SANDY, Utah – The New England Revolution will kick off the second half of its 2011 regular-season schedule on Monday, July 4, when the club visits Real Salt Lake for a special Independence Day showdown at Rio Tinto Stadium.
The Revs (3-8-6, 15 pts.) and RSL (7-3-5, 26 pts.) will get underway at 8:30 p.m. ET and the action will be televised live nationally on ESPN2, while the radio call will be available locally on 98.5 The Sports Hub.
Current Form: New England aims to snap winless skid; RSL moving past Champions League loss
Despite putting together the type of gritty road performance which normally garners points in Major League Soccer, the Revs suffered a 2-1 loss to Seattle Sounders FC last weekend at CenturyLink Field. The setback extended the Revolution’s winless run to seven games (0-5-2) in league action and kept the club without a victory in eight attempts (0-6-2) on the road this season.
“We’re not far off, but at the same time, it’s just taking those few chances,” said Chris Tierney, who missed the Seattle loss with a left foot contusion but has returned to full health ahead of Monday’s meeting with RSL. “Seattle took two of the chances they made and we took one. We had other chances to score and I don’t think we were outplayed out there.
“I think a bunch of games on the road this year, we’ve been in the game,” he continued. “It’s just getting that lucky break here and there or scoring when we make the chances.”
Real Salt Lake opened its 2011 campaign with four straight wins, but the 2009 MLS Cup champions have leveled out since suffering a heartbreaking loss to Mexican club Monterrey in the CONCACAF Champions League final back in late April. The Claret-and-Cobalt is 3-3-5 in its last 11 league games, but Jason Kreis’ side has made itself a formidable foe by conceding a league-low nine goals through 15 matches.
Past Meetings: Revs hope to exorcise their Rio Tinto Stadium demons
Defender Chris Schuler scored the first goal of his MLS career and Paulo Jr. added an insurance strike early in the second half as RSL claimed a 2-0 win over the Revs on April 9 at Gillette Stadium, but it’s memories of New England’s two previous visits to Rio Tinto Stadium which will be discussed so prominently on Monday.
The Revolution has suffered two of the heaviest defeats in club history at the foot of the Wasatch Mountains – a 6-0 setback in 2009 and a 5-0 loss in 2010 – and the lingering sting of those results could provide motivation this time around.
“You certainly remember,” said head coach Steve Nicol. “But what it should do – if you’re any sort of professional – is it should motivate you to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
Injury Report: Tierney back in the fold for New England; Morales missing for Salt Lake
Tierney has recovered from the left foot injury which he suffered on June 18 against the Chicago Fire and has subsequently been removed from the Revolution’s injury list. According to the fourth-year midfielder, his absence last weekend in Seattle was more precautionary than anything else.
“I feel good,” Tierney said after training earlier this week in Foxborough. “It just needed some time to calm down. I think had it been a playoff game, I would’ve been able to play last weekend, but I just wanted to be smart with it and make sure I’m ready to go this week.”
Both Ousmane Dabo (R quad strain) and Didier Domi (R Achilles tendonitis) are questionable ahead of Monday’s match, while Stephen McCarthy (L shoulder subluxation) won’t participate despite being upgraded to probable on the latest injury report.
Javier Morales is a long-term injury victim for Real Salt Lake after suffering a dislocated left ankle earlier this season, while Arturo Alvarez (R hamstring strain) and Paulo Jr. (L hamstring strain) are both doubtful, and Fabian Espindola (L hamstring strain) and Chris Wingert (R hamstring strain) are questionable.
Key Players: Revolution central defenders Ryan Cochrane and A.J. Soares
With the Revolution struggling to score in the first half of the season – the club has scored multiple goals just twice through 17 games – the performance of the club’s backline will be critical as it attempts to snap out of its current slump.
Central defenders Ryan Cochrane and A.J. Soares have anchored New England’s back four through much of the season, and especially against a potent RSL attack, the duo will need to be sharp for 90 minutes at Rio Tinto Stadium.
“The longer we can keep them off the board and not give them too many chances, the better chance we have of getting a point or maybe even three,” said midfielder Benny Feilhaber.
Final Thoughts: Revs wary of Real Salt Lake’s ability, first and foremost
Many experts have hypothesized as to the formula behind Real Salt Lake’s stunning home success since opening Rio Tinto Stadium in October 2008. RSL has suffered just one loss in its last 33 regular-season home games, and endless explanations – the altitude being the primary fallback – have been given to justify those results.
But external factors fail to account for the simple fact that Real Salt Lake has created its own success through its performances on the field.
“It’s a hard place to play, period,” said captain Shalrie Joseph, who is one of only five current Revs players to have featured in both previous matches at Rio Tinto Stadium. “They’re a good possessive team. They move the ball well and that’s what they’ve been doing.”