For the fifth straight game against MLS competition, the Revolution found themselves staring at a deficit going into halftime in Tuesday’s U.S. Open Cup clash. And for the fifth straight game, the Revolution couldn’t climb out of it, as Conor Casey’s 10th-minute goal paved the way for a 2-0 quarterfinal win for the Union.
“It takes a lot out of us,” Revolution midfielder/forward Teal Bunbury told reporters after the match. “I don’t know what it is exactly. I think it’s a mindset that we all have to get on the same page from the first whistle because it’s not a light switch that you can just turn on and expect to get back into the game once you’re down.”
Coming back from an early goal has certainly been a tough task for the Revolution this year. Actually, it’s proven to be an insurmountable one during the spring and early summer.
In league action this year, the Revolution are 0-6-0 when trailing at halftime, a troubling trend for a team that went a respectable 2-3-2 tethered to a deficit going into the break last season.
Of course, the Revolution’s inability to bounce back wasn’t at the forefront of the players’ minds entering the second half. Quite the opposite. They approached the second half intent to level the match.
But Sebastien Le Toux’s 47th-minute goal put a sizable dent in their hopes of a second-half comeback. So much for staying within striking distance.
All hope wasn’t completely lost for the guests. The attack flickered to life following Le Toux’s tally, and it appeared that the Revolution might be able to pull themselves out of the two-goal hole as the hour mark neared.
But that momentum was brought to a complete halt after a line of severe thunderstorms barreled over PPL Park, forcing a 64-minute delay. Even so, midfielder Steve Neumann wasn’t about use the weather as an excuse.
“I don’t know if it factored into play that much,” Nuemann told reporters. “We’re all used to that sort of thing happening once or twice throughout our careers. I thought we lost some steam after the break, which we can only fault ourselves for first and foremost.”
We’ll never know if the Revolution would have gone on to score had the storm clouds stayed away from Chester, Pennsylvania. However, it’s clear that the team returned from the lengthy interruption a frustrated bunch.
Less than 10 minutes after the teams returned to the pitch, Jose Goncalves and Lee Nguyen were both cautioned. Making matters worse, A.J. Soares, who was initially shown a yellow card in the 47th minute, was given a second caution in the 94th minute, leaving the Revolution with 10 men when the final whistle chirped.
It would be a lie to call Tuesday’s performance promising for the Revolution. Not only were they limited to four shots all game, but they also conceded nine corner kicks.
Despite their far-from-inspiring performance, Bunbury is optimistic that the Revolution will be able to turn their struggles around before long.
“We’ve just got to come together,” Bunbury said. “This is the time in the middle of season where there are always ups and downs. I know the guys have the right mindset and we’re just going to look forward to our next game now.”
Conor Casey scored in the 10th minute to put the Revolution into an early ditch, while Sebastien Le Toux added an insurance goal in the 47th minute, allowing the Union to advance to the Open Cup semifinals. They’ll meet the winner of Wednesday’s Carolina Railhawks-FC Dallas quarterfinal on Aug. 13.
Tuesday’s match was halted in the 62nd minute after a dangerous thunderstorm rolled into the area, forcing spectators and players alike to take cover. The delay lasted 64 minutes before play resumed.
New England finished the match with 10 men after center back A.J. Soares was issued a second caution in the 94th minute. In total, seven players -- including four Revolution players -- were carded by referee Fotis Bazakos.
In last year’s quarterfinal round, eventual U.S. Open Cup champion D.C. United eliminated the Revolution, 3-1.
What it means: Pitted against MLS competition for the first time during this year’s tournament, the Revolution saw their recent woes in league play bleed into Open Cup action. Once again, the Revolution were handed an early deficit they couldn’t climb out of with the offense missing in action. Although leading scorer Lee Nguyen went the full 90, there was little he could do to help his club find the breakthrough. The Revolution’s frustrations boiled over late, as Nguyen, Goncalves and Soares were all cautioned in the final 20 minutes. All in all, it was the exact opposite of what coach Jay Heaps likely was looking for from his side with a major piece of hardware within sight.
