FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – The New England Revolution make their long-awaited return to league play with a pair of home games this week, beginning on Wednesday night when they’ll host the Eastern Conference leading Philadelphia Union at Gillette Stadium.
Kickoff between the Revs (4-8-4, 16 pts.) and Union (9-4-4, 31 pts.) is set for 7 p.m., with NBC Sports Boston televising the match and streaming the action live on NBCSportsBoston.com and the NBC Sports mobile app. ESPN will also televise the action live in Latin America.
Radio listeners can tune into 98.5 The Sports Hub (English) or 1260 AM Nossa Radio USA (Portuguese).
Pregame coverage begins at 6:15 p.m. with Revolution Pregame Live, as Elizabeth Pehota and Jeff Lemieux will break down the starting lineups and biggest storylines, streaming live on the Revolution’s official Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube channels, as well as on revolutionsoccer.net.
Revolution Postgame Live will begin immediately after the final whistle on NBC Sports Boston, while 98.5 The Sports Hub will take calls during 30 minutes of postgame coverage.
Current Form: Revs riding four-game unbeaten run in league play; Union atop East
New England’s abbreviated Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup campaign came to an end last week at Exploria Stadium, where the Revs suffered a 2-1 loss in extra time after a scoreless 90 minutes. Justin Rennicks provided late life for the visitors with his first professional goal, but it wasn’t enough to overcome the Lions.
Focus now shifts entirely to league play, as the Revs – who haven’t played a regular-season match since their June 2 win at the LA Galaxy – will play six games in the next 26 days, presenting a massive chance to climb up the Eastern Conference table.
The Revs have already begun that climb with a four-game unbeaten run (2-0-2) since mid-May, and with sporting director and head coach Bruce Arena shifting the mindset of the club in recent weeks, the players are working to continue the upward trajectory as they hit the midway point of the 2019 schedule.
“Obviously you want to win your games at home, especially against the teams in the East, so that game against Philly is a big one,” said Andrew Farrell. “We’re right there. You get a couple wins – six points – and you’re right back in the mix of things in the East. That’s where we want to be.”
Philadelphia, meanwhile, haven’t played since June 12, when their Open Cup run came to an end with a Fourth Round loss to D.C. United. But the Union have lost just two of their last 15 in league play (9-2-4), and they’re one of just five teams in Major League Soccer with a winning record away from home (3-2-2).
Jim Curtin’s side has risen to the top of the East with a balanced attack – they’ve had eight players score multiple goals – but Arena pointed to one of his former U.S. National Team stalwarts as the Union’s clear leader.
“I know some of the players on the team. They’re a good team,” Arena said. “Certainly (Alejandro) Bedoya, their captain, is the leader of that team. We’ve got to be prepared for a real strong battle over 90 minutes.”
Past Meetings: Revs “a totally different team” than one that lost in Philly on May 4
Recent series history has not been kind to the Revs as they’ve dropped seven of their last eight meetings with the Union, including four straight losses since the start of last season.
Five of those defeats, however, have been in Philadelphia, where the Revs suffered a 6-1 loss to the Union a little less than two months ago, Brad Friedel’s next-to-last match at the helm in New England.
That’s a result that will no doubt be on the players’ minds when they take the field on Wednesday night in Foxborough, but Juan Agudelo said the Revolution locker room now bears little resemblance to the group that suffered that recent loss at Talen Energy Stadium.
“For some reason, every time we go up against Philly, we struggle,” Agudelo said. “It’s not just the last game, but previous games, also. We haven’t been able to come out on top. But I feel like we’re a totally different team, and we’re going to try to get a totally different result on Wednesday.”
Injury Report: Turner to serve second game of suspension; Mancienne still sidelined
Goalkeeper Matt Turner will complete his two-game suspension on Wednesday night, having received a second game (and an undisclosed fine) following his red card in the 1-1 draw with D.C. United on May 25. The Revs filed an appeal of the suspension for the second game, but the decision was upheld.
Turner – who started both of the Revolution’s recent games in the U.S. Open Cup – served the first game of that suspension on June 2, when Brad Knighton made his fifth start of the season and led the Revs to a 2-1 victory over the Galaxy.
Center back Michael Mancienne, meanwhile, hasn’t featured since the Revolution’s last meeting with Philadelphia in early May, and seems likely to miss an eighth straight game in all competitions as he continues to recover from plantar fasciitis.
Central midfielder Zach Herivaux will also be unavailable as he remains on international duty with Haiti at the Concacaf Gold Cup. Herivaux went the full 90 minutes in Les Grenadiers’ first two matches as Haiti went a perfect 3-0-0 to top their group for the first time ever, setting up a quarterfinal meeting with Canada on Saturday night.
Final Thoughts: Arena anxious to make Revs’ home coaching debut on Wednesday
“It should be fun,” Arena said of making his Revolution home coaching debut. “My first experiences here were in ’96 in the old stadium, which eventually ended up as a championship that year (with D.C. United). But it’s always been a difficult venue for visiting teams. Hopefully that’s going to be the case when I step on the sidelines for the Revs. I’m looking forward to that.”