The New England Revolution (7-11-2, 23 points) will do all they can to avoid the record book when they face the Colorado Rapids (8-6-6, 30 points) at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday at Gillette Stadium.
The Revolution, who have dropped eight straight going into the midweek match, are one loss away from matching the team record of nine, which was set twice in 1997 and 1998. The current streak already is the club's longest during the post-shootout era (2000-present).
Their latest setback came at the hands of the Columbus Crew on Saturday after Ethan Finlay scored the game-winner for the guests in the 84th minute of a 2-1 victory. Adding to the Revolution’s misery: starting left back and set piece specialist Chris Tierney was forced to exit Saturday’s match early with an MCL sprain, which will keep him out of Wednesday’s game.
While the local XI have been streaking in the wrong direction, the Rapids have lost only once in their last five games (2-1-2). Their most recent success came last Friday in a 3-0 thrashing of Chivas USA. Nick LaBrocca’s 16th-minute goal proved to be all the Rapids needed to secure the victory.
With the home stretch approaching and points for both sides becoming more important with each passing week, here’s what to watch for on Wednesday.
No time to dwell on defeats. Ask any athlete and they’ll tell you the same thing: The best elixir to soothe the sting from losing is the opportunity to get back on the field ASAP. Fortunately for the Revolution, they won’t have to wait an entire week for another chance to reverse their recent woes. And with Wednesday's match taking place on their home turf, the Revolution really couldn’t ask for a much better scenario to put the losing streak out to pasture.
“I think it’s a good thing we have a game coming up quick,” Revolution center back A.J. Soares told reporters on Monday. “It just kind of gives us a chance to go out there without thinking too hard, and try to get back to just playing flowing football like we were doing when we were winning all those games.”
Can the Revolution take advantage of the injury-ravaged Rapids? Last week’s 3-0 victory was a fitting way to celebrate a night in which longtime player and current coach Pablo Mastroeni was honored at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park. But any positive vibes the Rapids hoped to carry into Gillette Stadium on Wednesday diminished somewhat with the news that Deshorn Brown (groin), Jose Mari (ankle) and Shane O’Neill (knee) are unlikely to play due to injury. Coupled with the travel for a midweek match two time zones to the east, the Rapids look far from formidable heading into the match.
Rapids tough opponent to read. Although the Rapids won’t be able to field their strongest lineup, it would be a stretch to say that the task at hand will be easier for the Revolution. Quite the opposite. With at least three changes expected in the Rapids’ lineup, Revolution coach Jay Heaps surely is going to have to pay close attention to the film and scouting reports to prepare for a variety of different looks and/or approaches from Mastroeni’s side.
“You don’t know what you’re getting because they change their lineup so much,” Heaps told reporters on Monday. “Pablo is doing an excellent job there and he’s rotating the team, and they’ve got a depth of players to choose from.”
How will Tierney’s absence affect an already slumping offense? Chris Tierney has long been a steady member of the Revolution back four, and Heaps will be the first to admit it. But it was interesting to hear the Revolution coach emphasize Tierney’s importance to the attack. The left back’s crosses from the run of play and service on set pieces have been crucial to the team’s success in the final third. Without Tierney’s presence, Heaps will need others -- including Kelyn Rowe and Lee Nguyen -- to keep the attack from falling off the shelf completely.
Confidence hasn’t waned for Revolution. Normally, an eight-game losing streak would shake any team’s collective confidence. When the goals are scarce and the mistakes are commonplace, it’s easy for self-doubt to creep into the players’ and coaches’ minds. But according to Soares, the spirit inside the locker room is far from broken.
“I think you could see against Columbus, we played good soccer, we easily could have won the game, and unfortunately we didn’t,” Soares said. “But coming out of that game, we felt like we did enough to win, so it’s not a confidence issue.”