Stat of the match: After Patrick Mullin scored his club’s fifth goal in the 67th minute of a 5-3 win over the Union on May 17, the Revolution have been outscored by their conference foes 7-1.
Weather impacts Open Cup ... again: It just wouldn’t be the Open Cup unless the weather stole some of the spotlight. The 64-minute delay due to thunderstorms marked the third time in the last three years that weather has delayed Open Cup play for the Revolution. Last year’s third-round clash vs. Rochester was delayed in the second half, while the start of a third-round meeting with Harrisburg City in 2012 was pushed back due to storms.
Lineup notes: Revolution coach Jay Heaps fielded a mix of regulars and reserves for Tuesday’s contest, much like he did in the club’s fifth-round win against Rochester. In fact, eight of the starters from the 2-1 win over Rochester on June 25 returned to the lineup against Philadelphia.
Quick return to conference action: The Revolution will return to Gillette Stadium on Saturday for league action against the Chicago Fire. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. In their first meeting of the season, the sides settled for a wild 1-1 draw that saw Bobby Shuttleworth deny a Juan Luis Anangano penalty in stoppage time to preserve the road point.
The conference foes wrapped up their three-game regular-season series well before the halfway point of the MLS season, with the Union getting the better of the Revolution in a 3-1 win on June 28. The win also gave the Union the upper hand in the series, going 2-1-0 against the Revolution in 2014.
But the stakes will certainly be much different on Tuesday. With each side only three wins away from lifting the Dewar Challenge Trophy, here’s what to watch for when the Revolution and Union meet for the right to advance to the Open Cup semifinals.
More adjustments in store for Union? The last time the Revolution and Union met, the latter tweaked its lineup just enough to throw the former for a loop. With Maurice Edu positioned at center back, Amobi Okugo at holding midfielder and Cristian Maidana as the attacking midfielder, the Revolution might as well have been playing an entirely different opponent than the one they faced twice earlier this season. The changes allowed the Union to collect a rare road victory and served as a cautionary tale for the Revolution with Tuesday’s tilt on tap.
“I don’t see them changing their lineup too much,” Revolution coach Jay Heaps told the media on Monday. “I think maybe three or four players here or there, but in terms of what they’re doing, maybe a formation change. But we talked about it: The players are the same, whether they’re taking to their starting positions or not, that’s different.”
How many changes will Heaps make to his lineup? Tuesday’s game comes only four days after a long flight back from Utah and is the second of seven -- yes, seven -- contests the Revolution will play during the month of July. In other words, Heaps will have some serious tightrope walking to do when it comes to resting some while shaking the rust off others. With Saturday’s league game against Chicago to follow, expect Heaps to field a strong mix of starters with only three more tournament wins separating the Revolution from a second Open Cup championship.
A complete performance from start to finish ... and top to bottom. On paper, it sounds so simple: a complete performance will often yield a team three points. But incorporating that plan onto the pitch has been a tall task for the Revolution during league play over their last four games. When the defense steps up, the offense disappears, and vice versa. A strong first half gives way to a weak second stanza. A lethargic start forces a stronger finish. And so on. To get the best of the Union, the Revolution have to find the consistency that has eluded them in league action since late May.
“We’re hoping that guys like Brad Knighton, guys like Jose (Goncalves) and A.J. (Soares) and whoever’s playing in the backline (will) help us out a little bit and give us that little bit of sturdiness," Revolution midfielder Kelyn Rowe told reporters Monday. “And obviously the guys up front have to perform as well, so it’s a whole team thing.”
Can Rowe keep sizzling on Open Cup play? Speaking of performing, no one on the Revolution roster is hotter in Open Cup action than Rowe, who has collected seven goals in his last six tournament matches. His last strike proved to be the game-winner in last month’s 2-1 fifth-round win over Rochester. With the third-year midfielder in the middle of an impressive scoring run, you can bet that the offense will revolve around opening room for Rowe and getting him as many chances as possible. After all, why change what’s worked so well?
