FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – New England Revolution II are counting down the minutes to this weekend’s eagerly-awaited Eastern Conference Final.
Locking horns with the reigning champions, Revs II welcome Columbus Crew 2 to Gillette Stadium on Saturday evening (October 14, 5 p.m. ET) with a place in the showpiece MLS NEXT Pro Cup Final up for grabs.
Impressing in a record-breaking campaign, Revolution II reached the final four stage with an exceptional 10 home wins and a superb 62 goals scored this term. Unbeaten in 14 of their last 15 games, the team defeated Philadelphia Union II and New York Red Bulls II in Foxborough in their maiden playoff campaign, and are hoping to make home advantage count once again.
Defender and Boston College graduate Victor Souza, who netted the winning goal in Friday night’s Conference Semifinal triumph over Red Bulls II, says the squad are relishing another chance to shine in front of the Revs faithful, and are hungry to create more history.
“We’re super excited to be playing in front of our fans,” he smiled. “We’ve put a lot of work into the season to get to this point, and we’ve got a home game, so we’re excited for it, definitely.
“It’s a great feeling – we’ve only lost one game at home all season. We feel super comfortable here, and we know teams don’t really want to come here to play us. That’s because of how hard it’s been to beat us here.
“We’re trying not to put too much pressure on ourselves, but we still have it in the back of our minds that we want to go for it all. We know the importance of it, but it’s just like preparing for any other game.
“Grit is what it takes [to win], and at this stage of the season, in the playoffs, you do whatever you can to win. I think we’ve shown a ton of grit. We’ve had to close out some close games, and we’ve ended up doing it. I hope we continue to do so.”
New England were triumphant in their last MLS NEXT Pro fixture against Columbus – a 2-0 victory at Gillette Stadium back in May, courtesy of goals from top scorer Jordan Adebayo-Smith and midfielder Ben Awashie, as Revs II claimed a first shutout win of the campaign.
In the knowledge that Crew 2 eliminated top Eastern Conference seed Crown Legacy FC to book their place in Saturday’s encounter, Revs II are anticipating a stern test, but United States youth international Tiago Suarez believes his side are riding the crest of a wave.
“To get to play in front of our families and friends, it's means everything,” he agreed. “It’s something we've worked for all year: to be able to have home advantage.
“We’re confident at home, and I think consistency is key – being able to drive 10 minutes to Gillette; having family and friends there to support and watch, it’s really important for us.
“[Columbus] are going to be a challenge for us, just like every playoff game. They know us, we know them, and they’re a good team, a good side.
“We have homefield advantage, we have some momentum here with the team, so we’re all feeling pretty confident. We're definitely excited but we know that as a team, we need everyone – everyone needs to help each other prepare.”
Suarez also highlighted the influence of senior leaders within the squad as a crucial component to New England’s incredible run, crediting defenders Souza and Pierre Cayet in particular for their efforts.
Demonstrating togetherness, toil, and teamwork, the squad battled valiantly to earn their place in the latter stages of the postseason tournament, staving off late challenges from both Union II and Red Bulls II, gaining valuable experience of game management in the process.
“Our leadership has helped us a lot,” Suarez continued. “We’re a young group but we also have some older players as well that help us out, make us feel confident on the field.
“It means the world to us. We’re able to express ourselves and have older players to mentor us, and get us through tough playoff games.
“Pierre and Victor helped me out a lot. They cover me, I cover them sometimes, too. We have a good partnership and we have learned from each other all year. It’s our first season all playing together, and it’s been pretty successful.”
As the third- and fourth-highest scorers in the East go head-to-head, Souza noted the importance of concentration from the first whistle to the last.
New England’s second-round pick in the 2023 MLS SuperDraft declared that his side can take a lot of confidence from their previous win over Crew 2, asserting Revolution II's quality will shine through if they remain fully switched on.
“We feel good going into it – we’re never too focused on the opponent, but we also respect them,” Souza said. “We respect all of our opponents. They’re a good side – they won last season, so they know what it takes to go all the way – but we’re very confident in ourselves and our group.
“We split the season series and the last time we played them, I thought we played very well, we really performed.
“It’s really just [a case of] focus. Similarly to the last two playoff games, we obviously have to perform but we have to stay focused – for 90 minutes, if there’s extra time, you have to stay focused throughout the whole game.
“We made some mistakes, which have led to goals, and we’re going to have to try and avoid that. Focus and then the performance will show. We’ve proven we’re a great team all year, and I think if we’re focused, our quality will show.”
Show your support for Revolution II at Gillette Stadium with tickets for Saturday’s Eastern Conference Final now available, or tune in to watch live on MLS Season Pass on Apple TV.