FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – “It’s probably the biggest game of the season.”
That’s how New England Revolution forward Juan Agudelo described Saturday night’s showdown with Vancouver Whitecaps FC at Gillette Stadium – and he’s not talking about the fact that it’s Juan Agudelo Bobblehead Night.
Agudelo and the Revs (7-10-5, 26 pts.) will host the Whitecaps (9-8-4, 31 pts.) in their only August home match at 8 p.m. on Saturday night, with Brad Feldman, Paul Mariner and Naoko Funayama handling the call on CSN New England and 98.5 The Sports Hub. Portuguese radio listeners can tune into WMVX 1570 AM.
Revolution Pregame Live with Gabriella DiGiovanni and Jeff Lemieux begins at 7:30 p.m. on the Revolution’s official Facebook page, while Revolution Postgame Live begins immediately after the final whistle on CSN New England. Rob “Hardy” Poole and Shalrie Joseph will take postgame calls on 98.5 The Sports Hub.
In addition to being Juan Agudelo Bobblehead Night, it will also be Noite Portuguesa at Gillette Stadium, with several activities surrounding the match to celebrate Portuguese heritage.
For those attending the match, the Revolution Charitable Foundation will be collecting new or gently used soccer equipment to benefit various local organizations. Donation bins will be available outside all Gillette Stadium gates beginning 90 minutes before kickoff.
Current Form: Revs again relying on home form to get back on track
Following back-to-back home wins over the LA Galaxy and Philadelphia Union the Revs were hoping to continue building momentum last weekend in Chicago, but the Fire overpowered the visitors, 4-1, to keep the Revolution winless on the road (0-8-3).
Now the Revs will once again turn to their home form – 7-2-2 at Gillette Stadium – as they look to get back on track and close the six-point gap that currently separates them from the playoff places in the East.
“We’re going to have to definitely step up our defensive play again,” said Scott Caldwell. “It’s everyone on the field. It’s not just one mistake, but defensively, as a team, we have to be stronger together, tighter, and work on that in training and get ready for Saturday.”
Vancouver present a stern test, having taken points from their last three road trips (2-0-1) to build one of the best away records in MLS (4-5-2). Fredy Montero leads the way offensively with nine goals, while Cristian Techera has been a consistent threat with five goals and five assists.
Perhaps most impressively they’ve conceded just 31 goals, tied for third-fewest in the Western Conference.
“They defend really well in their blocks, they pressure at the right times and they know how to counter and get points on the board when the other team is overexposed,” said head coach Jay Heaps. “We have to be a blend; we have to be aggressive offensively, but also mitigate anything they can do going the other way.”
Past Meetings: Road teams have won the last two matches in the series
London Woodberry and Kelyn Rowe scored either side of halftime to lift the Revs to a 2-1 victory over the Whitecaps in their only meeting last year at BC Place, one of New England’s two road wins in 2016.
It was Vancouver who were 2-1 victors the last time these sides met in Foxborough, however, as they ended the Revolution’s 17-game home unbeaten run in June 2015.
Those were the first two wins by visitors in the all-time series, which only features seven meetings dating back to 2011. Overall the Revs are 2-1-1 at home against the Whitecaps.
Injury Report: Revs get a clean bill of health as Dielna provides reinforcements
New England’s injury report is empty entering the weekend as midfielder Xavier Kouassi has fully recovered from the quad injury that has limited him to just six minutes of action since late May.
Additionally, reinforcements have arrived in the form of French defender Claude Dielna, who joined his new teammates on the training field for the first time on Thursday. The 29-year-old center back arrives fit and healthy, but admits that he’ll likely need time to raise his match fitness and form relationships with his teammates before making his MLS debut.
“I’m fit,” Dielna said after completing his first training session with the Revs. “I think I will need a couple days to work with [head of fitness Aidan Byrne]. I think in the next couple days I will be ready for play.
“I think [Saturday against Vancouver] is too soon, but why not next weekend (against New York City FC)? I need time to work with the team, I need to know my partner and the coach will decide if I play or not. I’m just here and I just work hard and try to help my team.”
Dielna will soon be joined by fellow newcomer Krisztian Nemeth, acquired in a deadline day deal with Columbus Crew SC. Nemeth is expected to arrive “by the beginning of next week, at the latest,” according to General Manager Michael Burns, and will officially join the roster after acquiring his International Transfer Certificate.
Final Thoughts: Revs aiming for a home win to “get the confidence up a little bit”
“We’re looking forward to getting back home and getting that win and getting three points, and getting the confidence up a little bit, as well,” said Rowe. “Hopefully not just as a team, but a couple of guys individually get some confidence up and get them going forward.
“Once we have some big guns really getting going, we’re a very tough team to beat. We have to win this game, and going forward, we have to keep our performances getting better and better.”