Payback on the Revolution’s mind. If there’s one thing that won’t be in short supply for the local XI when they step onto the pitch at PPL Park, it’s motivation. Less than two weeks ago, the Union handed the Revolution a humbling home loss. What’s worse, the 3-1 defeat came right after a three-week break in league action due to the World Cup, which should have afforded the hosts plenty of time to prepare and ready themselves for the slumping Union. While the focus will remain on the present, rest assured that the not-so-distant past has crossed the minds of some with Tuesday’s rematch on tap.
“I think the fact that they did come in and beat us here at home after the break was a big eye-opener for us,” Rowe said. “I think that, no matter what team they put out there, we want to get a result, and obviously a positive one to get that payback from when they were here.”
True, the Revolution were outshot 14-9, and only one of those efforts was deemed on target. And yes, Salt Lake connected on 82 more passes in the attacking half.
But the fact that it took not one but two penalty kicks to send the Revolution to their fourth straight league loss suggests the guests could've earned a result against Real Salt Lake had referee Allen Chapman called the match differently.
"I thought we played well enough to get at least a point," Soares told revolutionsoccer.net after the match. "We defended really well and had plenty of chances going forward. To get no points is super disappointing."
In some respects, the Revolution were lucky the match was decided by only a single goal. After all, goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth was called upon to make no fewer than three acrobatic saves just to keep Salt Lake at bay before the half-hour mark.
The Revolution might have been living dangerously in the first half, but it took a curious call from Chapman to tilt the match in Salt Lake's favor. No one in a navy blue uniform was happy about it.
In the 34th minute, Joao Plata sent a dangerous corner kick into the mix, where Chris Schuler had put himself in position to possibly head it through. But as he rose to meet it, Darrius Barnes ducked down behind Schuler, who quickly tumbled to the ground.
Chapman pointed to the spot, which opened the door for Salt Lake to grab the goal that had eluded them in the early stages of Friday's match. Despite protests from a number of Revolution players, Javier Morales stepped up and sent it through moments later.
"I didn't get an explanation," Soares said of Chapman's call on the penalty. "But I didn't ask for one, so I can't tell you. He saw something, called it, and it's fair enough -- he's the ref, and he can make whatever call he wants, I guess."
Instead of smarting over their misfortune, the Revolution quickly sought out the equalizer and found it two minutes after Morales opened the account.
On an expertly guided free kick from Chris Tierney, Barnes escaped his defender and nodded it through to put the match back on level terms in the 37th minute.
"[The goal] kind of woke everybody up a little bit," Barnes told revolutionsoccer.net after the match. "Obviously we feel like that's a tough [penalty kick]. I don't agree with it, but that was the call, and fortunately we responded. We tied it up, it's 1-1 at halftime, and we felt good going into the half."
Those positive vibes were effectively chased off the pitch after Chapman awarded a second penalty to Salt Lake after Tierney brought down John Stertzer in the box in the 63rd minute. Plata took the penalty and scored to reclaim the lead for the hosts.
Nevertheless, Tierney nearly added his second assist of the game by sending a perfect ball for Patrick Mullins deep in the 18, but the rookie striker couldn't push it through in the 68th minute.
"We knew we were going to come out and play better -- we had to play better in the second half, and I thought we did," Barnes said. "We created tons of chances, and we should have finished a couple of those."
But in the end, the two penalties were all that separated the Revolution from the result Soares believes his side should've grabbed on the Fourth of July.
"I'm disappointed with both calls on the penalty kicks," Soares said. "It's a hard one to swallow because we didn't deserve to get no points."
A 35th minute strike from the spot courtesy of Javier Morales put the Revolution in a hole for the fourth straight game. Though the Revolution grabbed one back from Darrius Barnes in the 37th minute, a second penalty strike in the 64th minute saw Joao Plata put Salt Lake ahead for good.
“It’s tough,” Revolution coach Jay Heaps told revolutionsoccer.net after the match. “I don’t think we -- we didn’t play well enough in the first half. But I thought, throughout the game, we were pretty good (and) did a little bit of a better job.”
But before the Revolution were able to settle in and create opportunities, they had to weather a first half that saw Salt Lake take the game by storm in the early going.
Without the services of Andy Dorman, who was serving a one-game suspension for yellow card accumulation, the Revolution struggled to assert themselves. And Salt Lake wasted no time taking advantage.
