FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – It’s no great mystery why the New England Revolution were spectators for the 2017 postseason rather than participants.
“Missing playoffs last year was mostly in part to not picking up points on the road,” said Kelyn Rowe. “We know what our first challenge (of 2018) is right away, on the road in Philly against a good team – a team that we’ve struggled with. It’s going to be a big challenge for us. We put in a lot of work this preseason and we’re hoping it translates into the first game.”
The Revs weren’t just good at Gillette Stadium last year, they were stellar. Their 12 home wins established a new club record, and only runaway champion Toronto FC (13) won more games at their home ground. But brutal road form – just one win and three draws from 17 attempts – left the Revs five points adrift of the playoff line in the Eastern Conference.
It was proof positive that home form alone can’t carry a team into the postseason, and as the Revs get set to kick off the 2018 campaign with a visit to the Philadelphia Union on Saturday night, they’re keenly aware of the need to cobble together road points this season.
“It’s huge. It’s crucial,” said Teal Bunbury. “If we go back to last year, our home record was amazing, but we just really couldn’t get those wins on the road. It’s going to be very important for us early on. We know how tough it is in this league to get road wins, but we have the team and quality to do it.”
With a new season has come a new coach and new philosophies, and with Brad Friedel now at the helm, he’s confident that this group can put their road woes behind them. That starts, Friedel said, by playing with a consistent style and attitude, regardless of the venue.
“A lot of times, playing on the road is your mindset,” Friedel said. “We’re going to try to go into Philadelphia with a winning mentality that we’ve tried to promote during preseason. We’re not going to change the way we’re playing just because we’re going on the road.”
If Juan Agudelo’s comments are any indication, New England’s mindset appears to be in the right place. The 25-year-old forward said the Revs welcome the challenge of opening the season away from home – for the 10th straight year and the 22nd time in 23 seasons – because nabbing a first road win right out of the gate could potentially relieve the pressure they felt through most of last season.
“Getting a win away from home the first game of the season would be huge for us,” said Agudelo. “I’m actually glad that our first game is away from home, so we can get that, kind of, monkey off our back.”