FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – A pair of teams that currently sit three points above the playoff line in their respective conferences will do battle on Saturday night at Gillette Stadium, where the New England Revolution will host Real Salt Lake in their penultimate home game of the regular season.
The Revs (10-10-10, 40 pts.) and RSL (14-12-4, 46 pts.) are both in the thick of the postseason fight with just four games left on the schedule, making Saturday night’s clash a critical contest.
Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m., with NBC Sports Boston televising the match and streaming the action live on NBCSportsBoston.com and the NBC Sports mobile app. Brad Feldman, Paul Mariner, and Naoko Funayama will have the English call there, as well as on 98.5 The Sports Hub and SiriusXM Channel 157.
Portuguese radio listeners can tune into 1260 AM Nossa Radio USA.
Pregame coverage begins at 6:45 p.m. with Revolution Pregame Live, as Elizabeth Pehota, Jeff Lemieux, and Charlie Davies 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 have 30 minutes of postgame coverage.
Current Form: Both sides aiming for a return to peak form through final stretch
Both the Revs and RSL were red-hot through the summer months, but have cooled off slightly in recent weeks.
New England’s frustrating 3-3 draw in Orlando last weekend provided a potentially important road point, but it also left the Revs with a record of 1-2-4 in their last seven games following a 7-0-4 stretch through the summer.
The Revolution’s primary frustration in the Sunshine State came from what Bruce Arena called a “poor” second half, as the Revs let a 3-1 halftime lead slip away within 10 minutes of the break. The draw moved the Revs’ record to 6-1-5 when leading at halftime this season, and they’re focused heavily on putting together a 90-minute performance on Saturday night against RSL.
“It’s attention to detail,” Teal Bunbury said of what makes a complete performance. “If some guy messes up, you’re picking it up for him. It’s being a unit. The chemistry of this group has really grown in the past three or four months, and I think it’s going to show with these last few games. We need to stick together no matter what.
“We need to be able to grind out results, but we also need 90 minutes of playing a complete game.”
The Revs will try to put together that complete performance against an RSL side that went 9-3-3 from mid-May through mid-August, but that’s gone 2-3-0 in their last five, including a 3-1 loss to Minnesota last weekend.
Albert Rusnak (10 goals, five assists) leads the charge for Real Salt Lake’s attack, while much of their strength comes through midfield with pieces like Damir Kreilach and longtime MLS veteran Kyle Beckerman.
“They’ve got five guys up top that are pretty dangerous attacking-wise, Albert Rusnak being one of them. He can shoot the ball from anywhere,” said goalkeeper Matt Turner. “I know they’ve gotten some good road results this year, so they’ll come in and they’ll be ready to play, especially trying to right their ship after a loss.
“We know this game is important to them, important to us, so it’s going to have a playoff vibe to it.”
Past Meetings: Home-field advantage a huge factor in recent series history
The home side has won four of the past five meetings between the Revs and RSL, with the only exception being a 0-0 draw at Rio Tinto Stadium in 2016.
While the Revs have largely struggled in Salt Lake City – going 0-6-2 in their last eight visits – they’ve been dominant at home, winning the last two games at Gillette Stadium by identical 4-0 scorelines.
The only meeting between these teams in 2018 was in Utah last October, a 4-1 win for RSL. Coincidentally the Revs’ only goal in that game was scored by Kelyn Rowe, now on Real Salt Lake’s roster after he was acquired from Sporting Kansas City last month.
Injury Report: Bunbury returns in Orlando; Agudelo and Zahibo available after suspension
Teal Bunbury (hamstring) made a brief return from injury last weekend at Exploria Stadium, playing the final five minutes off the bench as the Revs pushed for a late winner. Bunbury missed just two matches, but was still happy to get back onto the field as New England prepare for four critical games to close the regular season.
“Whenever you miss playing time, it’s tough,” Bunbury said. “As a player, you want to be on the field and helping contribute, making an impact, so getting in there for a few minutes was great. Obviously disappointed with the result, but moving forward, I think getting guys healthy for these last four games is going to be crucial.”
The Revs will also get Juan Agudelo and Wilfried Zahibo back on Saturday after the duo served one-game suspensions last weekend, but Edgar Castillo remains sidelined by a rib injury.
Final Thoughts: Revs staying “optimistic” about playoff hopes with four games left
“Obviously we can still play better, but you have to be optimistic,” Bunbury said of the Revs’ playoff hopes. “You have to be realistic, but coming into training, the guys are upbeat. We know we have a good opportunity ahead of ourselves, but we’ve got to take it a game at a time, and this stretch is going to be crucial for us.”