FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – The New England Revolution was hoping to avoid this scenario.
With 12 games remaining on the regular-season schedule the Revs find themselves just outside the playoff picture in the Eastern Conference, trailing the Columbus Crew by a single point for the fifth and final postseason spot. It’s a precarious position which leaves virtually no room for error through the season’s home stretch.
Such a scenario seemed unlikely in May, when the Revs ran off five straight wins to improve their record to 7-3-2 (23 pts.) as they climbed to the top of the East. The Revs thought if they could distance themselves from the pack, they could avoid all the must-win circumstances they had to endure late last year, when they went 4-0-2 in the season’s final six games to clinch a playoff berth on the final day.
But nine losses in the past 10 games have seen the Revs slip below the thin red line, leaving them in a similar situation to the one they faced in 2013. The hope, then, is that perhaps the burden of needing points from every match will push the Revs over the top, much like it did last season.
“We need to start winning games in a row,” said A.J. Soares. “We were in this position last year. I’m hoping we react like we did last year with the pressure of having to win every week. Maybe that’s the position we need to be in. I’m going to take it like that at this point.”
Perhaps the Revolution’s most critical stretch will begin immediately after the upcoming bye weekend. Starting with a home match against the Portland Timbers on August 16, the Revs will play five of their next six matches at Gillette Stadium, before closing the season with four of the last six on the road.
New England snapped a recent trend of home losses last Wednesday with a comprehensive 3-0 win over the Colorado Rapids, and the Revs will need to make those types of performances the norm if they hope to find themselves still hosting games in Foxborough come November.
“It’s very important that we get three points at home,” said Charlie Davies. “We’ve got to make home our safe place where we know we’re going to win playing at home.”
Next Saturday’s meeting with the Timbers offers another chance at three critical points – and that’s where the focus remains – but the Revs also know that a win over Portland needs to be the start of something bigger if they hope to maintain their playoff aspirations.
“I feel like we’re up against the wall and if we don’t win a bunch of games, we’re not going to be in a good place at the end of the year,” said Soares. “It’s one game at a time and I think we’re going to bounce back in two weeks.”