Kyle Beckerman, who rejoined his team days only days ago after World Cup duty with the U.S. Men’s National Team, tested Bobby Shuttleworth with a hard shot from the top of the box in the 10th minute.
Not surprisingly, Beckerman tested Shuttleworth again in the 24th minute, and once again, the Revolution let out a collective sigh of relief after Salt Lake failed to capitalize.
But the goal that eluded the hosts early finally materialized with halftime approaching. Plata sent a corner kick into the box, where Chris Schuler looked to steer it through before Barnes brought him down. Referee Allen Chapman pointed to the spot, where Morales fired through the opening salvo in the 35th minute.
“I’m not going to talk about the referee, other than the fact that, from start to finish, it was a little bit cynical,” Heaps said. “A little bit cynical from the referee to give two penalties. It’s a tough one.”
Any allusions that the Morales’ strike may have deflated the Revolution were quickly erased in the 37th minute. Chris Tierney sent a free kick toward the back post, where Barnes nodded it through to put the match back on level terms going into the break.
The second half saw the Revolution press for another, and nearly succeeded in that quest in the 53rd minute. A hard shot from Jose Goncalves grazed the mitt of Nick Rimando and glanced off the bar before it rolled along the goal line. But the ball refused to trickle through before it was cleared away.
Not long after Goncalves’ shot refused to go through, another penalty was awarded to Salt Lake after Tierney cut down John Stertzer inside the 18. This time, it was Plata who slotted it through from the spot to put Salt Lake back on top.
Much like they did after the Morales goal, the Revolution immediately renewed their efforts to find an equalizer. Tierney sent a cross that Mullins slid through near the far post, but his shot veered wide of frame in the 68th minute.
Another opportunity arrived in two minutes later when Lee Nguyen lifted one over the defense for Kelyn Rowe, who had only had Rimando to beat. But the midfielder’s shot sailed well over the bar, leaving the Revolution empty-handed for the fourth straight league game.
“It’s tough because they’re a really good team,” Heaps said. “You have to credit Salt Lake because they don’t need two penalties to beat you, but I think tonight, that’s what they needed. I think we can do a better job. I have to look at the film, and see what we can do better.”
The Revolution enter the match attempting to end their three-game losing streak, which has seen them fall from first to third in the East. Similarly, Salt Lake is stuck in a five-game winless rut (0-3-2), which has also seen them drop from the top to third-best in the West.
New England is coming off a disappointing 3-1 home loss to the Union last Saturday, while Salt Lake is looking to forget last Saturday's 1-0 road loss to Chivas USA.
Here's watch to watch for in a contest that both squads hope to use to reverse their recent woes:
• Strong start a must. Over the course of their three-game losing streak, the Revolution have conceded a total of four first-half goals. As a result, they've been forced to dig themselves out of a hole, and oftentimes play outside of their comfort zone. The second half of last week's loss to the Union wasn't the prettiest by many standards, but Revolution defender Andrew Farrell liked the spirit his side showed to briefly close the gap late.
"We didn't battle enough in the first half, and we went down a goal, and they got two more after that," Farrell told revolutionsoccer.net. "[In] the second half, we showed some things that we did better, [and] worked a little bit harder."
• Finishing a must. Giving up early goals doesn't help any team's chances, but then again, neither does missing juicy opportunities -- which is precisely what the Revolution have done in their last two losses to New York and Philadelphia. Over the course of the past 180 minutes of league action, the Revolution have amassed 18 shots on goal. The exact number that found the back of the net: one. To break out of its offensive slump, the likes of Diego Fagundez, Teal Bunbury and Lee Nguyen have to start putting away their chances.
• Will the absence of Andy Dorman doom the Revolution? One of the bright spots throughout the season has undoubtedly been the sound play of Dorman, who has manned the six spot since mid-March. But the physicality that the veteran has incorporated into the midfield comes with a price. As a result of the six cautions Dorman has collected, he'll be serving a one-game suspension on Friday, thus opening the door for the man he replaced -- Scott Caldwell -- to step back into the holding midfielder's spot.
