FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – After going unbeaten away from home in the month of July, the New England Revolution returns to the road this weekend as the club prepares to visit the Columbus Crew on Saturday, Aug. 13 at Crew Stadium.
Kickoff between the Revs (4-10-9, 21 pts.) and conference-leading Crew (9-7-7, 34 pts.) is set for 7:30 p.m. and the match will 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 aiming to rebound from streak-busting losses
The Revs saw their modest three-game unbeaten run come to an end last weekend at Gillette Stadium, as Alejandro Moreno sandwiched a pair of goals around a Nick LaBrocca strike to lift Chivas USA to a 3-2 victory.
Despite the loss, there were promising developments for the Revolution, which debuted both 22-year-old Designated Player Milton Caraglio and 16-year-old Home Grown Player Diego Fagundez. While Caraglio was the early storyline, Fagundez stole the show in a 24-minute substitute performance, drawing a penalty kick – which was converted by Shalrie Joseph – and scoring a goal himself to cap a memorable debut.
The loss dropped the Revolution’s home record to 3-4-4 on the season, although the club has altered its fortunes away from home in recent weeks. After starting the campaign winless (0-6-2) in their first eight road games, the Revs are unbeaten (1-0-3) in their last four trips away from Gillette Stadium.
Columbus had won back-to-back games before suffering a 2-0 loss to the Colorado Rapids last Friday night at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park. Even with the loss, the Crew remains on top of the Eastern Conference standings, one point ahead of the Philadelphia Union.
Key to Columbus’ success this season has been the club’s home form, as the Crew has one of Major League Soccer’s best home records at 6-1-4.
Past Meetings: Revs and Crew set to battle for first time in 2011[inline_node:437176]
Entering this weekend, the Crew is the only MLS club which the Revolution hasn’t faced yet in 2011. The teams will meet again in the Revolution’s regular-season home finale on Oct. 15 at Gillette Stadium.
While the Revs and Crew haven’t met in the 2011 regular season, the clubs did square off in a pair of preseason matches back in March. New England claimed a 2-1 win over Columbus in the first meeting on March 6 in Chattanooga, Tenn., while the Crew gained a measure of revenge with a 3-1 win just three days later in Kennesaw, Ga.
The Revs have won just once (1-4-1) in their past six league meetings with the Crew, although that victory did come at Crew Stadium to clinch a playoff spot in the final game of the 2009 season.
Injury Report: Lekic expected to miss 2-4 weeks; Crew banged up entering this weekend
While the Revs have brought in one forward in Caraglio, they’ve temporarily lost another as Danish striker Rajko Lekic is expected to miss 2-4 weeks while recovering from a fractured big toe on his right foot. Lekic started 17 straight games before missing last weekend’s loss to Chivas USA with the injury.
Also missing for New England will be central defender Franco Coria (L MCL sprain) and forward Kheli Dube (whiplash).
Columbus currently boasts one of MLS’ longest injury lists, with 10 players on its most recent report. Most notable amongst the injured for the Crew is midfielder Eddie Gaven, who has started all 23 games for Columbus this season but is expected to miss his first action this weekend with a right leg injury.
Midfielder Tony Tchani (R knee inflammation) and defender Shaun Francis (L adductor strain) are also out for Columbus, while defender Rich Balchan (L adductor strain) is doubtful and forwards Jeff Cunningham (R knee inflammation) and Emilio Renteria (L quad strain) are questionable.
Although not listed on the most recent injury report, midfielder Robbie Rogers mentioned on his Twitter account that he picked up an ankle injury while on duty with the U.S. National Team in a midweek friendly against Mexico.
Key Player: Revolution central defender A.J. Soares
A.J. Soares’ absence on the Revolution’s backline was noticeable in last weekend’s loss to Chivas USA, as the Revs conceded three sloppy goals despite controlling the run of play. The rookie defender will return to the lineup this weekend in Columbus after serving his one-game suspension and looks set to partner either Darrius Barnes or Ryan Cochrane in central defense.
“A.J.’s been a bit of a mainstay on the backline and for good reason,” said head coach Steve Nicol. “He’s always been the one guy who’s been there constant. So it’s important that he’s playing again. It’s his first season and the more he’s playing, the more experience he’s getting and the better he’s getting. So hopefully that continues.”
Final Thoughts: Revs expecting battle with “solid” Crew side
While the Crew hasn’t gone on any blistering runs through the 2011 season, Robert Warzycha’s side has steadily climbed its way to the top of the Eastern Conference standings. It’s that measured, consistent approach which the Revs expect to see from their opponents on Saturday night.
“The thing about Columbus I’ve learned over the years is they’re really a steady team,” said Cochrane. “They’re consistent. I don’t think – if I remember correctly – that they go on super hot runs, but they also don’t get in these kind of slumps throughout the season. They’re a steady team with consistent play so we expect a good game from them.”
“They’re real solid,” added Nicol. “They’ve got a wee bit of everything. They’ve got a wee bit of pace. They’ve certainly got strength, plenty of strength. They’re a big team. They don’t make an awful lot of mistakes, and if you do make them, then they’ve got players capable of punishing you. So we have to be really solid and make sure we don’t give too much away.”