FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Returning home for the first time in four weeks, the New England Revolution hosts the Philadelphia Union in an Eastern Conference clash on Saturday night at Gillette Stadium.
Kickoff between the Revs (1-3-2, 5 pts.) and Union (3-2-2, 11 pts.) is set for 7:30 p.m., with both Comcast SportsNet and 98.5 The Sports Hub’s HD2 channel carrying the action regionally.
The Revolution has a host of activities planned around Saturday’s game, which will be the club’s Autism Awareness game in partnership with Autism Speaks. It will also be the Revolution’s first home game since both the tragic events at the Boston Marathon and Kevin Alston’s leukemia diagnosis.
Current Form: Revs regroup after heavy loss in New York; Union unbeaten in three
A slow start proved the Revolution’s undoing last weekend at Red Bull Arena as the Revs conceded a pair of goals in the opening eight minutes en route to an eventual 4-1 loss to the New York Red Bulls. Although the Revs finally snapped their club-record scoreless streak (albeit via an own goal) and won the possession battle, their typically stingy defense conceded four times after allowing just two goals through the first five games.
“We’ve got to learn from our mistakes and there were a few in that game, in particular how we started the game and then how we got stretched a little bit,” said head coach Jay Heaps. “We’ve got to finish defending the entire play defensively.
“That said, there were some positives and some of the best stuff we’ve done yet with possession and how we’re playing quickly and creating more chances. But we have to be more clinical when we do create those chances.”
Philadelphia is looking to complete an unbeaten April having opened the month with a pair of draws before securing a 3-2 road win over D.C. United last weekend, improving the club’s record away from home to 2-1-1. Jack McInerney has scored in each of the Union’s games in April, totaling four goals in three games to bring his league-leading tally up to six goals on the season.
Past Meetings: At the ninth attempt, Revs still searching for first-ever win over the Union
Saturday night will be the Revolution’s first rematch of the 2013 season, having traveled to PPL Park to face the Union six weeks ago. McInerney scored the only goal of that game as the Union claimed a 1-0 win, marking the third straight Philadelphia win over New England in which McInerney notched the game winner.
The result kept the Revolution winless all-time against the Union, having suffered five losses to go with three draws in eight previous meetings. To date, Philadelphia is the only MLS club the Revs have never beaten.
Injury Report: With Soares (hamstring) out, Revs will have new look in central defense
Jose Goncalves and A.J. Soares formed a reliable central defensive partnership for the Revolution’s first six games, but that will change on Saturday with Soares (R hamstring strain) unavailable. Stephen McCarthy was called upon to fill that role when Soares limped off at Red Bull Arena and he remains one of multiple options to partner Goncalves against the Union.
“[Central defense] was one area where we were able to get some cohesion and now that’s a little bit disrupted,” said Heaps. “It’s an opportunity for a player to step up. We have a few choices. We’ve got Stephen McCarthy, Darrius Barnes and we could even try (Andrew) Farrell in there and play with a different guy out wide. So we have a couple choices to make and the players that train hard and create that relationship will play.”
While Soares is out with a hamstring strain, forward Chad Barrett is making a push to return from the same injury. He’s been upgraded to questionable after missing the last two games.
Philadelphia enters the weekend with a near-perfect health record as only midfielder Danny Cruz (R ankle contusion) is listed as questionable.
Final Thoughts: Home form of critical importance as Revs look to get back on track
“I think we must put the pressure on our side,” said Goncalves. “We’ve had enough games to try to get better, to get points and know we must step one step higher and ask ourselves for the three points. For that, of course, we must be very focused for this home game because we had two home games and just one point. It’s not enough if you want to play higher in the league and it starts at home, taking points at home, to get the confidence to take the points away.”