FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Playoff implications abound on Saturday night at Gillette Stadium when the New England Revolution hosts the Columbus Crew in the 2013 regular-season home finale.
Both the Revs (12-11-9, 45 pts.) and Crew (12-15-5, 41 pts.) remain alive in the postseason hunt with just two games remaining in the regular season. New England trails the Philadelphia Union, Chicago Fire and Montreal Impact by just a single point in the chase for the final playoff spots, while Columbus is perched five points back.
Saturday night’s action kicks off at 7:30 p.m. on Fan Appreciation Day at Gillette Stadium. Comcast SportsNet and 98.5 The Sports Hub’s HD2 channel will provide regional coverage.
Current Form: On the brink of playoff places, both sides facing must-win scenario
Last weekend’s critical win in Montreal kept the Revs in the thick of the Eastern Conference playoff race – while extending their unbeaten run to four games (2-0-2) – but they’ll need another victory on Saturday night against Columbus to guarantee meaningful soccer on the final weekend of the regular season.
A win over the Crew could lift the Revs as high as third in the East, but at the very least, three points would keep them in contention entering the regular-season finale. A loss or draw, however, combined with multiple other results, could see New England officially eliminated.
“It’s a must-win game,” said Kelyn Rowe. “If we lose, we’ve got a worse chance of being in the playoffs. We obviously want to be there, so like that fight you saw the past two games, we’re going to fight no matter what’s going on and no matter what’s happening. We’re going forward to get goals.”
Columbus has kept itself alive with a 4-2-0 surge since technical director Brian Bliss took over as interim head coach at the beginning of September, but anything less than victory on Saturday night will end the Crew’s slim playoff hopes. Even three points wouldn’t guarantee safety, as Columbus requires other favorable results, as well.
Past Meetings: Late heroics lifted Revs over Crew back in July
A pair of dramatic stoppage-time goals from Jose Goncalves and Diego Fagundez helped the Revs surge past the Crew in a 2-0 victory at Crew Stadium in the season’s first meeting on July 20. It was the Revolution’s first win in Columbus since a playoff-clinching 1-0 triumph on the final day of the 2009 season.
A scheduling quirk pairs the Revs and Crew on back-to-back weekends to close the regular season. Following Saturday night’s meeting at Gillette Stadium, these sides will meet again next Sunday afternoon at Crew Stadium.
Injury Report: Sene (L ankle surgery) and Nguyen (suspension) unavailable for New England
One year after a torn ACL ended Saer Sene’s 2012 season, another long-term injury has brought his 2013 campaign to a halt. After suffering a dislocated left ankle and fractured left fibula in last weekend’s win over Montreal, Sene underwent surgery earlier this week and is expected to be sidelined for the next 4-6 months.
Also unavailable for the Revs this weekend will be Lee Nguyen, who’ll serve a one-game suspension for caution accumulation. Those two key absences leave head coach Jay Heaps with holes to fill at the attacking end, but he’s confident those who’ll step in will be more than capable replacements.
“It’s obviously difficult to lose two key players for us,” Heaps said. “In the same breath, we feel we’ve built a pretty deep team, and the players feel that it’s a deep team and they want time. So we’ve got guys that are just ready to step up.”
Columbus has played most of this season without midfielder Eddie Gaven and defender Glauber – both lost to ACL surgery – but the Crew could also be without playmaker Federico Higuain on Saturday night. The 28-year-old Argentine is listed as questionable with a hip injury suffered in the Crew’s last match on Oct. 5, and he’s been held out of training in recent days.
Final Thoughts: Regardless of playoff scenarios, Revs focused on playing their game
“It’s the same game, it’s the same thing that we’re doing,” said goalkeeper Matt Reis. “Things shouldn’t change week in, week out. We put the work in and we put the fight in and we’ll see what happens.”