FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – 17 games down, 17 to go.
The New England Revolution will officially begin the second half of their 2019 regular-season schedule on Saturday night, when they’ll welcome the Houston Dynamo to Gillette Stadium.
Kickoff between the Revs (4-8-5, 17 pts.) and Dynamo (7-5-3, 24 pts.) is set for 7:30 p.m., with NBC Sports Boston televising the match and streaming the action live for authenticated subscribers on NBCSportsBoston.com and the NBC Sports mobile app. Radio listeners can catch the call in English on 98.5 The Sports Hub, and in Portuguese on 1260 AM Nossa Radio USA.
Pregame coverage begins at 6:45 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.
Saturday night will mark the Revolution’s third annual Pride Night at Gillette Stadium, with several pride-themed elements highlighting the evening’s festivities. Most notably the players will wear The Colonial kits with pride-themed numbers, and those game-worn jerseys will then be available via online auction, with proceeds going to benefit You Can Play.
Current Form: Revs optimistic for season’s second half; Dynamo stumble after strong start
New England extended their unbeaten run in league play to five games (2-0-3) on Wednesday night, but they did so in somewhat frustrating fashion, conceding an 84th-minute equalizer in their 1-1 draw with the East-leading Philadelphia Union.
It was the second consecutive home game in which the Revs carried a 1-0 lead into the final 10 minutes only to settle for a 1-1 draw, and that’s something they’ll be looking to improve upon as they continue to build under sporting director and head coach Bruce Arena through the second half of the season.
“When we’re at home and we have a lead, we have to find a way (to win), no matter what,” said Teal Bunbury. “I think we just needed to be a little bit sharper (against Philadelphia) and a little more turned on, and I think moving forward, that’s what our focus is going to have to be.”
Despite the frustrating finish midweek the Revs continue to build confidence as they kick off the second half of their regular-season schedule on Saturday night, and they’ve regained the belief that they can make a run through the final 17 games of the season.
“We definitely know that we can make the playoffs,” said Diego Fagundez. “We just have to stay strong. We have a goal in (the locker room), so I think everybody’s prepared to make sure that we accomplish it. It’s going to be tough. It’s going to be hard. But with this squad and this locker room, we can definitely do that.”
Houston are currently above the playoff line in the Western Conference, though they’ve struggled in recent weeks after a blistering start to the campaign. The Dynamo shot to the top of the standings by going 6-1-1 through their first eight games, but they’re just 1-4-2 since, including a 2-0 loss to the San Jose Earthquakes midweek.
Most recently Houston are winless in four (0-3-1), scoring just one goal in that span, and as such the Revs are preparing for a side that will be hungry to get themselves back on track.
“Houston’s a tough team,” said Bunbury. “They just had a tough game in San Jose, they’ve got to fly across the country now to play us, so we’ve got to make sure that we step on the field and are ready to go from the first whistle.”
Past Meetings: Revs aiming to continue recent domination in Dynamo series
If the Philadelphia Union have been the Revolution’s bogey team in recent years, then the Revs have similarly been that team for the Houston Dynamo dating back to 2014.
New England are unbeaten in their last six meetings with Houston, going 5-0-1 and outscoring their Texan opponents 13-4 during that span. That stretch includes three consecutive 2-0 victories at Gillette Stadium, and another 2-0 triumph in the most recent meeting last March at BBVA Stadium.
All told the Revs are an impressive 12-5-7 against Houston since the club relocated from San Jose in 2006, including a 5-2-5 mark at Gillette Stadium.
Injury Report: Arena with a decision to make at GK as Turner returns from suspension
Matt Turner is eligible to return on Saturday night after completing his two-game suspension midweek, leaving Arena and the Revolution coaching staff with a decision to make at the goalkeeper position.
Brad Knighton started both games during Turner’s suspension – the first two league games of Arena’s coaching tenure – and led the Revs to a 1-0-1 record, conceding just two goals. Turner, meanwhile, started both U.S. Open Cup games, and saved a penalty in the Revs’ 3-2 win over the New York Red Bulls.
Asked about the goalkeeper competition on Thursday morning, Arena said he may continue to use both Knighton and Turner on rotation through the coming weeks.
“I’m impressed with our goalkeepers. They’ve done well,” Arena said. “Our goalkeeper coach Kevin (Hitchcock) has done a terrific job with them. They’ve both earned playing time.
“No one likes rotating goalkeepers, but I think in this case – with the suspension and the Open Cup – it’s given us the opportunity to play these two, and I think that’ll continue for a while.”
Meanwhile, Zach Herivaux (international duty with Haiti at the Concacaf Gold Cup) and Brian Wright (on loan with Birmingham Legion FC) remain unavailable, and center back Michael Mancienne continues to work through his recovery from plantar fasciitis.
Final Thoughts: Arena praises Beasley ahead of their potentially final showdown
“I always felt he could play any position on the field except center back, (and) if he was a few inches taller, he’d probably be a good center back, as well,” Arena said of Dynamo left back DaMarcus Beasley, who played for Arena at the 2002 and 2006 FIFA World Cups and will be retiring at the end of the season. “He’s a great player, a great person, he’s had a super career, and still to this date he’s an outstanding player in the league.”