FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Sole possession of first place in the Eastern Conference will be up for grabs on Saturday night when the New England Revolution visits the Philadelphia Union at PPL Park.
The Revs (5-3-2, 17 pts.) enter the weekend tied for the top spot in the East with Sporting Kansas City. A win or draw against the Union (2-5-5, 11 pts.) would lift the Revs into sole possession of first place, before Sporting KC visits the Chicago Fire on Sunday afternoon.
Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Saturday night, with Comcast SportsNet and 98.5 The Sports Hub covering the action.
Current Form: Red-hot Revs hit the road in search of fourth straight win
Unbeaten in five (4-0-1) and winners of three straight, the Revs could make a claim as Major League Soccer’s hottest team entering this weekend’s action. They’ve been doing the job on both sides of the ball during their current run, outscoring opponents 12-2 in the last five matches.
“I think it’s been a great effort by everyone,” said goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth. “Everyone’s taking care of their responsibilities and we’ve taken our chances when we’ve gotten them. So it’s a credit to all the guys for putting in their shifts and getting their jobs done.”
Philadelphia heads into Saturday night’s meeting on short rest after traveling midweek to face Sporting KC. The Union received an important boost in that match, however, snapping a club-record nine-game winless run with a 2-1 victory over the defending champs.
“We know they have great players and they [were] just going through that rough patch,” said Darrius Barnes. “It can happen at any point in this league and that’s something that we have to be cautious of; the tide can turn at the snap of your finger, so we have to be ready.”
Past Meetings: Revs aiming to snap string of four straight losses at PPL Park
Chester, Pa., has never been the most hospitable spot for the Revs, who are winless in six all-time visits to the Union’s home (0-4-2), including four straight losses spanning the past two-and-a-half seasons.
New England’s most recent setback at PPL Park occurred just two months ago, when Sebastien Le Toux’s first-half goal sent the Revs to a 1-0 loss in their second game of the season.
“They’re difficult to play at home,” said Shuttleworth. “We’ve struggled to get results there and we’re 100 percent thinking about what our responsibilities are and what we have to do to be able to go in there and get three points.”
Injury Report: Rowe back in the mix; Goncalves inching closer to a return
An added bonus of last weekend’s 5-0 win over Seattle Sounders FC was the return of Kelyn Rowe, who played the final 20 minutes after missing six games with a left hamstring strain.
Captain and reigning MLS Defender of the Year Jose Goncalves is close to a return, as well, as he eases his way back into training having missed the past four games with a right quad strain.
“He’s comfortable, he’s strong,” head coach Jay Heaps said of Goncalves. “It’s good to have him back again this week and continuing to get into the contact drills. I think this week will be an important week for him.”
It’s unclear whether Goncalves will be ready to return for Saturday’s visit to PPL Park, but the picture is (unfortunately) a little more certain for Kevin Alston (L hamstring strain) and Shalrie Joseph (L calf strain), both of whom are listed as “out” on the official injury report.
The Union will be short a pair of starters on Saturday as both Maurice Edu (U.S. National Team duty) and Fabinho (yellow card accumulation) will be unavailable, while little-used Corben Bone will also be suspended. Philadelphia’s midfield could be further shorthanded if Brian Carroll can’t recover from the left groin strain which kept him out of the midweek win over Sporting KC.
Final Thoughts: Revs take pride in their recent defensive resolve
“We definitely want to have that mentality that we don’t want to give anything up,” said Barnes, referencing the Revolution’s recent defensive efforts. “We don’t want to be one of those teams where teams kind of plan around us and say they’re easy to play through. We want to have that grit and that tenacity that if you’re going to get a goal, you’re going to earn it.”