It’s just about sink or swim time for the New England Revolution.
The team’s current eight-game winless streak can’t go on any longer if it hopes to have a remote chance of reaching the postseason. That’s why, with the Revs currently four points outside the Eastern Conference’s sixth and final playoff spot, Saturday night’s clash at Gillette Stadium against the Portland Timbers is so critical.
Portland is a talented outfit that can play through the middle of the field, though this is a highly winnable game for the Revolution.
The Timbers are making a cross-country trip to Foxborough on short rest after beating D.C. United 2-0 in Portland Wednesday night. That result did New England a pair of favors: It tired the Timbers and kept D.C. from leapfrogging the Revs in the East.
However, the result also gave Portland some momentum by snapping a four-game losing streak and resurrecting its playoff chances.
Players to Watch
Cristian Penilla has been a revelation in the attack for the Revolution this season and will need to have another quality outing Saturday to bolster his team’s chances of victory.
Penilla, a speedy winger with a nose for goal, combines well with fellow attackers Diego Fagundez and Teal Bunbury; he is also tied with Fagundez for most assists on the team this season (6).
The Revolution were shutout in their last two games, the first time this season they’ve ever gone consecutive matches without scoring.
Penilla will be key to getting New England’s attack back on track.
Argentine midfielder Diego Valeri is the player to watch for Portland.
Valeri is the Timbers’ leading scorer, with nine goals on the season. He is one of the most dangerous midfielders in Major League Soccer, though, since joining the Timbers in 2013, has never assisted on a goal against New England and has only scored against them once.
It’s in the Revs’ best interest to continue keeping Valeri at bay. The Timbers have only lost 13 times in the 66 games, across all competitions, in which Valeri has scored.
Saturday night will mark New England’s ninth match all-time against Portland.
The Revolution are just 1-2-5 against the Timbers since they entered the league in 2011. The only time New England has beaten Portland was in a 1-0 decision at Gillette Stadium March 24, 2013.
New England and Portland last met April 2, 2017. They settled for a 1-1 tie. Former Revs star Lee Nguyen equalized for New England after Valeri opened the scoring.
Both Portland and New England are in danger of missing out on the postseason.
Since they’re currently fifth in the Western Conference, the Timbers’ margin for error is a little more accommodating than New England’s. The Revolution have slipped out of playoff position in the midst of this eight-game winless run and are in danger of being passed by both D.C. and Toronto.
That said, both teams are in dire need of momentum and points, with New England the more desperate side after having gone more than two months without a win.