matter where it is, no matter who’s in the running or not,” said Kelyn Rowe, who now has five goals in his past five games after striking from distance against Chicago. “They’re a good team that hasn’t had a good season and so for us, we have to punish them early and not let the throttle down.”
Past Meetings: Revs snapped four-game winless run against D.C. with victory in July
Second-half goals from Dimitry Imbongo and Diego Fagundez helped the Revs come from behind to claim a 2-1 win over United on July 27 at RFK Stadium. That came on the heels of a 0-0 draw between the sides back in early June at Gillette Stadium.
These two teams also met in an Open Cup quarterfinal at Maryland SoccerPlex on June 26, with D.C. emerging with a 3-1 victory en route to eventually claiming a spot in October’s title game.
Injury Report: Reis available to return from suspension; Agudelo back in the mix
Veteran goalkeeper Matt Reis is available for selection against D.C. after serving a one-game suspension last weekend, but Heaps said his staff will wait until later in the week to make a decision on who’ll start between Reis and Bobby Shuttleworth.
“I think we have two starting keepers and we have to make a decision based upon what’s going to be best for us on Saturday,” said Heaps.
New England will take a similar wait-and-see approach with Juan Agudelo, who returned from a hamstring strain to make a 19-minute appearance off the bench in Chicago. The dynamic forward hasn’t quite reached full strength in his recovery, prompting the Revs to take a cautious approach.
“With Juan, he’s so close to being fully fit, but at the same time, we have to manage the minutes the right way,” said Heaps. “We don’t want to overuse him coming back from an injury.”
D.C. has dealt with injury concerns all year but is nearing full health as the season winds to a close. Of note, 2012 Best XI selection Chris Pontius – limited to just 17 appearances this year – made his first start since July 7 in last weekend’s draw with the Galaxy, scoring D.C.’s opening goal in the first half.
Final Thoughts: Three points vital as Revs look to push forward in playoff race
“Especially after the past three games not getting as many points as we want, every game we need three points,” said Rowe. “We want to make this playoff run. Everyone wants it, everyone feels it. Three points – at home especially – is something we should take every game.”