Revs kick off busy stretch with visit to Columbus

COLUMBUS, Ohio – The New England Revolution will play four games in the next 12 days, a busy stretch which begins on Saturday night with a visit to the Columbus Crew.

Kickoff from Crew Stadium between the Revs (6-13-5, 23 pts.) and Crew (9-8-6, 33 pts.) is set for 7:30 p.m., and the game will be televised regionally on Comcast SportsNet and carried on the radio by 98.5 The Sports Hub.

Current Form: Struggling Revs have sights set on snapping skid; Crew rising in the East

The Revolution’s recent struggles continued last weekend at Toyota Park, where the club had its winless run extended to seven games (0-6-1) with a 2-1 loss to the Chicago Fire. Although the Revs responded well after going behind to an early penalty kick, they only managed three shots on target and failed to generate the necessary attacking thrust to break down the Fire.

“We saw a lot of stuff we don’t want to do again,” said head coach Jay Heaps. “It wasn’t our best performance of the year by a long shot. We did have some good moments, but ultimately we weren’t dangerous enough and we didn’t create enough.”

Columbus has inserted itself back into the playoff picture with an impressive run in recent weeks, going 3-1-2 in the past six matches to climb to within seven points of the final postseason spot in the Eastern Conference. The Crew – which has at least one game in hand on every team ahead of them in the East – has been bolstered by the recent additions of Jairo Arrieta (3 G, 2 A in 7 GP) and Federico Higuain (1 G, 2 A in 2 GP).

Past Meetings: Teams battled to a scoreless draw two months ago at Gillette Stadium

Goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum was the hero for Columbus in the first meeting between these two sides, making six saves to keep the Revs off the board and help his side earn a 0-0 draw in Foxborough. Although that meeting was just two months ago – on June 16 – both sides have since made significant additions and the earlier contest will likely have little bearing on Saturday night’s rematch.

“We didn’t play them last time with either one of those players (Arrieta and Higuain), so they’re a completely different team,” said Heaps. “That happens. Just like Chicago was a different team and we’re a different team. We didn’t have Jerry (Bengtson) last time we played [Columbus]. Each team is changing, they’re evolving and it becomes more difficult.”

Injury Report: Nguyen recovering from ankle sprain; Crew has a couple question marks

Lee Nguyen is the only player to have appeared in all 24 of the Revolution’s games this season – starting 22 – but that status appeared to be in jeopardy when the dynamic midfielder left last weekend’s loss to Chicago at halftime with a sprained left ankle. Nguyen progressed steadily throughout the week, however, and did make the trip to Columbus after being upgraded to probable on Friday’s injury report.

Both Blair Gavin (L hamstring tightness) and Alec Purdie (L ankle sprain) have also been upgraded after making progress recently, but neither is part of the travel party in Ohio.

Columbus has dealt with its fair share of injuries throughout the season and that could once again be the case this weekend. Milovan Mirosevic (R ankle inflammation) and Danny O’Rourke (L ankle sprain) have each made more than 10 appearances for the Crew this season, but both were listed as questionable on Tuesday’s injury report.

Final Thoughts: Against unyielding Crew, Revs aim to “fight stone with stone”

“Try not to give anything away yourself,” Heaps said when asked how to combat the Crew’s rigid approach. “Fight stone with stone, rock with rock. It’s going to be a battle. For us right now, with the form we’re in – not winning games and finding ways to let teams off the hook – that’s the only way out is to pull up your socks and go make it a rock fight.”