SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The New England Revolution will close out their 2018 road schedule on Thursday night at Rio Tinto Stadium, where they’ll visit Western Conference foe Real Salt Lake.
While the Revs (9-12-11, 38 pts.) have been officially eliminated from playoff contention, Real Salt Lake (13-12-7, 46 pts.) are currently perched in the sixth and final postseason spot in the West – just one point above the line – making this midweek showdown a critical piece of the playoff race.
Kickoff is set for 9 p.m. ET, with NBC Sports Boston televising the match and streaming the action live on NBCSportsBoston.com and their mobile app. English radio listeners can catch the call on 98.5 The Sports Hub HD2, while the Portuguese call will be available on 1260 AM Nossa Radio USA.
Current Form: Revs playing for pride, jobs in final two games; RSL fighting for playoff spot
There was bad news for the Revs shortly before kickoff of their meeting with Orlando City SC last weekend as other results around the league officially eliminated them from playoff contention, marking the third straight year they’ll miss out on the playoff party.
New England responded well, however, with goals from Cristian Penilla and Diego Fagundez helping them snap a four-game winless run in a 2-0 win over the Lions.
With still two games left on their 2018 slate the Revs are now looking towards next season, using the final 180 minutes of action to build a foundation for success in 2019. The best way to do that, according to head coach Brad Friedel, is to simply go out and win.
“We want to get maximum points out of the next two games,” Friedel said. “I don’t think any time, as a pro, when you go out onto the field – whether it’s a friendly, or a league game, or a cup final – you’re going to want to go out and try to lose.
“It’s going to be important for the players to keep concentrating, keep focused, and work really hard to get maximum points out of the last two games.”
The last two games are also critically important for Real Salt Lake, but for different reasons. Currently above the postseason line by a single point, RSL have both the LA Galaxy and Vancouver Whitecaps breathing down their necks for the final playoff spot in the West, and their fate will be decided by next weekend.
Mike Petke’s side have put together one of the league’s best home records this season (10-2-4), although they did just have a 14-game home unbeaten run snapped in their last runout at Rio Tinto Stadium, a 4-1 loss to the Portland Timbers. Overall, RSL are now winless in four (0-2-2) as they look to scrap their way into the playoffs.
Newcomer Damir Kreilach (11 goals, six assists) has led the way for RSL this season, while Albert Rusnak (10 goals, seven assists), Joao Plata (eight goals, eight assists) and Jefferson Savarino (seven goals, 11 assists) have also been consistent threats.
“They’re a very good team, especially when you play at their place,” said Friedel, noting the five-hour flight to Salt Lake City and the altitude as challenges for the Revs to overcome. “I think it’s about us. I’ve said it all season long. I think we’re capable of beating anybody in the league and it’s a matter of concentrating, staying focused, playing as a group, and hopefully we can get a result on Thursday night.”
Past Meetings: Revs unbeaten in three vs. RSL, but searching for first win at Rio Tinto
New England have dominated this series in recent years, going unbeaten in the past three matchups (2-0-1) while outscoring Real Salt Lake by a margin of 8-0. That stretch includes a pair of 4-0 wins in Foxborough and a 0-0 draw in the most recent visit to Utah in the summer of 2016.
The Revs are, however, still searching for their first-ever win at Rio Tinto Stadium, where they’ve gone 0-4-2 in six visits since the venue opened in 2008. The Revolution’s last win in Salt Lake City came back in 2007, when RSL was just three years old and playing their matches at Rice-Eccles Stadium.
Injury Report: Farrell to miss third straight game with hamstring injury
After starting the first 30 games of the season right back Andrew Farrell will miss his third straight match on Thursday night, still sidelined by the hamstring injury he suffered in Toronto three weeks ago.
It remains to be seen what role, if any, Antonio Delamea and Zach Herivaux will play on Thursday night, as both were with their respective national teams for fixtures on Tuesday. Delamea was an unused substitute in Slovenia’s 1-1 draw with Cyprus, while Herivaux assisted on the game-winning goal in Haiti’s critical 2-1 win over Saint Lucia.
Final Thoughts: Caldwell says every player is “fighting for a job” in 2019
“Everyone is always fighting for a job, fighting for a spot, and that’s something that we have to continue to do through the end of the year,” said Scott Caldwell. “Hopefully that will help us with the competitiveness inside the team, and hopefully build a stronger team in the offseason.”