FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – A trio of home games loom large for the New England Revolution beginning early next week, but first the Revs will head north of the border for a Saturday night meeting with Toronto FC.
Kickoff from BMO Field between the Revs (6-8-8, 26 pts.) and TFC (9-7-6, 33 pts.) is set for 7:30 p.m., with Brad Feldman and Paul Mariner handling the call on CSN and 98.5 The Sports Hub. Portuguese radio listeners can tune into WMVX 1570 AM Nossa Radio.
Stay tuned to 98.5 The Sports Hub after the final whistle for the 30-minute call-in show, hosted by Rich Keefe and with analysis from Revolution legend Shalrie Joseph.
Current Form: Revs searching for a response after poor second half in Orlando
The Revs rode a four-game unbeaten streak (3-0-1) into Orlando last weekend and looked to be on the path to another good result when Kei Kamara’s ninth goal of the season gave them a halftime lead, but Orlando City stormed back in the second half to send New England to a frustrating 3-1 loss.
Head coach Jay Heaps called the second-half performance “a learning experience” and the Revs will now aim to get back to basics in Toronto, where they’ve found plenty of success in recent years.
“I think we’ve been playing decently well, have gotten some good results, so this was definitely a drop from the standard that we’ve set for ourselves,” said Chris Tierney. “We’re really disappointed in the (Orlando) game, but it’s about our response now. It’s about putting these games behind us and using poor performances to motivate us into good ones. Hopefully you’ll see a response come this weekend.”
Toronto FC, meanwhile, have won three straight games – all at BMO Field – to climb into sole possession of second place in the East. Jozy Altidore recently returned from injury and Michael Bradley is on the mend, while reigning MLS MVP Sebastian Giovinco has racked up four goals and three assists in the past three games.
“They have players that are as good as any in this league at changing the game in an instant,” Tierney said. “We’re going to have to be tuned in for the full 90 minutes. You really can’t give a guy like Giovinco and their other quality players chances, because they’re going to beat you every time.”
Past Meetings: New England looking to build upon recent success in Toronto
The Revs have owned the series with TFC in recent years, going unbeaten in the past eight meetings (5-0-3) with their Canadian rivals dating back to 2013.
Much of that success has come in Toronto, where the Revs are unbeaten in their last six trips (3-0-3), winning on each of their last three visits to BMO Field.
Earlier this year the Revs and TFC played to a 1-1 draw at Gillette Stadium, where Kelyn Rowe’s first-half goal was answered after the break by Giovinco – his first goal against the Revolution in four appearances.
Injury Report: Agudelo and Femi on the mend as Revs await return of attacking depth
New England continue to be short on attacking depth with both Juan Agudelo (knee) and Femi Hollinger-Janzen (groin) recovering from injury, but the duo continues to progress as the season nears the stretch run.
“I think that each week they get a little bit better, each day get a little bit better,” said Heaps. “You don’t want to push too much, because we do have a lot of the season left, but at the same time, we want to make sure that they’re progressing.”
Donnie Smith (hamstring) and Xavier Kouassi (knee) continue to rehab, as well, with Kouassi also adjusting to his new surroundings after arriving in Foxborough early in July.
“It obviously hurts that he’s not able to play for us yet, but at the same time, we love having him around,” Heaps said of the central midfielder. “He’s really getting a glimpse of what we do for film, what we do for preparation, what we do for execution and game plans. I think that’s been really good for him.”
Final Thoughts: Rowe says “the next couple weeks will decide” how Revs respond
“Guys know what it takes to get into the playoffs,” Rowe said when referencing the Revolution’s historically strong record in the season’s final months. “This group has been together for a long time. Obviously you add the addition of Kei, but Kei also knows how to get to the playoffs – he’s been there before.
“We understand that we didn’t have a great start to the season. We understand that we didn’t have the best middle of the season. But this last stretch has been good for us these last three years. We need to keep going.
“It’s the little things. Can we fight? Can we get the right guys on the ball in the right places? Can we put away our chances? The next couple weeks will decide it.”