FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – When the 2015 MLS schedule was released back in early January, this is the game that many New England Revolution fans – and, yes, perhaps a few players – immediately circled on their calendars.
Home against the LA Galaxy.
Sunday night’s nationally-televised clash at Gillette Stadium will be the first time the Revs and Galaxy have squared off since MLS Cup 2014, and it will be their only meeting in league play this season; unless, of course, there’s another title matchup on tap in mid-December.
Fox Sports 1 will have live coverage of Sunday night’s showdown between the Revs (5-3-5, 20 pts.) and Galaxy (5-4-5, 20 pts.) beginning at 7 p.m. Radio listeners can catch the call in English on both 98.5 The Sports Hub and SiriusXM FC Channel 94, and in Portuguese on WMVX 1570 AM Nossa Radio USA.
Current Form: Revs aim to get back in the win column; LA recently snapped winless run
It’s rare that a home draw feels like a win, but in some respects that was the case last weekend as the Revs battled their way to a 1-1 draw with D.C. United despite playing the final 32 minutes with only nine men.
But while the Revs were satisfied with the resolve they showed in the closing stages last weekend, there was still the sense that they’d let points slip away. It’s something head coach Jay Heaps feels the Revs have done too many times in recent weeks, as they’ve gone 0-1-3 despite scoring the opening goal in their past four games.
“I think we’ve been really good at times, but we need to finish teams,” Heaps said. “I think we were in a situation where we were really good in that first half against D.C., and we would’ve liked to have put more than just one goal away. So even if we had dropped a man or two men, we’re in a position where we can win the game.”
The Galaxy went through a similar stretch from late April through mid-May, going 0-2-3 despite scoring the opening goal on two occasions. They’ve since cured that ailment, however, winning a pair of 1-0 games within the past week over the Houston Dynamo and Real Salt Lake.
Both of those victories came at StubHub Center, where Bruce Arena’s side is an impressive 5-0-2 on the season. LA have struggled on the road, though, going winless (0-4-3) in seven games outside southern California.
Past Meetings: Revenge not the motivation for Revs in MLS Cup rematch
A regular-season victory in late May is not akin to an MLS Cup triumph in early December. For that reason, vengeance won’t be driving the Revs when they meet the Galaxy on Sunday night, despite suffering a painful loss in MLS Cup 2014 – the third time LA has broken Revolution hearts in the title game.
Instead, Heaps and players have reiterated, they’re plenty motivated by their desire to return to winning ways, having drawn their past two home games against Eastern Conference competitors.
If recent regular-season results are any indication, there may be loads of goals on Sunday night. The Revs and Galaxy have combined for 15 goals in their last three regular-season meetings – victories of 3-1 and 5-0 for the Revolution, and a 5-1 triumph for the Galaxy in the lone regular-season meeting last year.
Injury Report: Revs coping with pair of suspensions; LA missing trio of outside backs
Both Lee Nguyen and Chris Tierney have been steady presences in the Revolution lineup this season, but the Revs will have to work around their absences on Sunday night as both are suspended following second-half ejections in last weekend’s draw with D.C.
Kelyn Rowe and Kevin Alston are the likeliest options to fill in at central attacking midfield and left back, respectively, but the Revs are confident they have multiple players who can fill those roles admirably.
“We have a really deep team,” said Charlie Davies. “I know guys are champing at the bit to get back on the field and in the starting 11. We’re all confident that whoever steps in will do the job.”
Another potential option in that attacking midfield role is Daigo Kobayashi, who was back in the game-day 18 last weekend for the first time since late March after overcoming injuries to both his hamstring and back.
The Galaxy, meanwhile, are likely to be missing a trio of outside backs for the trip to New England. A.J. DeLaGarza (groin), Todd Dunivant (calf) and Robbie Rogers (ankle) all missed LA’s midweek win over RSL, and Arena said on Thursday that he expected none would recover in time for Sunday.
Robbie Keane, however, is back in the mix for the Galaxy after missing seven games with a groin injury. The prolific Irishman has appeared off the bench in each of LA’s last two games, assisting on Alan Gordon’s late winner on his return to action last weekend.
“He’s one of the best,” Heaps said of Keane. “He has a sixth sense of where he can show up to throw off the numbers. And then when he gets the ball, he’s got a skill-set that’s pretty much unmatched.”
Final Thoughts: Revs hope to “get over the hump” with road games looming
“We have to bring our ‘A game’ no matter who the opponent is,” said Davies. “Against LA, maybe everyone’s feeling a little bit more energy. We really want to win this game. We’ve had a couple of not-so-great games, and this would be a great game to get over the hump.”