"We train every day of the season so everyone knows their roles," Caldwell told revolutionsoccer.net. "So it definitely is a lot easier when you stick with a system, and everyone just has their individual roles that fit into it."
• The unfriendly confines of Rio Tinto await. Salt Lake has long held a distinct home-field advantage since the "RioT" opened in 2008, and this year has been no different. Prior to a 3-1 loss to Portland on June 7, Salt Lake was unbeaten in their first six of the season (3-0-3). That's bad news for the Revolution, who not only enter Friday's contest 0-3-1 all-time at Rio Tinto, but have found themselves historically overmatched. Case in point: The Revolution have a negative-15 goal differential in their four games at Rio Tinto. Incidentally, their lone result there came exactly three years prior to Friday's clash (3-3 on July 4, 2011).
• New boss is the same as the old one in Salt Lake. For the second straight week, the Revolution will face a new coach for the first time. Longtime assistant Jeff Cassar replaced coach Jason Kreis shortly after last year's MLS Cup final loss to Sporting Kansas City, but not much has changed since. The claret and cobalt still rely on the likes of Javier Morales, Luis Gil, Kyle Beckerman and Nick Rimando to get the job done. While the latter two may or may not be available following World Cup duty with the U.S., Heaps is expecting Salt Lake, who've gone 5-0-1 against the Revolution since 2009, to be as dangerous as ever.
"It's one of the teams where maybe the coach changes, but the personnel and the approach stays the exact same," Heaps told revolutionsoccer.net. "[Kreis and Cassar] have been together for a long time, so a lot of their ideas, a lot of Salt Lake's philosophy over the last 7-8 years has been based on Jeff's ideas along with Jason's ideas."
Following the club’s third straight league loss -- and second straight at home -- coach Jay Heaps willingly shouldered some of the responsibility for his team’s recent woes in league play.
“There are a lot of things that go into a game,” Heaps said. “So there’s a lot of things that need to be looked at, and it starts with me.”
Heaps didn’t go into specifics about what he and his staff have to improve upon. Of course, the challenge for any coach whose team hadn’t played as a cohesive unit in nearly three weeks is getting all 11 starters back on the same page.
However, Heaps refused to blame the World Cup break for his team’s lack of sharpness on Saturday. Rather, he pointed the finger at himself and his fellow coaches for the way his team wilted in the final third, especially during the first half.
“I wasn’t happy with -- whether it’s my preparation and whether we, as a staff, weren’t getting our guys ready,” Heaps said.
While Heaps was putting the spotlight on himself for his team’s lack of preparation against an opportunistic Union side, team captain Jose Goncalves was one of only a handful of players who spoke with reporters following the match.
No doubt one of the reasons the Revolution ended up chasing the game on Saturday was due to an uncharacteristic gaffe from Goncalves in the 42nd minute.
After Conor Casey flicked a long ball from goalkeeper Zac MacMath forward, the captain attempted to safely nod it to his goalkeeper, Brad Knighton. But the back pass never made it to Knighton, as Sebastien Le Toux pounced on it and pushed it through to give the guests the lead going into halftime.
“It’s something that happens very fast in the game,” Goncalves said. “We’re a little bit late to react, the ball was right into (Le Toux’s) feet. Brad had nothing to do with this goal. It’s my mistake, and I take the responsibility.”
But Goncalves didn’t just take the blame for Le Toux’s first goal of the game. Looking back at the Revolution’s last three losses, he admitted that he and his fellow defenders haven’t been playing up to the standard set when they strung together a 433-minute home shutout streak to start the season.
“It’s difficult,” Goncalves said. “In the last few games, we conceded some goals like this, a misunderstanding or communication. It’s something we have to be better in, starting with myself.”
Despite creating a number of chances in the first half and stringing together 112 more passes than the Union, mistakes and missed opportunities forced the Revolution to stomach a 3-1 loss in front of their own supporters.
"I thought we should've taken our chances in the first 15 minutes," Revolution coach Jay Heaps said. "I thought there were probably two chances we could've finished, and then I thought we were second-best, quite frankly. The bad goal was the final straw of that first half."
