After series of “must-win” games, Revs already familiar with playoff mentality

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – The New England Revolution’s postseason quest officially begins on Saturday night when the Revs will host Sporting Kansas City in the first leg of their Eastern Conference Semifinal series.

Ask the players, however, and they’ll tell you the playoffs began weeks ago.

Heading into their Sept. 21 meeting with D.C. United, the Revs were mired in seventh place in the Eastern Conference after back-to-back losses to the Montreal Impact and Chicago Fire. With six games remaining on the regular-season slate, there was no room for error. Any dropped points would’ve likely spelled disaster.

In essence, it was playoff soccer.

“We have had pressure-packed games leading up to this,” said head coach Jay Heaps. “I think that we’ve certainly ramped up the intensity over the last few weeks because we did know that any slip-up, not getting certain points, would’ve cost us a playoff opportunity.”

“I think it’s one of the good things about where we’ve come from, being at the bottom of the Eastern Conference or close to the bottom and having to work our way up,” added goalkeeper Matt Reis. “We’ve been in this kind of survive-and-advance mode for a while.”

Not only have the Revs been in survive-and-advance mode, but they’ve thrived there. A six-game unbeaten run (4-0-2) to close the season – their longest of 2013 – was capped with three straight wins, including a pair of gritty 1-0 road victories over Montreal and the Columbus Crew. They were precisely the type of hard-nosed performances the Revs will likely need to replicate as they aim to forge a lengthy postseason run.

It’s been said that timing is everything when it comes to the postseason, and if that’s the case, the Revs are hitting their stride at the critical juncture. Now comes the tricky task of continuing that form into the playoffs.

Of course, from a Revolution perspective, the playoffs are already well underway.

“I think if you look historically at a lot of the teams that have done well in the playoffs, it’s the teams that, to get in there in the last bit, have to have been playing with a little bit of desperation in the last couple weeks,” said Reis. “Knowing how tough it is just to get into the playoffs and now to be able to have a chance to win a cup is huge.”