FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Revitalized following a club-record 17-day break between games, the New England Revolution finally returns to action on Wednesday, Sept. 7, when the club makes the short trip to Chester, Pa., for an Eastern Conference showdown with the Philadelphia Union.
Kickoff from PPL Park between the Revs (4-11-11, 23 pts.) and Union (8-7-10, 34 pts.) is set for 8 p.m. The match will be televised live in high definition on Comcast SportsNet New England and nationally in Spanish on Galavision, while 98.5 The Sports Hub will handle the call on the radio.
Wednesday night’s match was originally scheduled for Sunday, Aug. 28, but was postponed because of Hurricane Irene’s effects on the East Coast.
Current Form: Both sides looking to put an end to extensive winless runs
Prior to their 17-day hiatus from competitive action, the Revs suffered through a pair of forgettable finishes in a four-day span at Gillette Stadium.
Bobby Boswell secured a 90th-minute equalizer to cancel out Ryan Cochrane’s early goal in a frustrating 1-1 draw with the Houston Dynamo on Aug. 17, while just a few days later Dane Richards scored twice in the second half – including the game-tying strike in the 87th minute – to erase Milton Caraglio’s two-goal effort in a 2-2 draw with the New York Red Bulls. The pair of draws left the Revolution winless (0-2-4) in its last six games and nine points out of the final playoff spot with eight games remaining.
“Obviously we want to do better as far as results and as far as playing,” said head coach Steve Nicol. “We want to be playing better. I don’t think recently we’ve been too bad. We’ve made plenty of chances, we’ve certainly scored some goals, but the biggest problem is we haven’t been able to keep them out.”
Philadelphia is on a similar six-game winless run (0-3-3), having failed to register three points since claiming a 3-0 win over the Revs on July 17 at Gillette Stadium. On top of the Eastern Conference when the club visited Foxborough back in mid-July, the Union has slipped to fourth place and is currently clinging to one of the final wildcard playoff spots.
Peter Nowak’s side most recently suffered a 2-1 loss to Real Salt Lake this past weekend at Rio Tinto Stadium, meaning the Union made the near cross-country trek back from Utah on Sunday.
Past Meetings: New England winless in three tries against Philadelphia
Carlos Ruiz, Carlos Valdes and Sheanon Williams each scored a single goal to lift the Union to a convincing 3-0 win over the Revs on July 17 at Gillette Stadium, maintaining Philadelphia’s unbeaten record (2-0-1) against New England since joining the league as an expansion team last season.
“We saw that they have a very good team,” said Revolution forward Rajko Lekic. “If we are making too many mistakes, they are going to punish them, so we have to keep the mistakes down.”
The Union used a pair of late goals to secure a 2-1 win in Foxborough last August, while the only previous meeting at PPL Park – on July 31, 2010 – resulted in a 1-1 draw when Marko Perovic’s 70th-minute goal salvaged a point for the visiting Revolution.
Injury Report: Extended break allows banged up Revs to heal; Union GK Mondragon sidelined
Hurricane Irene served as a blessing in disguise for many of the Revolution’s injury victims, as those carrying slight knocks were given a lengthy spell of recovery time.
“It’s important – we play so long – to take some time off and really use that time to give yourself a mental break, and also give yourself a physical break,” said goalkeeper Matt Reis. “So after you’ve taken a mental and a physical break, then you come back out and you exert yourself on the practice field, and hopefully you get ready for the game.”
Reis (L knee irritation) is one of four players currently listed as probable who benefited from the break, along with Caraglio (L groin strain), Kevin Alston (L hamstring irritation) and Franco Coria (L knee MCL sprain). All four are expected to be available for selection on Wednesday night, as is Kheli Dube (whiplash), who hasn’t appeared in a first team game since May 14 but played 45 minutes in last Friday’s reserve win over Toronto FC.
Still out for New England is midfielder Sainey Nyassi (R knee MCL sprain), while Stephen McCarthy (L shoulder subluxation) was listed as questionable on last Friday’s injury report. Although not injured, Kenny Mansally will be unavailable while serving a one-game suspension after being red carded in the 2-2 draw with New York.
As for Philadelphia, much attention will be paid to the goalkeeper position, as 2011 MLS All-Star Faryd Mondragon suffered a finger injury this past weekend against RSL and will subsequently miss Wednesday night’s game. Mondragon has started all 25 of Philadelphia’s matches this season and will likely be replaced by rookie Zac MacMath, who made three saves while keeping RSL off the board in a 45-minute substitute appearance last weekend.
Key Player: Revolution midfielder Monsef Zerka
Another Revolution player who greatly benefited from the postponement of this match is new signing Monsef Zerka, who was provided the luxury of an extra five training sessions with his new teammates before embarking upon his first road trip.
Zerka also had the chance to enhance his match fitness in last Friday’s reserve game against Toronto FC, in which the 30-year-old put in a 73-minute shift on the right wing. The veteran of France’s Ligue 1 will likely be expected to provide immediate help in a wide midfield role, while his experience will be counted on throughout the stretch run.
Final Thoughts: Breaking down organized Union squad the goal for New England
“They’re a tough team,” defender Darrius Barnes said of Philadelphia. “They’re organized. They’re not going to dazzle you with anything technical or anything like that, but they’re just a great team, an organized team. They move the ball well and they take their chances when they’re given to them.
“So we have to, as a defense, just go in and try to eliminate their chances,” he concluded. “Also, (we have to) hold onto the ball a little bit better than we did when we played [at home]. We came out flat [at home] for one reason or another and they jumped on us early, and that’s something we can’t afford to do when we go to Philly.”