FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – There are few MLS teams more familiar with the difficulties of life on the road than the New England Revolution.
The Revs managed just one win away from home last season – a 1-0 victory over D.C. United at RFK Stadium – and they’ve kicked off the 2012 campaign with back-to-back road losses to the San Jose Earthquakes and Sporting Kansas City. Dating back to April 2010, the Revs have won just two of their last 32 regular-season games away from Gillette Stadium.
Those struggles on the road make the Revolution’s home form all the more important. Last year the Revs were one of just three teams in the league with a losing home record and head coach Jay Heaps is adamant that must change beginning with Saturday afternoon’s 2012 home opener against the Portland Timbers.
“Make no mistake about it, when we draw up where we want to be as a team and what kind of goals we have as a group, establishing a home dominance is important,” he said. “Establishing ways to get points at home is crucial to a team and it’s crucial to us.”
The importance of collecting maximum points at home was evident throughout the league last season, particularly in the Eastern Conference. Amongst the five playoff qualifiers in the East – Sporting KC, Houston, Philadelphia, Columbus and New York – the clubs secured an average of 15.4 more points at home than on the road. Top amongst that group was Houston, which earned 19 more points at home (34) than on the road (15).
Reaching the postseason hinged on home form last season, as eight of the 10 clubs which qualified for the playoffs had losing road records in the regular season. Conversely, eight of the 10 playoff qualifiers suffered just three or fewer home losses all season.
“We want to win every home game,” said center back A.J. Soares. “We don’t want to give any points away at home. Obviously you want to win on the road, too, but [Gillette Stadium] is definitely a place that we want to make where people come and they say, ‘We’re at Gillette, it’s going to be a tough game to win.’”
“It’s crucial to take as many points as you can at home with your own fans behind you on your own turf,” left back Chris Tierney added. “That’s the plan and we’re going to come out, attack and look to score goals and win.”
Saturday’s home opener against Portland takes on added significance for a Revolution side still searching for its first goal and win of the 2012 season. New England’s next two matches will take the club back on the road to face the LA Galaxy and FC Dallas, so getting off the mark at home against the Timbers is vital ahead of two more difficult road games.
“The way the schedule’s set up, a lot of times early in the year when you’re a Northeast team, the odds are really against you,” said Heaps. “You’ve got to take your shots when you can. You can’t leave anything on the table when you have the opportunity to get [points].”