With the playoffs out of reach, the Revolution turn their attention to spoiling the postseason hopes of the Crew this weekend in Columbus.
Although the Revolution have been reduced to the role of spoiler since the start of their current seven game skid (0-6-1), you can bet that Jay Heaps will have his squad motivated for Saturday’s clash.
But the Revolution need a lot more than motivation when they step onto the pitch at Crew Stadium. For a team that’s only scored three goals since their last win -- a 2-0 triumph over New York on Jul. 8 -- the fact of the matter is that their accuracy needs to improve inside the final third.
That won’t be easy to do against a Columbus squad that suffocated New England’s attack with ease during their Jun. 16 encounter. Using textbook counterattacking principles, the Crew patiently waited inside their own end, then flustered the Revolution with timely tackles and physical play. And while that may be a tactic that many opponents have carried with them to Gillette Stadium this season, the Crew remain a team that relies heavily on the hardnosed approach in the absence of a proven goalscorer.
Another thing the Revolution have to do on Saturday? Stay disciplined inside their 18. Last week, the Fire burned them early thanks to a sloppy A.J. Soares slide tackle that led to a Chris Rolfe penalty strike. And even though Fernando Cardenas leveled it minutes later, another mental lapse opened the door for Sherjill MacDonald to score the game-winner from a poorly-defended corner kick before the half.
Granted, the odds may not be in the Revolution’s favor. Not with the poor form they’ve shown in recent weeks, and most certainly not with the way they’ve played on the road this season. On paper, few would be faulted if they believed that the Revolution’s chances going into the game were slim-to-none.
But that idea ignores the fact that the Crew attack is, for all intents and purposes, a figment of the imagination. Yes, they may have lit the board twice in each of their last two. But if the Revolution can stay within themselves defensively and avoid the cavalier defending that’s doomed them in recent weeks, a result -- if not a win -- is entirely possible for team that’s desperate to find one for the first time in over a month.
So what will Saturday’s contest promise to bring?
For the Revolution, expect them to make a concerted effort to establish their early season identity -- and identity distinguished by short passes, and fundamentally sound soccer. When taking the ball into the attacking third, look for Jerry Bengtson to rummage inside the 18, looking to convert via a loose ball or poor clearance.
For the Crew, the attack may be coming to life at just the right time. And in light of that, the Revolution have to be mindful of where Eddie Gaven is at all times, especially when the Crew counter attack. Another player who’s bolstered their form going forward is recently-signed designated player Federico Higuain, who might give the attack the goalscorer it craved earlier this season.
Yes, the playoffs may not be reality for the Revolution this season. And yes, the idea of playing for pride with the autumn months approaching isn’t what Heaps had in mind when he took the job last winter.
But that shouldn’t prevent them from striving for the strong finish. And that finish begins Saturday in Columbus, where the Revolution hope to put an end to their seven-game slide.