SAN JOSE, Calif. – After opening the month of May with back-to-back shutouts at Gillette Stadium, the New England Revolution looks to continue its solid defensive form on the road against the San Jose Earthquakes on Saturday, May 21, at Buck Shaw Stadium.
The Revs (3-3-4, 13 pts.) and Earthquakes (2-4-3, 9 pts.) are scheduled to get underway at 10:30 p.m. ET and 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 sides secured shutout victories at home last weekend
Since conceding a season-high three goals to Chivas USA in a forgettable loss at The Home Depot Center on April 30, the Revs have tightened up their rearguard in a major way en route to consecutive clean sheets against the Colorado Rapids and Vancouver Whitecaps. The steady central defensive pairing of Ryan Cochrane and A.J. Soares has been critical in the turnaround, while veteran goalkeeper Matt Reis continues to provide stability at the back as the Revolution has racked up a 212-minute shutout streak.
While the Revs were similarly stifled in a 0-0 draw with the Rapids on May 7, captain Shalrie Joseph converted from the penalty spot last weekend to hand the Revs a crucial 1-0 victory over the Whitecaps.
“We didn’t play the best football, but there are a lot of positives we can take from that game,” Soares said of the win over Vancouver. “We battled, we won tackles and we won headers. Those are important things; (just) as important as passing the ball around.”
San Jose is a confident side after dismantling the previously stingy Columbus Crew by a score of 3-0 last weekend at Buck Shaw Stadium. MLS’ 2010 Golden Boot winner Chris Wondolowski scored for the third time in the last four games as the Earthquakes became the last team in the league (besides Sporting Kansas City, which has yet to play a home game) to claim three points at home.
Past Meetings: Revolution’s recent history with Earthquakes has been mixed
It’s been tough to gauge the series between the Revs and Earthquakes since San Jose rejoined the league as an expansion team four years ago.
The clubs split a pair of meetings in 2008 – each side winning at home – before the Revs swept the series with two wins the following season. San Jose turned the tables in 2010, however, claiming a 2-0 victory at Buck Shaw Stadium in mid-April before clawing its way to a 0-0 draw in Foxborough just four weeks later.
“[San Jose’s] always a tough place to go and play for a whole host of reasons,” said head coach Steve Nicol. “We have to make sure that we’re up for it and ready to go.”
Injury Report: Dabo, Domi and Perovic remain unavailable for Revs; Dawkins missing for San Jose
For the second straight week, injuries mean the Revs will be without the services of Ousmane Dabo (R adductor strain), Didier Domi (L quad strain) and Marko Perovic (L knee sprain). Domi returned to training earlier this week but remained in Foxborough to continue his recovery, while Dabo is hopeful of returning to fitness ahead of next weekend’s meeting with the LA Galaxy. The club is currently in wait-and-see mode with regards to Perovic’s knee injury, which has sidelined him since late April.
“There’s swelling, so we’re waiting on that going down and then we’ll have a better idea exactly what’s going on,” said Nicol. “He’s somebody we obviously want to get back, but we’ll see.”
As for San Jose, young Englishman Simon Dawkins has stormed onto the scene in his first MLS season, scoring twice in his first four appearances with the Earthquakes. A calf injury has sidelined him in recent weeks, however, and the 23-year-old won’t be available on Saturday night. Dawkins will be joined on the sidelines by the injured Andre Luiz (L knee) and Tim Ward (R hamstring strain), and the suspended Brandon McDonald.
Key Player: Revolution right back Kevin Alston
In the wake of the Revolution’s recent defensive resurgence, much attention has been paid to the Cochrane-Soares center back pairing and the admirable performances of Darrius Barnes and Chris Tierney as stand-in left backs in the absence of the injured Domi.
But perhaps the steadiest presence on the backline has been right back Kevin Alston, who has appeared in nine straight games since missing the season opener with a left hamstring strain. Alston has come into his own during his third year in MLS and is continuing to build upon a sophomore season which saw him earn his first All-Star nod.
“I don’t think there are many guys in the league who want to play against him,” Nicol said of Alston. “Defensively, he’s been sound, and if you’re playing right back, your first job is to defend.”
Final Thoughts: Searching for three points on the West Coast
Last weekend, Chivas USA became the first team to cross three time zones and earn a victory in 2011 when the Goats claimed a surprising 3-2 win over the New York Red Bulls. The result snapped a 26-game streak to start the season in which coastal MLS teams were winless (0-14-12) when crossing the country.
On their fourth West Coast road trip of the season, the Revs will be aiming to become the first East Coast team to claim three points in the Pacific Time Zone when they visit the Earthquakes on Saturday night.
“The most difficult thing is you’re playing away from home,” Nicol said of the cross-country hex. “When you’re doing that, you have the crowd against you and obviously the home team is pushing just because that’s the way it happens.
“I guess if you put the travel on top of that, it makes it doubly difficult,” he continued. “But the biggest problem is that you’re playing away from home, and it’s hard to win away from home whether it’s in New York, San Jose, LA or wherever.”