FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Desperate for its first win since mid-May, the New England Revolution begins a season-long three-game road swing on Wednesday, July 20, when the club travels to the Nation’s Capital for a midweek meeting with Eastern Conference rival D.C. United.
The Revs (3-9-7, 16 pts.) and United (5-5-8, 23 pts.) will get underway at 7:30 p.m. at RFK Stadium. Once again the match will be televised live in high definition on Comcast SportsNet New England, while the radio call will be available on 98.5 The Sports Hub.
Current Form: Victory needed for Revolution to avoid record winless streak
The Revs struggled to overcome the absences of suspended veterans Ryan Cochrane and Shalrie Joseph en route to a comprehensive 3-0 loss to the Philadelphia Union on Sunday night at Gillette Stadium, extending the club’s winless run to nine games (0-6-3) in league play. While goalkeeper Matt Reis made four saves in his best effort to keep his side in the game, the Revolution failed to register a shot on goal for just the third time in club history.
Now the Revs are in the unenviable position of needing to secure three points on Wednesday night in order to avoid establishing a new club record winless streak. Sunday night’s loss to the Union matched the previous mark of nine games set during the 1998 season.
“Not winning since May has been awful,” admitted Reis. “After a while, if you’re on a winning streak, things seem to go your way. If you’re on a losing streak, things don’t seem to go your way. So it’s going to take something special to get us out of it and we really have to dig deep.”
The task won’t be easy against a D.C. side unbeaten in its last five games and increasingly stingy on the defensive side of the ball. Although United’s current five-game unbeaten run includes four draws, the club enters Wednesday night’s contest on the heels of back-to-back shutouts on the road, including an impressive victory at Red Bull Arena.
A potential silver lining for the Revs – who are winless (0-6-3) on the road this season – is United’s mediocre home form, as Ben Olsen’s side is just 2-2-5 in nine games at RFK Stadium.
Past Meetings: Joseph’s penalty kick lifted Revs over United in 2011 home opener
Early goals from Joseph and second-year forward Zack Schilawski guided the Revolution to a 2-1 win over United in the club’s 2011 home opener on March 26 at Gillette Stadium. It was New England’s fourth straight win over D.C. in the regular-season series dating back to the final meeting of 2009 and extended the Revolution’s unbeaten streak in the series to five games (4-0-1) overall.
Although they’ve struggled on the road in recent years, the Revs have found a modicum of success at RFK Stadium, claiming a 2-0 victory in their last visit on April 3, 2010, on the strength of a pair of Kenny Mansally goals.
Mansally also assisted on the first of Kheli Dube’s two goals as the Revs claimed a 3-2 win over United in a U.S. Open Cup play-in match at Maryland SoccerPlex in late April, the most recent meeting between the two sides.
Injury Report: Feilhaber to miss out through suspension; D.C. dealing with rash of concussions
While the Revs will receive a much needed boost through the returns of Cochrane and Joseph, they’ll lose another key player as Benny Feilhaber will be suspended following his ejection from Sunday night’s loss to Philadelphia.
“Obviously it’s frustrating. Nobody wants that, but it’s part of the game,” defender Kevin Alston said of regaining Cochrane and Joseph but losing Feilhaber. “We just have to get it together. We need points. This is the point of the season where it’s do or die, so we just have to find a way.”
The Revs will have to find a way without the services of veteran central midfielder Ousmane Dabo, who officially announced his retirement from professional soccer on Monday morning. Dabo was limited to just three league appearances as he was plagued by injuries in his only season with the Revolution.
United had five players listed as out on its most recent injury report on Friday, July 15, including three – Brandon Barklage, Devon McTavish and Santino Quaranta – with concussions. The trio is joined on the sidelines by Designated Player Branko Boskovic (L ACL tear) and defender Jed Zayner (L knee sprain), while Marc Burch and Josh Wolff were both listed as questionable with hamstring strains.
Key Player: Revolution central midfielder Shalrie Joseph
Joseph’s absence was all too noticeable during Sunday night’s loss to Philadelphia as the Revs struggled to cope without their midfield general. Lacking a vocal presence to run the show in the middle of the park, the Revs started slow and never seemed like a cohesive unit.
“We just weren’t ready to play,” said Chris Tierney, who started the game at left back before moving to left midfield when the Revs switched to a 3-5-2 formation after the halftime break. “I think we didn’t really have a game plan, we weren’t sure what we were doing, we weren’t on the same page, we couldn’t connect and we weren’t fighting.”
“When you have no one on the field talking, particularly when you’re under pressure, then it just becomes twice as hard,” said head coach Steve Nicol. “Shalrie will open his mouth and will get people into the places they should be and all the other stuff. So when you don’t have that and everyone’s kind of relying on someone else, guys need to take responsibility and we didn’t do that in the first half.”
For those reasons, Joseph’s influence against United will be vital, particularly in the absence of Feilhaber.
Final Thoughts: Frustration mounts as Revs search for pride, fighting spirit
Tierney summed up the Revolution’s current situation with some pointed comments in the immediate aftermath of Sunday night’s loss to the Union.
“We’re fighting for our lives at this point,” he said. “We need three points, nothing less, and we’re not playing like it. I think we’ve been getting on each other’s case a little bit. There’s frustration setting in, but at the end of the day we have to fight harder and work for each other and we seem to be doing the opposite right now. I think everyone needs to just take a long look in the mirror – including myself – keep plugging away and make it better.
“It’s tough, but hopefully you let this feeling motivate you and you use it as fuel to really get stuck in on Wednesday,” Tierney continued. “If nothing else, just go there to RFK and make it miserable for them. At this point, we have to take some pride in trying to at least fight and do the little things right.”