TORRANCE, Calif. – The only regular-season meeting between the New England Revolution and LA Galaxy this year was back in mid-July, but to call it a preview of MLS Cup would be a bit misleading.
It’s true that those two sides will meet again at StubHub Center on Sunday afternoon with the league title on the line, but circumstances have changed quite dramatically in the past five months.
“At that time, I don’t think we were the team we are now,” said Lee Nguyen, who scored the Revolution’s only goal from the penalty spot in a 5-1 loss, the club’s worst setback of the season. “I think we can take some positives out of that. Going into [MLS Cup], I don’t think guys are worried about that game.”
When the Revs visited the Galaxy on July 16 they were in the midst of an eight-game losing streak, their longest in the post-shootout era. Head coach Jay Heaps was tinkering with different partnerships as he tried to find the right combination to help the Revs snap out of their funk.
A.J. Soares, currently one of the Revolution’s stalwart central defenders, started the game in central midfield. As a result, standout right back Andrew Farrell was forced to shift centrally. Charlie Davies, now tied for the league-lead in goals this postseason with four, was still three days away from making his first-ever start for the Revolution.
Add in some other unusual circumstances – Soares was ejected in just the 29th minute, followed by Galaxy right back Dan Gargan seven minutes later – and it’s clear that neither side will be looking to that prior meeting as a blueprint for success on Sunday afternoon.
“We take what we can from it, but we know that it’s such a different team from back then,” said Nguyen. “Now it’s all about putting that game, that effort into Sunday and trying to get a positive result.”
Something the Revs did learn from their regular-season meeting with the Galaxy – or at least had reinforced – is just how lethal LA’s attack can be if given the opportunity. Robbie Keane (two goals, two assists) and Gyasi Zardes (two goals) led the way as the Galaxy punished the Revs for every mistake.
“Obviously it was a tough result, but we know they’re a very, very good team and they have a lot of really good attacking pieces,” said goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth. “We’re going to go over the video and we’re going to come up with a game plan, try to stick to that game plan and hopefully get a result.”
This time around the Revolution’s game plan will involve the influence of Jermaine Jones, who didn’t join the Revs until late August, well after New England’s visit to StubHub Center. The powerful central midfielder has helped complete the Revolution puzzle, but he’s not the only thing about this club that has changed in the past five months.
“I think a lot of us have grown a lot since we had that slump in the middle of the season,” said Farrell. “The team’s dynamics have changed. We’ve got new players like Jermaine, but it’s a different team. It’s the same mentality, but a different team. I think we’re ready for one last game to give it our all.”