FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – It’s only mid-April and Saturday night’s meeting with Atlanta United FC is only the seventh game on the schedule, but already the New England Revolution are approaching “an essential stretch of the season” as a three-game homestand kicks off this weekend.
Beginning on Saturday night the Revs will host a trio of Eastern Conference teams in an 12-day span, as the New York Red Bulls (April 20) and Montreal Impact (April 24) will follow this weekend’s visit from the defending MLS Cup champions.
It will be the Revolution’s only three-game homestand of the season, and it’ll be followed by three consecutive road games against Sporting Kansas City, the Philadelphia Union, and Chicago Fire.
“You can’t say much more other than it’s an essential stretch of the season,” said Scott Caldwell. “Being home in front of our fans, three games in a row, we need to take maximum points.”
“It’s important that we pick up maximum points,” echoed head coach Brad Friedel. “If we do that, then we’ll be in a very healthy position with regards to the league standings, and hopefully we can grab confidence from it and carry on through the rest of the season.”
That need for maximum points is magnified by the Revolution’s frustrating start to the campaign, as they’ve taken just four points (1-4-1) from their opening six games, including four losses in their last five following a season-opening draw in Dallas.
In truth the Revs have put together positive performances on their travels, suffering a pair of one-goal losses in Toronto and Columbus with questionable offside decisions lingering in both. But points have always been difficult to come by on the road, making it all the more important to be strong at home, where the Revs picked up their first win of the season two weeks ago against Minnesota United FC.
“Obviously in this league, home games are paramount with so much parity,” said Jalil Anibaba. “We’re looking to do well with these three games at home. We’ll take them one game at a time, and right now the main focus is Atlanta.”
Atlanta have had a similarly frustrating start to their title defense, as the Five Stripes come to Foxborough still in search of their first win, carrying two home draws and two road losses.
That context could ratchet up the intensity on Saturday night, with both sides keenly aware of the need to start racking up points so as not to fall behind the pack in the East.
“I think it’s going to be a scrap,” said goalkeeper Cody Cropper. “I think it’s going to be a grind for 90 minutes. Whether it’s us coming out and playing our game, and making them play our game, I think is what we have to focus on.
“At the end of the day, all 11 players – or 12, or 13, or 14 players who get on the field – are going to have to fight together.”