FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Back on the road for a third straight time the New England Revolution returns to action on Sunday, July 29, when the club visits the Philadelphia Union for an Eastern Conference clash at PPL Park.
NBC Sports Network will televise the game nationally with the Revs (6-9-5, 23 pts.) and Union (6-10-2, 20 pts.) set to get underway at 7 p.m. The radio call will be carried by 98.5 The Sports Hub.
Current Form: Hard-fought draw gives Revs needed boost; Hackworth guides resurgent Union
The Revs got back to basics last weekend at Livestrong Sporting Park, focusing on resolute defending to snap a brief two-game losing skid with a 0-0 draw against Sporting Kansas City. It was the first time the Revolution kept a clean sheet away from home this season and the defensive performance serves as a building block heading into the final three months of the schedule.
“It was huge,” Shalrie Joseph said of the shutout in Kansas City. “I think we’d lost our way a little bit in terms of defensive shape and what we wanted to do all season defensively. The last couple games we’d been struggling, giving up soft and weak goals. To go into KC and come out with a 0-0 result was huge for our confidence, huge for our building and huge for our character trying to move forward against Philly this weekend.”
The Union had a three-game winning streak snapped last weekend at Red Bull Arena, suffering a 2-0 loss to the New York Red Bulls. Despite the setback, Philadelphia is still above the .500 mark (4-3-0) under interim head coach John Hackworth, who took over in mid-June when the club parted ways with Peter Nowak following a 2-7-2 start to the season.
Past Meetings: Revs yet to beat Union in four previous tries
Philadelphia has held the upper hand over New England since the Union entered Major League Soccer as an expansion team in 2010, as the Revs are winless (0-2-2) in four previous meetings. Oddly, the Revs have lost both meetings at Gillette Stadium while picking up a pair of draws in their only trips to PPL Park.
The Revs had a glorious chance to register their first win over the Union in the clubs’ most recent meeting last September in Chester, Pa., building a 4-1 lead before the halftime break. Philadelphia stormed back in the second half, however, scoring three unanswered goals to finish out a memorable 4-4 draw.
Injury Report: Feilhaber, Simms on the mend; Soumare still waiting to make Union debut
Both Clyde Simms and Benny Feilhaber spent parts of this week recovering from injury – Simms missed last weekend’s draw in Kansas City with calf tightness, while Feilhaber suffered a sprained ankle in that match – but the duo trained full on Friday and the Revs are hopeful the midfield pair will be available for selection on Sunday night at PPL Park.
“With Clyde we want to be cautious, but he was out here today and I think he looks pretty good,” head coach Jay Heaps said after Friday’s training session. “This week Benny’s been progressing more, so today we knew he was going to be full after yesterday. He was good yesterday. So each day we can get those guys into training is better for our group.”
On the official injury report Simms is listed as probable, while Feilhaber is questionable along with Darrius Barnes (L adductor strain), Diego Fagundez (L ankle sprain) and Bobby Shuttleworth (L knee sprain).
Philadelphia is still waiting on the debut of imposing center back Bakary Soumare, who joined the Union back on June 26 after Philly acquired Vancouver Whitecaps FC’s top spot in the allocation order and selected the former MLS Defender of the Year finalist. Soumare, who earned MLS Best XI and MLS All-Star nods during a two-year stint with the Chicago Fire in 2008 and 2009, is listed as questionable with a right knee injury.
Key Player: Revolution midfielder Benny Feilhaber
Recent weeks have seen Feilhaber drop into a more deep-lying role in the Revolution’s central midfield, shouldering a hefty dose of defensive responsibilities on top of his usual playmaking duties. Last week at Livestrong Sporting Park Feilhaber gritted his way through that injured ankle for the final half-hour and helped shut down Sporting KC’s high-powered attack in the closing stages.
“Last game Benny did so much for us defensively and really put the work in,” said Heaps. “For me, it was a very admirable game from him because the last play of the game he hobbled down and kicked the ball out of bounds when [Sporting KC] was on a break – that shows you the kind of grit and how much he wanted that game. Benny’s a key cog to us and an important player, so we have to make sure that he’s healthy.”
Final Thoughts: Last year’s second-half collapse at PPL Park a distant memory
“I think my mantra has stayed pretty solid that we don’t want to compare anything from this year to last year,” said Heaps when asked about last year’s 4-4 draw at PPL Park. “I think we’re a completely different group, a different mentality, different players in different positions. Going into this game I think both teams know it’s a pretty important match in the standings and where we finish in the season. We have a lot of season left, but the Eastern Conference is so heavily weighted right now, every game means so much.”