FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – The New England Revolution aims to extend its league-leading unbeaten streak to six games on Saturday night when the club hosts Eastern Conference foe Toronto FC in the finale of a three-game home-stand.
Kickoff from Gillette Stadium between the Revs (6-7-4, 22 pts.) and TFC (3-11-4, 13 pts.) is set for 7:30 p.m. Comcast SportsNet New England will televise the game regionally, while 98.5 The Sports Hub will have the radio call.
Current Form: Revs’ league-best unbeaten streak hits five; TFC rejuvenated under Mariner
Lee Nguyen and Jerry Bengtson scored either side of halftime and goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth notched a three-save shutout in his first start of the season as the Revs extended their unbeaten streak to five games (2-0-3) with a 2-0 win over the New York Red Bulls last Sunday night in Foxborough. It was the Revolution’s third clean sheet during the unbeaten run and the victory lifted New England to within three points of the final playoff spot in the East at the midway point of the season.
“That was, for us, not our best game,” head coach Jay Heaps admitted after the win over New York. “But we got the result. We’ve played far better at times and tied or lost. It wasn’t the prettiest game, but getting the result was huge.”
Toronto has been a changed team under new head coach Paul Mariner, picking up points in six of eight games (2-2-4) with Mariner at the helm after starting the season 1-9-0. The Reds found a bit of late-game magic on Wednesday night against Vancouver Whitecaps FC, conceding a stoppage-time equalizer before Terry Dunfield responded with a 95th-minute winner to lift TFC to a dramatic 3-2 victory.
Past Meetings: Tierney’s last-gasp equalizer secured 2-2 draw on June 23 at BMO Field
Revolution left back Chris Tierney scored with virtually the last kick of the game to complete a spectacular second-half comeback in a 2-2 draw on June 23 at BMO Field. Danny Koevermans and Ryan Johnson had given Toronto a 2-0 halftime lead, but Blake Brettschneider cut the deficit in half in the 71st minute to set the stage for Tierney’s late-game heroics.
Although that meeting took place just three weeks ago – the Revs have only played two matches since – Tierney says it will have little bearing on Saturday’s rematch.
“It’s a different game for us,” he said. “We’ll be confident in the way we played there. We had a good amount of the ball and used it pretty well in the second half, so we’ll try to carry that momentum over. But Toronto’s a changed team since Paul Mariner’s taken over. They’re well organized and they have guys who can hurt you. It’ll be a tough test for us and we’ll have to be at our best.”
Injury Report: Neither side dealing with major injuries entering the weekend
Shalrie Joseph fought through a left knee sprain to make a 17-minute appearance off the bench against the Red Bulls, but the Revolution captain has since returned to full health and was removed from the injury report ahead of this weekend. Colombian forward Jose Moreno remains on the list, however, still questionable as he recovers from a left ankle sprain.
There is no question about the availability of rookie midfielder Kelyn Rowe, who’s suspended for Saturday night’s match after the MLS Disciplinary Committee handed him a one-game ban related to an 87th-minute collision with New York goalkeeper Ryan Meara in last weekend’s win.
“We like Kelyn being in the fold,” said Heaps. “In the [New York] game he worked tirelessly up and down, up and down. The reason why I think we were so shocked at the decision was because it was an attacking play. It was a goal-scoring opportunity. Kelyn is trying to get there and at the last second the goalkeeper comes out. So not having Kelyn for a game like that is going to be hard.”
Toronto continues without goalkeeper Stefan Frei – lost long term with a broken left leg and torn ligaments in his left ankle – but otherwise TFC is relatively healthy with only Nicholas Lindsay (L knee surgery recovery), Ty Harden (R adductor strain) and Adrian Cann (R knee sprain) listed as questionable.
Key Player: Revolution center back A.J. Soares
Toronto has found its groove offensively since Mariner’s appointment, scoring 13 goals in the past seven games and hitting teams up for three goals on three separate occasions. Koevermans has been a big part of that revival, scoring in five straight games from June 20 to July 4. The hulking forward notched Toronto’s first goal in the 2-2 draw with the Revs on June 23 and proved a handful from start to finish, so Koevermans will likely draw special attention on Saturday night.
“Keying in on their key guys (is important), but (also) just knowing that their team is growing and they’re becoming better every day, so they’re not a team to take lightly by any means,” said center back A.J. Soares. “Hopefully [we’ll do] a better job than we did when we were up there.”
Final Thoughts: Ahead of road trip, Revs looking to maximize home-field advantage
“We’re confident at home,” said Tierney, who’s helped the Revs to a 5-1-3 record at Gillette Stadium. “We know that a lot of teams don’t want to come here which is a good thing. That’s the atmosphere we’re trying to create, making it a miserable place for opposing teams to come in and play and I think we’ve done that so far.”