Both sides entered the match optimistic that their Open Cup success would spill into league action, which resumed this week following a two-week break due to the World Cup. And initially, all signs pointed to the Revolution as the team with the best chance at building on their recent success in the historic tournament.
Only 10 minutes into the match, the Revolution put together a scintillating display started by Diego Fagundez, who played it through for Patrick Mullins inside the area. Zac MacMath raced over to push away the rookie striker's shot before the rebound fell to Teal Bunbury. But Bunbury couldn't steer his effort by MacMath, who finally exhaled after Fagundez whiffed on another rebound.
"I think we had chances to score goals," Heaps said. "I think that one of the first chances with Patrick Mullins getting a good shot on frame, wasn't all of it though, it was OK. And then Teal had a shot that was blocked and then Diego missed and three of our best finishers all had cracks at a shot that I would've liked to see one of them put their foot on it."
But even when the Revolution were able to put a foot on it, their finishing -- or lack thereof -- continued to haunt them.
Ten minutes after a trio of chances went begging in front of the net, Lee Nguyen put a ball right ahead of Fagundez, who raced into the final third with only MacMath to beat. That task, however, proved to be too difficult. Fagundez attempted to chip it over the Union keeper, but instead the shot fell right into MacMath's arms.
In the 35th minute, an opportunity fell to Nguyen on a free kick from about 30 yards. The dynamic midfielder sent a curling ball over the wall, but suffered the same fate as Fagundez's shot 15 minutes earlier as MacMath easily collected it.
"We were just missing that little bit of sharpness right now that's the difference between winning and losing games," Chris Tierney said. "It's that final ball, it's near misses that were going in for us when we had our good run of games earlier on, and they don't seem to now."
Although the Revolution may have been undermined by finishing woes in the final third, it was a dreadful mistake in the shadow of their own net that, ultimately, proved to be their undoing.
With halftime approaching, and the promise that the error of their ways could be addressed and corrected at the break, Jose Goncalves sent a lazy back pass toward Brad Knighton deep in his own end. But the ball never made it to Knighton, as Sebastien Le Toux cut through and put it into the back of the net in the 42nd minute.
"It's very frustrating," Goncalves said of Le Toux's goal. "Especially when we are playing well, moving the ball (and) creating chances. To give up a goal, it's always difficult to accept, but we have to react very fast and that's what we did in the second half."
The Revolution renewed their efforts in the 52nd minute on a sequence that saw Andrew Farrell send one into the area for Bunbury, who scuffed his shot wide of the near post.
As wasteful as the Revolution were with their chances, the Union cashed in on two of their own in the second half. Danny Cruz blasted one from outside the area in the 69th minute, and while Saer Sene brought one back for the Revolution in the 73rd minute, Le Toux extinguished any hope at a comeback with his second strike of the night in the 78th minute.
All in all, it was a night to forget for the local XI, who could only wonder what might have been had they capitalized on any of the chances they threw in the wastebasket on Saturday.
"We dug ourselves a hole by conceding, and then we got to chase the game and got away from original game plan," Tierney said, "and didn't make the adjustments we need to and just not good enough all around."
Le Toux's first strike came in the 42nd minute when he pounced on a shaky Jose Goncalves back pass and slotted it through. He added his second in the 77th minute after collecting an Andrew Wenger pass and firing it inside the far post. Le Toux's goals sandwiched a 69th-minute goal from Danny Cruz, who blasted a shot past Brad Knighton from the edge of the box.
The Revolution's lone goal came from second-half substitute Saer Sene, who came on in the 70th minute and scored in the 73rd minute after tapping through a Kelyn Rowe cross.
The defeat sent the Revolution to their third straight loss in league play, while the Union extended their unbeaten run in MLS action to three (2-0-1).
What it means: The concerns circling the Revolution leading up to the World Cup break returned with a vengeance Saturday. The local XI looked rusty early, and they paid the price for their sloppiness going into halftime. Goncalves' poor back pass in the 42nd minute essentially invited Le Toux to score, while Cruz was given plenty of room to fire away on his 69th-minute goal. Sene's 70th-minute goal gave the hosts some hope, but only briefly as Le Toux netted his second on a perfectly placed shot. With the schedule about to send the Revolution into a 26-day span with seven games, the pressure is on the coaching staff and players to fix the defense and sharpen the passing quickly.
