FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Florida heat will meet the heat of the Eastern Conference playoff race when the New England Revolution visit Orlando City SC on Saturday night at Exploria Stadium.
The Revs (10-10-9, 39 pts.) and Lions (9-13-8, 35 pts.) enter this weekend’s matchup separated by just four points, but they also have the playoff line between them. New England currently sit in the seventh and final playoff spot in the East, while Orlando occupy ninth, outside the postseason picture.
With less than a month left on the regular-season schedule, it’s yet another six-pointer.
Kickoff from Exploria Stadium 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.
Brad Feldman and Paul Mariner will have the English call both on NBCSB and 98.5 The Sports Hub, while Portuguese radio listeners can tune into 1260 AM Nossa Radio USA.
Revolution Postgame Live will begin immediately after the final whistle on NBC Sports Boston, while host Matt McCarthy and former Revolution midfielder Clyde Simms will have 30 minutes of postgame coverage on 98.5 The Sports Hub.
Current Form: Revs aim to solidify postseason place as Orlando fight to stay alive
While the Revs could potentially climb as high as a tie for fourth in the East with a win on Saturday night, Orlando likely need three points just to keep their postseason dreams alive.
New England are coming off a frustrating 2-1 loss to New York City FC last weekend, a result that snapped the Revs’ seven-game road unbeaten run (3-0-4). The game was marred by an early red card to Antonio Delamea that forced the Revs to play down a man for 80+ minutes, but it was still only a 96th-minute penalty kick that prevented the visitors from picking up a point at Yankee Stadium.
Delamea’s suspension for that red card was rescinded upon appeal, making him available in Orlando.
Despite the vexing circumstances, the Revs have put last weekend’s events behind them, and have their sights firmly set on Saturday night’s visit to the Sunshine State.
“At this point of the season, we have to,” Jalil Anibaba said of pressing onwards. “Orlando’s going to be huge for us, and if we can pick up points there, we’ll be okay.”
Orlando, meanwhile, are winless in four (0-2-2) and would see their playoff aspirations take a serious hit with anything less than a win on Saturday night. They did take a point off the league leaders in their most recent outing, however, playing to a 2-2 draw with Los Angeles FC last weekend.
Nani scored his team-leading 10th goal in that draw – to go along with his team-leading eight assists – and the Revs are preparing for the Portuguese midfielder as one of several threats in the Lions’ attack.
“They need a win in every one of their games, so it’s going to be a tough matchup,” said Teal Bunbury. “Nani, on any given day, can be special. You’ve got Dom Dwyer and Tesho (Akindele) who are great at finishing.
“But for us, I think if we stick to our game plan, make sure we go out there and we put pressure on them, we’re going to get the job done.”
Past Meetings: Revs and Lions set to square off for the third time this season
Saturday night’s clash will be the rubber match in a three-game season series between New England and Orlando, who’ve each already won on home soil.
Orlando claimed a 2-1 win over the Revs in the U.S. Open Cup Round of 16, needing extra time after the sides were scoreless through 90 minutes at Exploria Stadium in mid-June. New England returned the favor in the regular season in late July, rolling to a 4-1 win at Gillette Stadium with goals from four different players.
Including that Open Cup meeting earlier this year this will be the Revolution’s seventh visit to Orlando, where they remain in search of their first win. They have, however, drawn there three times, going 0-2-3 in the regular season.
Injury Report: Bunbury on verge of returning; Agudelo and Zahibo suspended
In addition to Delamea’s suspension being rescinded there is also potentially good news with regards to Teal Bunbury, who could make his return on Saturday night after missing the past two games with a hamstring injury.
Edgar Castillo, however, remains out with a rib injury, and he’ll be joined on the sidelines by midfielders Juan Agudelo and Wilfried Zahibo, both of whom are suspended for yellow-card accumulation.
“We know we have the guys who can step up and fill those roles,” said Andrew Farrell. “Obviously those guys are big players for us … but we’ve just got to make sure the next guy’s ready to go, and we’re ready for Orlando.”
Orlando City SC will also be missing a key central midfielder in Uri Rosell, who will be suspended because of yellow-card accumulation.
Final Thoughts: Farrell calls Saturday night “a big, big, big, big six-pointer”
“We need to make sure we’re sharp and healthy for this game,” said Farrell. “It’s the biggest one of our season. It’s a big, big, big, big six-pointer to keep being in the playoffs, and keep being in contention for being in a higher spot in the playoffs. We’re excited for the opportunity. We have five more games, so (we’re) excited for that, but Orlando’s a big game.”