FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Last weekend saw the New England Revolution secure their place in the Audi 2019 MLS Cup Playoffs. This weekend will determine their Round 1 opponent.
Decision Day will see the Revs (11-10-12, 45 pts.) close out their regular-season schedule with a visit to defending champion Atlanta United FC (17-12-4, 55 pts.) at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Kickoff on Sunday is set for 4 p.m. ET as all 12 matches in Major League Soccer will begin simultaneously.
Pending results around the league New England will finish in either 6th or 7th place in the Eastern Conference, and they’ll visit either Atlanta or the Philadelphia Union in the first round of the playoffs.
Sunday’s game will be televised locally on New England Cable News, while it will also stream live for authenticated subscribers on the NBC Sports mobile app. Radio listeners can tune into the English call on 98.5 The Sports Hub HD2, and the Portuguese call on 1260 AM Nossa Radio USA.
The first round of the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs is set for the weekend of October 19-20.
Current Form: Revs get statement win over NYCFC to clinch; Atlanta eyes No. 2 seed
The Revs snapped a string of three straight draws last Sunday night with a clinical 2-0 win over New York City FC – the top seed in the Eastern Conference – a result that sends New England back to the postseason for the first time since 2015.
Matt Turner made six saves to keep his second consecutive clean sheet, while highlight-reel goals from Teal Bunbury and Gustavo Bou sealed a win that gives New England a serious boost ahead of the playoffs.
“I think it (was) a good way to sum things up at home,” said Jalil Anibaba, knowing the Revs are likely to be on the road for the majority – if not the entirety – of the playoffs. “I think it does show the fruits of our efforts and hard work, but it’s only put us in a position to do what we want to do, so we’re obviously aware of what’s at stake moving forward. That’s going to be more important than anything we’ve done in the past so far.”
That was the clear message from New England’s players ahead of Sunday’s regular-season finale: they’re proud of their turnaround from a 2-8-2 start to reach the postseason, but they haven’t accomplished their ultimate goal yet.
“It’s a great achievement from the whole group – the coaching staff, all the guys that are on the team – but we don’t want to stop here,” said Antonio Delamea. “All the teams (in the playoffs) will start from the same spot, and if we play like we played this last part of the season, (when) we were a really tough team on the road, then you can count us as one of the contenders.”
Atlanta, meanwhile, lost out on a chance to secure the top seed in the East by going 2-3-1 in their last six games, but the defending champs could clinch the No. 2 seed with a win over the Revs on Sunday. That would set up a rematch between these two teams in Round 1 of the playoffs two weeks later.
While sporting director and head coach Bruce Arena said a potential rematch plays no factor in how the Revs will approach Sunday’s game, he also said the challenge of playing a quality side in a difficult environment will prove to be a valuable test ahead of the postseason.
“It’s a good test, because we get a game on the road – which we’ll have in the playoffs – against a quality team,” he said. “Perhaps we see them again, so I think it’s a good opportunity for us.”
Past Meetings: Revs still in search of their first-ever win over Atlanta
If the Revs are to climb into sixth place in the East on Decision Day they’ll have to do something they haven’t done in five previous tries: beat Atlanta.
The Revs are winless (0-3-2) against the Five Stripes, including a pair of losses in their only two previous visits to Mercedes-Benz Stadium. These sides last met at Gillette Stadium in mid-April, when Ezequiel Barco scored either side of halftime in Atlanta’s 2-0 win.
Should the Revs and Five Stripes meet in the playoffs two weeks from now it would be the first-ever postseason matchup between the teams.
Injury Report: Revs largely healthy ahead of finale; Martinez questionable for Atlanta
New England are approaching the postseason near full health, as only Edgar Castillo (rib) is currently sidelined. Arena revealed earlier this week that the veteran left back, who has missed the last seven games, is “likely out for the rest of the year.”
Rookie DeJuan Jones made five straight starts at left back following Castillo’s injury, while Anibaba has filled that the role the past two games, a draw in Portland and last weekend’s win over NYCFC.
Reigning league MVP Josef Martinez – who set an MLS record with goals in 15 straight appearances earlier this year – could be in line for a return on Sunday after missing the last two games with knee and ankle injuries, as the Atlanta forward resumed training earlier this week.
Final Thoughts: Revs focused on Atlanta, but eagerly anticipating playoffs
“Obviously the past three years have been tough,” said Andrew Farrell, who made the playoffs his first three professional seasons before missing out for three straight years. “When you’re sitting at home, you see people competing, it’s always frustrating, and the past years have been very frustrating.
“Being able to be in the dance is fun. You get to compete. Especially with the new (playoff) format, anything can happen. Obviously we’re focused on this next regular-season game, but we’re excited for these playoffs. You can kind of feel it around here that we’re excited to be a part of it.”