FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Four days after battling Barclays Premier League champion Manchester United in the 2011 Herbalife World Football Challenge, the New England Revolution returns to its league schedule on Sunday, July 17, when the club hosts the Eastern Conference rival Philadelphia Union at Gillette Stadium.
Kickoff between the Revs (3-8-7, 16 pts.) and Union (7-4-7, 28 pts.) is set for 7 p.m. The match will be televised live in high definition on Comcast SportsNet New England, while 98.5 The Sports Hub will have the radio call.
Current Form: Revs and Union perched at opposite ends of the Eastern Conference
Despite suffering a 4-1 loss to Manchester United this past Wednesday night at Gillette Stadium, the Revs were buoyed by their performance in the scoreless first half, when the MLS side was solid defensively and showed flashes going forward against one of the best teams in the world.
The Revs will hope to carry some confidence from that showing into Sunday night’s meeting with Philadelphia as they look to snap an eight-game (0-5-3) winless run in league play and climb off the foot of the Eastern Conference standings.
“It’s huge that we start winning at home,” said head coach Steve Nicol, whose side is 3-2-4 at Gillette Stadium this season. “Obviously we want to win whenever we play, but winning at home should be the starting point. It’s key for us to do that on Sunday.”
Philadelphia – in just its second MLS season after joining the league as an expansion side in 2010 – has vastly improved from its inaugural campaign and currently sits atop the Eastern Conference standings along with the New York Red Bulls. Led by a steady backline and the veteran presence of Colombian goalkeeper Faryd Mondragon, the Union has conceded just 16 goals in its first 18 games and has lost just once in its last nine matches (3-1-5).
Past Meetings: Late-game heroics lifted Union to victory in only previous meeting at Gillette Stadium
Jack McInerney scored the game-tying goal in the 82nd minute to set the stage for Justin Mapp’s game winner in stoppage time as the Union claimed a dramatic 2-1 win over the shorthanded Revs in their last meeting on Aug. 28, 2010. Ilija Stolica had given the Revolution a first-half lead with his 31st-minute strike, but Cory Gibbs was ejected nine minutes later and Philadelphia ultimately cashed in on its man advantage to leave Foxborough with all three points.
The Revs have yet to beat the Union, as the clubs’ only other meeting on July 31, 2010, at PPL Park finished as a 1-1 draw.
Injury Report: Cochrane, Joseph suspended for Revolution; Paunovic doubtful for Union
The Revolution’s biggest absences this weekend have nothing to do with injuries, as defender Ryan Cochrane (red card suspension) and captain Shalrie Joseph (yellow card accumulation) will both be suspended for Sunday’s match.
While it’s likely Franco Coria will slot directly into Cochrane’s spot in central defense, replacing Joseph – the Revolution’s leading scorer and midfield catalyst – isn’t quite as straightforward.
“Any team in the league is going to miss Shalrie,” said Nicol. “We’re not kidding ourselves that we’re just going to be normal. But it gives somebody a chance to step up and do well.”
One of the likeliest candidates to take Joseph’s spot in central midfield was Ousmane Dabo, but the veteran Frenchman will miss the game with right knee irritation after playing 25 minutes on Wednesday night against Manchester United.
Philadelphia, meanwhile, has a couple of injury concerns with both Stefani Miglioranzi (sinus fracture) and Veljko Paunovic (L hip strain) listed as doubtful earlier in the week.
Key Player: Revolution central midfielder Pat Phelan
With Joseph suspended, the onus will fall on others to compensate for his significant absence. Benny Feilhaber will likely shoulder the primary creative responsibilities out of midfield, while Pat Phelan will also be looked upon to play a bigger role.
“I think whoever’s in there has to go get the ball and has to run the show,” said Phelan. “We can’t just rely on everyone else to do it. Someone has to step forward, try to get on the ball as much as they can and get things going.
“But I think, conversely, it makes things kind of difficult for [Philadelphia] because they can’t just focus on shutting Shalrie down and shutting our attack down,” he countered. “So it’s an opportunity for a lot of guys to step up and for everyone to play well.”
Final Thoughts: Patience critical as Revs aim to break down resolute Union backline
Philadelphia has secured points in five of its first nine road games this season (2-4-3) and the Union has found success away from home when staying tight defensively and hitting on the counterattack. Peter Nowak’s side has conceded just 10 goals in nine road games and the Revs expect a similar approach this weekend.
“They’re a really good side defensively,” said Chris Tierney. “They get numbers behind the ball, they’re well organized and very disciplined, so it’s going to be difficult to break them down. We’re going to need a special play here or there to get us a goal.
“It’s going to be tough,” Tierney admitted. “We have to be patient, stick it out, stick to our game plan and hopefully we’ll sneak one or two goals.”