FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – “We’re in a fight for the playoffs, and they start now.”
Those are New England Revolution head coach Jay Heaps’ thoughts on Saturday night’s meeting with the Philadelphia Union, which kicks off at 7:30 p.m. at Gillette Stadium. The sixth-place Revs (6-9-8, 26 pts.) and fifth-place Union (8-8-7, 31 pts.) are separated by a mere five points in the Eastern Conference standings.
Fans attending the match are encouraged to bring school supplies, which can be dropped off outside the Putnam Club, Bank of America Gate, and inside the NRG Plaza. All items will be donated to Cradles to Crayons, a nonprofit that provides children up to age 12 with essential items they need to thrive at home and school.
Those watching at home can catch the action in English on CSN and 98.5 The Sports Hub – both of which will also have postgame shows – and in Portuguese on WMVX 1570 AM.
Current Form: Revs hope Open Cup run serves as “a platform” for success in league play
Je-Vaughn Watson continued his heroics in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup on Tuesday night, scoring the game-winning goal in the Revolution’s 3-1 semifinal triumph over the Chicago Fire. The win sends the Revs to their first U.S. Open Cup Final since 2007, and it’ll be a rematch of that year’s title game against FC Dallas.
Kei Kamara and Teal Bunbury also scored for the Revolution, who’ll now look to use their Open Cup success as a springboard back into league play, where they’ve struggled in recent weeks with back-to-back road losses.
“We have to use it as a stepping stone, as a platform to really boost ourselves,” said Heaps. “We’re in a fight for the playoffs, and they start now. Every game that we play at home is that much more important in a row, in that we start putting games together.
“Playing at home against Philly is going to be a really difficult task, but we have to bring the same type of energy and attitude and effort.”
Philadelphia will visit Gillette Stadium in a bit of a rut, having gone just 1-4-2 in their last seven league games to drop from top spot in the East down to fifth. They haven’t won on the road since the second game of the season back on March 12 in Columbus, having conceded a 94th-minute equalizer last weekend at D.C. United.
Past Meetings: Dramatic penalty shootout pushed Revs past Philly in Open Cup
These two sides met just three weeks ago in Boston, where Brad Knighton came up with a pair of saves in the penalty shootout to lift the Revolution to a dramatic victory in the quarterfinal round of the Open Cup.
The Union have made multiple key additions since that meeting, however, bringing in U.S. National Team midfielder Alejandro Bedoya as a Designated Player, and acquiring energetic forward Charlie Davies in a trade with the Revolution.
Davies debuted with a brief appearance off the bench last week, while Bedoya could be in line to make his MLS debut on Saturday night at Gillette Stadium.
“Charlie’s someone we know well, but we don’t know him in their system,” said Heaps. “Could they change their system up? Could they do different things? We’ll be prepared for that.
“The other thing is Bedoya coming in. He’s certainly a national team caliber player and someone that’s going to help them right away. The question is where does he fit into the group?
“So a lot of changes for them from a personnel standpoint, but in the end, they’re still a really good team and ahead of us in the standings, and a team that we have to be eyeing moving into the playoff hunt.”
New England and Philadelphia have also met once this regular season, with the Union claiming a 3-0 win at Talen Energy Stadium in mid-March.
Injury Report: Agudelo on the verge of a return; Koffie to serve one-game suspension
New England could soon regain some of their attacking depth as Juan Agudelo – sidelined since late June with a right knee injury – recently returned to full training. Agudelo has missed nine games in all competitions.
Donnie Smith (hamstring) has also returned to training and, like Agudelo, has been upgraded to questionable on the official injury report. Both Femi Hollinger-Janzen (groin) and Xavier Kouassi (knee) continue to progress by working with the Revolution’s athletic training staff, but remain sidelined.
Gershon Koffie, meanwhile, recently made his first start since returning from a lengthy injury absence, but will now have to sit out Saturday night’s match because of a caution accumulation suspension.
Final Thoughts: Bunbury growing in confidence with goals in consecutive games
“It’s great to be able to score goals, to contribute,” said Bunbury, who’s scored in back-to-back games. “You know me – I want to give everything I have to this team. I love scoring goals, I love getting assists, but for me, the biggest thing is winning. I want to be a winner. I want to win games. Whatever that takes – whether that’s me providing, whether that’s me busting my tail defensively – I’m going to do that.
“It’s important, though. It’s good for confidence, and I think just getting that result is good for everybody’s confidence.”