Preview: First-place Revolution to host D.C. United in top-of-the-table clash
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – The top two teams in the Eastern Conference will square off on Saturday night at Gillette Stadium when the first-place New England Revolution hosts second-place D.C. United.
The Revs (6-3-2, 20 pts.) can maintain their place atop the standings with a win or draw this weekend, while a loss would see United (5-3-3, 18 pts.) leapfrog the Revolution into first place.
Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m., with coverage on both Comcast SportsNet and 98.5 The Sports Hub.
Current Form: Revs and United enter the weekend as two of MLS’ hottest teams
Last weekend’s 5-3 victory over the Philadelphia Union was the Revolution’s second consecutive five-goal performance, marking just the third time in MLS history a team has scored as many as five goals in back-to-back games. The Revs have now won four straight for the first time since 2005, while their six-game unbeaten run (5-0-1) has lifted them into sole possession of first place in the East for the first time in more than five years.
The sizzling run of form has confidence flowing through the Revolution locker room, but players and coaches are being cautious not to get too far ahead of themselves, keeping their focus on the task at hand.
“It’s so early in the season that talks about being top of the East don’t really mean anything at this point,” said Teal Bunbury, who has two goals and a team-leading three assists. “It’s great for our fans and it’s great for our confidence that we’re doing well and getting wins, but we take it a game at a time. Playoffs are still a long ways away, but our mindset, our competitiveness and just our enjoyment out there is showing a lot.”
Throughout New England’s surge up the table, D.C. has managed to keep pace with its own fine run of form. Since starting the season 0-2-1, Ben Olsen’s revamped side has found its stride while putting together a 5-1-2 stretch through the last eight games, climbing to second place in the East, just two points back of the Revs.
“It’s a good group of veteran guys that know how to win in this league,” said Revs head coach Jay Heaps. “You look at their resumes and they’re pretty impressive. So the way we look at it, we have to match what they’re doing. They have some pretty good pieces in (Fabian) Espindola and Eddie Johnson. When he’s firing, (they’re) very difficult to defend.”
Past Meetings: Revs’ current unbeaten run began following loss to United in early April
The Revs haven’t tasted defeat since April 5, when they suffered a frustrating 2-0 loss to D.C. United at RFK Stadium. That was also the last time the once goal-shy Revs were shut out; they’ve outscored opponents 17-5 since that night in Our Nation’s Capital.
In recent weeks the Revs have avenged early-season losses to both the Houston Dynamo and Philadelphia Union by winning the rematches in convincing fashion. They’ll have the chance to make it three-for-three on that front this weekend when United comes to town.
Injury Report: Goncalves on the verge of return; Shuttleworth and Alston both questionable
Sidelined for the past five games with a right quad strain, Jose Goncalves could be available for selection this weekend after the reigning MLS Defender of the Year returned to full training in recent days. New England’s captain has had to remain patient throughout a lengthy recovery process, but while speaking with media earlier this week, Goncalves declared himself fit and ready to contribute.
The Revs could also regain the services of goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth, who has been upgraded to questionable after missing last weekend’s win over Philly with a concussion. The same goes for fullback Kevin Alston, who has worked his way back into training after missing two games with a hamstring injury.
D.C. remains without the injured Chris Pontius – who underwent hamstring surgery in April – but Ben Olsen will once again have Eddie Johnson at his disposal after the talented forward served a one-game suspension during Wednesday night’s 2-0 win over the Dynamo.
Final Thoughts: Revs proud of unblemished defensive record at Gillette Stadium
“Something we take pride in is not giving goals up at home, and that usually translates to winning, especially with the way our attack’s going,” said center back A.J. Soares. “That was something we wanted to do coming off of last season was improve our home-field form. We were great on the road last year and we were pretty good at home, but we weren’t good enough at home. So this year, that’s something we’re working on.”