DENVER – Two of the hottest teams in Major League Soccer will meet for an Independence Day showdown on Thursday night, when the New England Revolution will visit the Colorado Rapids at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park.
Both the Revs (5-8-5, 20 pts.) and Rapids (5-9-4, 19 pts.) are unbeaten since mid-May, their turnarounds coinciding with early-season coaching changes. They’ll kick off at 9 p.m. ET on Thursday 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.
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, Rapids both climbing the standings since coaching changes
New England and Colorado have taken similar paths through the first half of the 2019 season, struggling through the early going before midseason coaching changes set the teams toward brighter futures.
Teal Bunbury’s stoppage-time winner – his fourth goal in the last five games in all competitions – in last weekend’s 2-1 win over the Houston Dynamo extended the Revolution’s unbeaten run to six (3-0-3), as they’ve risen to ninth in the Eastern Conference, three points back of the playoff places.
The current run of form is just a start, however, and the Revs are well aware that plenty of work remains through the season’s final 16 games if they have legitimate postseason aspirations with Bruce Arena at the helm.
“A late, late winner at home – especially in front of a good crowd – (is great), so it’s something that you can build off of,” said goalkeeper Matt Turner, who made five saves in the victory over Houston. “We know that it’s just one win, and there’s a lot of stuff that we need to do to be where we want to be, above the playoff line.
“Unbeaten in six is great, but (there’s) still a long way to go. (We’re) still below the playoff line, so guys are hungry. We know we still have a lot to achieve and a long way to go to get ourselves out of the hole we dug ourselves.”
Colorado have similarly pulled themselves back into the playoff discussion in the Western Conference, somewhat improbably after one of the worst starts to a campaign in MLS history. The Rapids began the season 0-9-2, including eight straight losses from late March through mid-May.
That precipitated a head coaching change as the club moved on from Anthony Hudson and installed Conor Casey on an interim basis. What’s followed has been nothing short of remarkable, as the Rapids are 5-0-2 in their last seven games, including a 1-0 win over league-leading Los Angeles FC this past weekend.
Former Revolution forward Kei Kamara is leading the way with eight goals, and the Rapids have been particularly dangerous on set pieces, with five of their last six goals coming via corner kicks.
“They have a guy up top who we’re pretty familiar with, so he can be dangerous with balls in the air,” Turner said, referencing his former teammate Kamara. “They’re playing with a lot of confidence, as well, and they’re playing at home. Anytime you go on the road, it’s a challenge, but it’ll be interesting to see how it all turns out on Thursday night.”
Juan Agudelo was even more succinct in referencing the current form of both sides.
“They’re a hot team right now, but so are we,” he said. “So it should be a good clash.”
Past Meetings: Revs aiming to continue recent success against Rapids
These sides haven’t met in more than a year, their last showdown coming in the Revolution’s 2018 home opener last March, a match the Revs won with another dramatic stoppage-time winner from Chris Tierney. It’ll also be the Revs’ first visit to Denver in more than two years, their last visit coming for the 2017 season opener.
It’s been the Revolution who’ve had the upper hand in the series recently, winning four of the last five meetings dating back to the 2014 season. Three of those victories have been via shutout, including a 2-0 win at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in 2015, New England’s only win at the venue, which opened in 2007.
These sides have met once before on Independence Day, a 1-0 home win for the Rapids in 2004.
Injury Report: Goalkeeper battle playing out between Turner and Knighton
Arena said last week that he may continue to rotate between Turner and Brad Knighton at the goalkeeper position, and both have impressed in recent opportunities. Knighton went 1-0-1 in Arena’s first two league games in charge, while Turner was key in keeping the Revs within striking distance for their comeback against Houston.
Whether that rotation continues moving forward remains to be seen, but Turner said that both he and Knighton – along with fellow goalkeeper Cody Cropper – will be ready if called upon each week.
“Saturday was a good night for me, (and) Brad played well on Wednesday,” Turner said. “You can only really do what’s presented to you as a goalkeeper. Game to game, it can really vary.
“We can see going forward. All I can do is put my best foot forward every day in training and when I get my chances on the field, and I know Brad is going to do the same. The chips will fall where they may.”
As for the rest of the squad, Michael Mancienne continues to recover from plantar fasciitis, while Brian Wright remains on loan with Birmingham Legion FC (USL Championship). Zach Herivaux, meanwhile, will rejoin the Revs in the near future after Haiti’s magical run in the Concacaf Gold Cup ended with an extra-time loss to mighty Mexico in the semifinals on Tuesday night.
Final Thoughts: Arena lauds the “second to none” career of Tim Howard
“His career abroad, his career domestically, his career internationally, is second to none,” Arena said of Rapids goalkeeper Tim Howard, who may be facing the Revs for the final time on Thursday night having announced his retirement at the end of the season. “He’s an outstanding person. I’m hopeful I don’t see him again (on the field); (at) 41 he should be in a rocking chair.
“It’s great to see he’s done so well. He got a clean sheet against the best team in the league last week. He’s going to be tough to beat. I’m real happy for Tim’s success, and we certainly wish him the very best in his future endeavors.”