Revs play host to revamped Whitecaps this weekend

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – After opening the season by playing six of the first nine games on the road, the New England Revolution will now play seven of its next nine at home beginning on Saturday night against visiting Vancouver Whitecaps FC.

Kickoff from Gillette Stadium between the Revs (3-6-0, 9 pts.) and Whitecaps (5-2-2, 17 pts.) is set for 7:30 p.m., and the game will be televised live on Comcast SportsNet alternate channels throughout New England, while the match will also be joined in progress on Comcast SportsNet beginning at 8 p.m. The radio call will be available on 98.5 The Sports Hub.

Current Form: Revs look to take positives from loss at RSL; Vancouver winners of three straight

With a full week to prepare for this weekend’s meeting with the Whitecaps, the Revs spent a significant amount of training time working on both defending and delivering set pieces. In last weekend’s 2-1 loss to Real Salt Lake it was a poorly taken attacking free kick which led to a counterattack and RSL’s first goal, while Alvaro Saborio scored the game winner by getting on the end of a Javier Morales free kick.

Despite the recent trouble with dead-ball situations, the Revs were encouraged by their overall performance at Rio Tinto Stadium as only a handful of quality saves from RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando prevented the Revolution from leaving Utah with a well-earned point.

“I don’t think we put a full 90 together in terms of offense and defense for the whole game, which is what you have to do in this league to get wins, but we can take positives,” said center back A.J. Soares. “We went there and we battled and we can take the positive that if we can go there, compete and really almost get a result, we can compete on any field with any team.”

The Whitecaps have won three straight in the league – and five straight in all competitions – to take their regular-season win total up to five, just one shy of their entire win total from all of last season. Vancouver boasts a dynamic attacking corps which plays a fluid offensive style, but the Whitecaps’ defense has been their backbone, keeping six clean sheets through the first nine games of the season.

Past Meetings: New England edged pair of low-scoring affairs in Vancouver’s inaugural season

Just three total goals were scored in two meetings between the Revs and Whitecaps last season, Vancouver’s first in Major League Soccer.

Shalrie Joseph scored the only goal from the penalty spot in the Revolution’s 1-0 win on May 14 at Gillette Stadium, while a dramatic stoppage-time equalizer from Ilija Stolica helped the Revs claim a 1-1 draw in their only trip to Vancouver on April 6. Stolica’s strike was the only goal scored from the run of play in the series, as the Whitecaps’ lone tally came via Eric Hassli’s penalty kick.

Injury Report: Moreno still out, Rowe doubtful for NE; Whitecaps unhindered by injury

Jose Moreno is set to miss his second straight game this weekend as the Colombian forward continues to recover from a right calf strain, while rookie midfielder Kelyn Rowe was added to the injury list as doubtful on Friday after suffering a left hamstring strain in training the day before.

On the flip side, Ryan Guy (R calf stiffness) has been upgraded to questionable after working his way back into training this week. Guy has missed the past three games after appearing in each of the Revolution’s first six matches.

Vancouver will be battling tired legs after playing a midweek Amway Canadian Championship match against FC Edmonton, but injuries don’t appear to be a concern for the side from British Columbia. The Whitecaps’ injury report listed just two players on Tuesday: third-string goalkeeper Brian Sylvestre (OUT – R knee surgery) and forward Atiba Harris (QUESTIONABLE – R quad contusion).

Key Player: Revolution midfielder Lee Nguyen

Motivation won’t be an issue for Lee Nguyen on Saturday night as the 25-year-old midfielder faces the side which waived him two-and-a-half months ago. Nguyen was acquired by the Whitecaps via weighted lottery back in December and spent the majority of the 2012 preseason training with Martin Rennie’s club, but he was ultimately deemed surplus to requirements and was waived nine days before the season opener.

“Hopefully it’s one of those scenarios where Lee feels that they didn’t want him anymore and he has a chance to go out there and show the team that didn’t want him what he’s made of,” said Revolution head coach Jay Heaps. “I’m hoping that Lee has that confidence and that ability when he gets his chance to take some players on. It would be special if it was his night.”

Final Thoughts: Set pieces a major focus after recent setbacks

“We’ve worked on some things offensively and I think that’s going to help us, for sure,” said central midfielder Clyde Simms. “We hadn’t worked on that too much up until this point. The teams that are good on set pieces, that’s what they do; they work on them week-in and week-out. That’s something I’m sure we’ll do going forward.

“Defensively, that’s been a problem for us in games,” Simms added. “I think we’ve had some games where we’ve played well enough to win but given up a silly free-kick goal … There are some little tactical things you can do to help stop the other team, but basically you’ve got to look to the guy across from you and know that they’re not going to win the ball.”