The New England Revolution are looking to capitalize on three weeks’ worth of rest and the comforts of playing at Gillette Stadium as it hosts Eastern Conference basement dwellers D.C. United on Saturday evening to kick off a three-game home stand.
First-year head coach Brad Friedel has gotten more right than wrong with the Revolution (6-4-6, 24 points) through the first half of the season. The club is in fourth place and seems capable reaching the playoffs, its offseason signings have largely panned out, the attack is clicking and the team is performing better on the road than it did last season.
But with 18 games left on the schedule, starting with this weekend against D.C., the Revs have plenty of work to do to snap a two-year streak of failing to reach the postseason.
“I think so far, halfway through the season, we feel good,” said Revolution midfielder Diego Fagundez, who will likely make his 200thcareer appearance on Saturday against United.
“We probably should’ve been feeling better, because we let some points slip away from us. At the end of the day, it’s like a new start, a new season basically.
“It’s the second part. Saturday’s a huge game – we have to start off the season again well. We just have to go out there and make sure that we’re playing our game. We’re at home, so when we’re at home, we have to make sure that we’re winning games.”
The Revolution can’t afford any hiccups as they return from the World Cup break, especially with this being their only three-game homestand of the season and a weaker team like DC United club on the docket.
That said, Saturday’s contest could have all the makings of a trap game. United are far batter, talent-wise, than their 2-6-4 record suggests. They’ve played 10 of 12 games on the road this season as they’ve waited for their new, soccer-specific stadium to open in July. Beyond that, the club has been invigorated by the signing of English striker Wayne Rooney, formerly of Manchester United and Everton, who will officially join the team on July 10.
“I don’t think you can really look at their point total and their record to see exactly how they perform on a match-by-match basis,” Friedel said. “[They are a] very good counterattacking team. They have players in [Darren] Mattocks and [Paul] Arriola and [Luciano] Acosta and [Yamil] Asad that can go forward very quickly…One thing’s for certain, they’re not going to be an easy matchup at all, and we’re going to have to be completely focused if we want to get the three points.”
“They have some key players who can offset teams, and it’s tough having to play a lot of games on the road initially,” added New England’s leading scorer, Teal Bunbury. “They’re probably going to be excited that they’re going to be able to play at home here coming up soon, so we just have to be aware of that.”
D.C. and New England have been longtime rivals since Major League Soccer’s inception in 1996. They’ve eliminated each other in the playoffs multiple times, have met 71 times in the regular season and seem to play one another with an edge regardless of their respective places in the conference standings.
What’s more, the Revolution haven’t beaten United in a regular season game since taking a 2-1 decision of May 24, 2014 – that’s an eight-game winless streak over almost four seasons.
With rivalry bragging rights and precious Eastern Conference points on the line, the stakes will be high for the Revs come Saturday evening.
“It’s huge,” Bunbury added. “I think our last 10 [of 15] games or something is going to be on the road, so it’s going to be pretty tough. So these next few games at home are going to be crucial for us.
“In our mind, we could go toe-to-toe with any team, and getting three points in each isn’t a tall task for us. We’re going to start off with D.C., but our mindset is to win all these games at home.”