HOUSTON – A spot in the MLS Cup Playoffs has already been secured, but the New England Revolution’s nationally-televised meeting with the Houston Dynamo on Thursday night still has massive playoff implications.
The Revs (15-13-4, 49 pts.) can lock up one of the Eastern Conference’s top three seeds with a win over the recently-eliminated Dynamo (11-15-6, 39 pts.) – significant when you consider that it would keep New England out of the play-in game between the fourth and fifth seeds to kick off the postseason.
ESPN2 will broadcast the proceedings from BBVA Compass Stadium to a national television audience beginning at 8 p.m. ET on Thursday, while 1510AM WUFC will have the local radio call.
Current Form: With just one loss in their last 10 games, Revs hitting stride at the right time
A single point was all the Revs needed to clinch a postseason berth last weekend in Montreal, and that’s exactly what they procured in a come-from-behind, 2-2 draw with the Impact. The result improved New England’s record to 7-1-2 in the last 10 games, a mark matched only by the Supporters-Shield-contending LA Galaxy.
Now the Revs have two regular-season games remaining and still everything to play for as they look to secure the highest seed possible in the crowded Eastern Conference.
“We have two games left to determine where we want to finish and how we want to finish,” said Jay Heaps. “It’s in our control right now to at least finish in second, so we have to maintain and continue to push for it.”
A late-season surge from the Dynamo (4-2-2 in the last eight games) proved too little, too late as Houston was officially eliminated from playoff contention with Sunday’s loss to East-leading D.C. United. It’s just the second time the Dynamo has failed to reach the postseason in nine seasons since the move from San Jose.
Still, the Revs are prepared for a challenge at BBVA Compass Stadium, where the Dynamo is 8-4-4 this year.
“Houston is time-tested and they’re experienced,” said Heaps. “They’re as difficult to beat as any team in the league. It’s always tough going to Houston in particular.”
Past Meetings: Much has changed since Revs and Dynamo last met six months ago
Thursday night’s meeting will serve as a rubber match in the 2014 series between the Revs and Dynamo, which each won at home back in the season’s early stages.
Houston raced out to a three-goal lead inside 23 minutes en route to a 4-0 win in the season opener at BBVA Compass Stadium, while the Revs returned the favor with a 2-0 victory at Gillette Stadium in mid-April.
“It feels years away,” Kelyn Rowe said of the season-opening loss in Houston. “But we know the team, we know them well and we need to go in and play our game.”
Historically the Revs actually have a winning record in Houston, going 5-3-1 in nine previous visits. That includes one win at BBVA Compass Stadium – a 2-0 triumph back in May 2013.
Injury Report: Trio listed as questionable; Farrell back in the mix after being rested last week
A trio of players who started last weekend’s draw in Montreal are listed as questionable on this week’s injury report: Kevin Alston (L ankle sprain), Teal Bunbury (L hamstring tightness) and Chris Tierney (R ankle sprain). Listed as out, meanwhile are Shalrie Joseph (groin), Stephen McCarthy (knee) and Luis Soffner (ankle).
While the statuses of Alston, Bunbury and Tierney remain up in the air, Andrew Farrell is available once again this week after taking a well-deserved rest against Montreal. Farrell, who had played every minute of the Revolution’s previous 30 games, appears rested and refreshed ahead of the MLS Cup Playoffs.
“He’s played a lot of minutes,” Heaps said of Farrell. “It was important for us to manage him.”
Heaps might also be looking to manage the workload of Jermaine Jones, who played a full 90 minutes for the U.S. National Team in Tuesday night’s friendly against Honduras. Jones was scheduled to arrive in Houston on Wednesday and Heaps has said he would assess his status following a discussion with the player.
Houston will be missing three players because of injury on Thursday night, most notably U.S. National Team left back DaMarcus Beasley, who is sidelined by a left hamstring strain. Also out for the Dynamo are starting goalkeeper Tally Hall (knee) and rookie forward Mark Sherrod (knee).
Will Bruin – who registered 10 goals in 24 appearances before a foot sprain sidelined him for the month of September – is listed as questionable, but made his return as a substitute on Sunday against D.C. United.
Final Thoughts: Even with playoff spot secure, plenty of reasons for Revs to keep pushing
“Nothing changes for us,” said goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth. “We’re going into every game looking for three points. We want to continue to win games going into the playoffs and we want to stay hot, so it’s not going to be a different approach for us at all, even if we were locked into a certain spot. So we’re going to Houston and we’re going to try to get a win.”