FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – A critical three-game homestand begins on Wednesday night when the New England Revolution will host defending MLS Cup champion Sporting Kansas City at Gillette Stadium.
The Revs (10-12-3, 33 pts.) enter the month of September locked in a three-way tie for third place in the Eastern Conference, level on points with Toronto FC (9-9-6, 33 pts.) and the Columbus Crew (8-9-9, 33 pts.). All three teams sit nine points back of second-place Sporting KC (12-8-6, 42 pts.), which has played more games than both the Revs and TFC.
Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m., with coverage on Comcast SportsNet and 98.5 The Sports Hub.
Current Form: Back-to-back shutout wins have Revs rejuvenated; SKC slips out of first place
New England’s summer struggles appear to be well and truly in the rearview mirror as a strong run of form has seen the Revolution climb back into playoff position in the Eastern Conference. The Revs have gone 3-1-1 in their last five games, outscoring opponents 9-3 during that stretch.
The resurgence continued last weekend at BMO Field, where the Revs scored three times on Toronto FC turnovers to roll to a comfortable 3-0 victory and match the biggest road win in club history. Goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth made three saves to record his second straight shutout and his seventh on the season.
“I think we’re hitting our stride now,” said Teal Bunbury, who capped the scoring in Toronto with his third goal of the season. “We’re getting good results. But we know that there are still a lot of games left to be played, so we don’t want to get too far ahead of ourselves. We want to build from each result that we have.
“Obviously the win is huge, but I feel like the way everybody played that game, we had the mindset that we were going to defend as a unit, we were in proper positions and tactically we were very sound. We need to continue to do that the rest of the season to make sure we solidify a spot in the playoffs.”
The team directly above the Revs in the East is Sporting KC, which has stumbled a bit in recent weeks to fall out of the conference’s top spot. The defending champs recently completed a three-game homestand of their own and dropped the last two matches, falling 3-0 to D.C. United and 3-1 to the Houston Dynamo.
Past Meetings: Pair of stoppage-time goals lifted Revs to dramatic win in late April
Bunbury’s first goal with the Revolution was a memorable one as the former Sporting KC forward broke a scoreless deadlock in the 92nd minute to spark the Revs to a 2-0 win over his old club on April 26. Lee Nguyen added a bit of insurance when he converted a penalty kick deep into stoppage time.
It was the Revolution’s second straight home win over SKC including last year’s playoff meeting, when Kelyn Rowe and Andy Dorman lifted the Revs to a 2-1 win in the first leg of an Eastern Conference semifinal series.
Injury Report: Yellow-card accumulation suspensions will leave both sides shorthanded
Scott Caldwell has settled into a starting role with the Revs – going 90 minutes in each of the past seven games – but he’ll need to be replaced in the lineup on Wednesday night as he serves a one-game suspension for yellow-card accumulation.
Caldwell’s replacement won’t be Dorman, who continues to recover from a knee sprain, while fellow holding midfield candidates Shalrie Joseph (quad) and Stephen McCarthy (knee) are both listed as questionable.
Jermaine Jones could also fill that role, of course, but the U.S. National Team stalwart may still be short of full fitness after making a successful 25-minute MLS debut in last weekend’s win over Toronto.
Yellow-card accumulation will also leave Sporting KC shorthanded, as the visitors will be without both their top goal scorer (Dom Dwyer) and top assist-man (Benny Feilhaber) on Wednesday night.
Those absences will force Sporting head coach Peter Vermes to tinker with his lineup, which in turn presents a unique set of challenges for Jay Heaps and the Revolution.
“Any way you look at it, you’ve got to be prepared for a Kansas City team that’s going to be difficult to play against,” said Heaps. “Any time new players come in or different players play, it’s a different set of challenges and neither one of them is easier than the other.”
Final Thoughts: High-pressure, counterattacking approach plays to Revolution’s strengths
“I would say that’s probably one of our biggest strengths; being able to capitalize on the other team making mistakes, or us forcing them to make mistakes and then us taking those chances and opportunities and burying them,” said Bunbury. “When teams give us the ball in the attacking third or our high pressure makes them lose the ball, and we go with speed, I don’t think there’s any team in this league that can stop us.”