FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Returning to the field after a two-week layoff, the New England Revolution hosts a pivotal Eastern Conference showdown with the Columbus Crew on Saturday night at Gillette Stadium.
Kickoff between the Revs (5-7-1, 16 pts.) and Crew (5-4-3, 18 pts.) is set for 7:30 p.m., and the match will be televised live in high definition on Comcast SportsNet New England, while 98.5 The Sports Hub will have the radio call.
Current Form: Both teams aim to continue climbing in the Eastern Conference
Benny Feilhaber and Kelyn Rowe combined on a pair of late goals to lift the Revs to a 2-0 victory in their most recent match back on June 2 against the Chicago Fire. It was the Revolution’s fourth win in six attempts at Gillette Stadium and despite being off last weekend the Revs hope to carry the momentum from their win over Chicago into Saturday night’s meeting with Columbus.
“We’ve had those two weeks off but they’ve been a good two weeks because of the win,” said Feilhaber. “We haven’t been sulking about any loss or draw that should’ve been three points, so we’re all happy about what we’ve done in the last two weeks. We’ve come in to work hard the last two weeks and we’ve been preparing. I think the momentum will be there in this game.”
The Crew has a bit of momentum itself after going unbeaten (3-0-2) in the month of May to climb from eighth place into a tie for fourth in the Eastern Conference standings. Perhaps most impressive has been Columbus’ road form during that span, picking up draws at Portland and San Jose before claiming the full three points at Seattle’s CenturyLink Field.
Past Meetings: Crew an unwelcome visitor to Gillette Stadium in recent years
In their last match the Revs ended a 10-game winless run against the Fire; now they’ll be looking to stop a similar drought on Saturday night against the Crew.
The Revs haven’t beaten Columbus at home since Oct. 14, 2006, as the Crew has managed four wins and two draws in its past six visits to Foxborough. Since then New England has managed a pair of 1-0 wins in the series – one each in 2008 and 2009 – but both victories came at Columbus Crew Stadium.
Injury Report: Simms upgraded to questionable; Columbus dealing with major injury bug
Revolution midfielder Clyde Simms has missed the past three games with left ankle tendonitis, but the influential 29-year-old is nearing a return and was upgraded to questionable on Friday’s injury report. Simms was well served by the recent break in the schedule and used the time to work his way back into training, but head coach Jay Heaps is still cautious about rushing Simms back too soon.
“(He’s) moving along,” Heaps said of Simms. “We have to make sure we monitor his reps in training, but again, he’s someone we want to see available very soon.”
Speedy winger Sainey Nyassi could also be available very soon as he recovers from the right hamstring strain which his kept him out of action since February. Nyassi – who is listed as questionable on the injury report – played 34 minutes in last weekend’s reserve match against Columbus and is expected to see more time in a rematch with the Crew reserves on Sunday.
Perhaps no team in the league has been bitten as badly by the injury bug as the Crew, which will be missing no fewer than seven players – and potentially more – on Saturday night. Top choice goalkeeper William Hesmer (R hip surgery) and reserve forward Tommy Heinemann (L knee surgery) have both been lost for the season, while Chad Marshall (concussion), Kirk Urso (R adductor tendonitis), Danny O’Rourke (L ankle sprain), Rich Balchan (sports hernia rehab) and Dilly Duka (L hamstring strain) are all sidelined as well.
To compound the Crew’s injury situation, defenders Shaun Francis (R ankle sprain), Julius James (lower back strain) and Carlos Mendes (R foot contusion) are all questionable, as is forward Aaron Schoenfeld (R plantar fascia rupture).
Key Player: Revolution forward Saer Sene
Saer Sene saw his three-game goal-scoring streak come to an end in the Revolution’s 2-0 win over the Fire, but the French striker is still tied for fourth on the league’s scoring chart with a team-leading seven goals. The Revs could need Sene to display his lethal finishing skills against the Crew, which has conceded just three goals during its current five-game unbeaten run.
Final Thoughts: Revs prepared for the unexpected against Columbus
“Every game presents its own challenge in this league,” said left back Chris Tierney. “Games rarely play out the way you think they will, so we just have to be ready to react to what the game brings. Whether that means we have to defend for a while or match them physically or get the ball down and play, you don’t really know until you get out there. Each game presents its own test and hopefully we’ll be up for whatever challenges are presented on Saturday.”