FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – The start of the Audi 2015 MLS Cup Playoffs is less than a week away, but the New England Revolution first have some work to do to assure themselves a spot in the postseason field.
New England (13-12-8, 47 pts.) enter Decision Day – the final round of games in the regular season – perched in the sixth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, three points ahead of Orlando City SC (12-13-8, 44 pts.). A win or draw on Sunday evening at Yankee Stadium, where the Revs will take on New York City FC, would secure the Revolution’s playoff berth, as would an Orlando loss or draw at the Philadelphia Union.
The only scenario in which the Revs would miss the playoffs is a loss to NYCFC, combined with an Orlando win over Philadelphia in which Orlando erases the current eight-goal gap in goal differential.
The Revs and NYCFC will kick off simultaneously with three other Eastern Conference matches at 5 p.m. ET on Sunday, with coverage on Comcast SportsNet, 98.5 The Sports Hub HD2 and WMVX 1570 AM (Portuguese radio).
Fox Sports 1 will broadcast the Columbus Crew SC – D.C. United match, which has direct implications on the Revolution’s potential playoff seeding, and include live look-ins around the East.
Current Form: Revs putting recent struggles in the rearview mirror ahead of finale
The Revolution have been on the verge of clinching a playoff spot for the past month after surging to the top of the East with a 7-0-1 run through August and September, but they’ve stumbled to a 0-3-1 mark in four games since, leaving their playoff fate to be decided on the final day of the regular season.
Head coach Jay Heaps and his staff have identified the issues from the recent slump and have spent the week working to correct them, but always with eyes forward on the next opponent and the task at hand.
“This week has been all about what it’s going to take to play New York on Sunday and be focused for that game,” said Heaps. “We take away good and bad from the past game and use that as motivation and use it as material to get better.”
New York City FC pose a unique challenge. Jason Kreis’ men will finish their inaugural season in eighth place in the Eastern Conference, but they’ve looked a different side in recent weeks with Frank Lampard and Andrea Pirlo settling into the league and contributing on a regular basis.
“It’s been a couple different lineups that they’ve thrown out the past couple weeks, but we’re expecting their best lineup,” said center back Andrew Farrell. “They’re a good team; when they play all together, a really good team.
“We’ve got to be ready for whatever they can throw (at us). They’ve got a lot of different guys we can see.”
Past Meetings: First-ever season series to be decided by Sunday’s rubber match
The first two meetings between the Revs and NYCFC have been decided by home-field advantage.
New England’s only previous visit to Yankee Stadium was all the way back on March 15 – New York City FC’s first-ever home game – when goals from David Villa and former Revolution forward Patrick Mullins earned the home side a 2-0 win, the club’s first-ever in Major League Soccer.
The Revs returned the favor on July 18 at Gillette Stadium, however, where Lee Nguyen finished off a flowing team move to lift New England to a 1-0 victory, kick-starting an eight-game unbeaten run.
Injury Report: Fagundez says he’s “ready to go” after injury scare vs. Montreal
An awkward tumble at the top of the box left Diego Fagundez favoring his right shoulder for the final half-hour of last weekend’s loss to the Montreal Impact, but the dynamic winger said the injury is “nothing major” and was a full participant in training this week.
Also a full participant in training was Darrius Barnes, who is back on the field after spending the past six months rehabbing from surgery to repair a torn patellar tendon in his left knee.
Final Thoughts: Revs taking a “do-or-die” attitude into Sunday’s finale
“You’ve got to be aware with the lines,” Farrell said of the smaller field dimensions at Yankee Stadium. “It’s a little bit smaller and not as wide, so crosses coming from the side, you’ve got to be aware.
“It’s just a completely different ball-game. But we played there the second game of the season, so we kind of have a feel for it. We’ve got to be ready for everything. It’s (like) a playoff game, and it’s do or die.”