Stat of the match: The Union backline, which opened the floodgates for five goals in their most recent meeting against the Revolution on May 17, stood stout on Saturday by sending away 43 clearances.
Knighton gets start: Revolution coach Jay Heaps opted to go with backup keeper Brad Knighton, who made his second start of the season on Saturday. Incidentally, Knighton made his season debut in a May 17 contest against the Union, which the Revolution won 5-3.
See you again soon: Saturday's match might have marked the series finale between the Revolution and Union, but they'll meet again before long. The sides are set for a U.S. Open Cup quarterfinal clash on July 8 at PPL Park. The contest will be the first time the conference foes will meet in Open Cup competition.
Westward bound: The Revolution will head to Rio Tinto Stadium on Friday to face Real Salt Lake at 10 p.m. EST. The Fourth of July clash will mark the only time the teams will face off this season, thanks to the unbalanced schedule. Last year, the Revolution dropped a 2-1 loss to Salt Lake on May 8 at Gillette Stadium.
The Revolution's last league match came on June 8 in a 2-0 loss to the New York Red Bulls, while the Union secured a 3-3 draw with the Vancouver Whitecaps on June 7.
Weeks have passed since their last MLS matches, but both sides remained busy during the break with U.S. Open Cup action. In fact, both earned fourth- and fifth-round wins over the course of the past two weeks. As a result of their fifth-round wins, the Revolution and Union will actually meet in the quarterfinals on July 8 at PPL Park.
But before that match takes place, let's take a look at what to watch for in Saturday's league clash:
• Shaking off the rust. In a sense, Open Cup play couldn't have started for the Revolution at a better time. The tournament allowed a number of regulars, such as Jose Goncalves, Lee Nguyen and Patrick Mullins, the opportunity to stay sharp, while many reserves, including Stephen McCarthy, Brad Knighton and Scott Caldwell, accrued valuable playing time. But coach Jay Heaps paid careful attention to rest the likes of Andrew Farrell, Andy Dorman, AJ Soares and Bobby Shuttleworth. With three weeks between games, it'll be interesting to see whether these key contributors will be recharged and ready to go, or whether rust will be evident.
"There are guys that I feel that needed a little bit of a rest, and [the break] came at a good time," Heaps told revolutionsoccer.net on Thursday. "The key for them isn't the eagerness -- it's the sharpness, I think they're all ready to go and we have to get them sharp."
• Will Open Cup success help turn things around for the Revolution in league play? It's easy to forget the Revolution entered the World Cup break on a two-game losing streak given their recent pair of wins in Open Cup play. But whether those victories -- both of which came against lower-division sides -- will breed success in MLS is uncertain. The Revolution found no problem scoring goals, which eluded them in their past two losses, so that has to be a positive sign. Then again, their second-half form in both Open Cup contests was shaky, to say the least. It'll be interesting to see if the Revolution can put it together not only on both ends of the pitch, but on each side of halftime.
• New coach presents new challenge? While the Revolution were focused on resting bodies and keeping others sharp, the Union were dealing with an entirely different task during the World Cup break. Shortly after the Union's 3-3 draw to Vancouver, coach John Hackworth was dismissed due to the team's largely underwhelming performance during the opening months of the season. With assistant coach Jim Curtin taking over on an interim basis, the Revolution are expecting the Union to have an extra spring in their step come Saturday.
"I would imagine they're going to have sort of a fresh burst of energy," Soares told revolutionsoccer.net. "You have a new voice talking to them -- maybe some new concepts. They'll probably come out pretty fired up wanting to sort of atone for the first half of the season. But they're a good squad -- they beat us already this year [1-0 on March 15] and they always play us tough."
• Will Saer Sene's performance against Rochester earn him a cameo on Saturday? The flamboyant forward certainly made the most of a rare opportunity on Wednesday. After being banished from the starting XI in April, the prevailing thought was that Sene's time in Foxborough could be drawing to a close. Or not. The French forward scored inside of 11 minutes on Wednesday, but more importantly, he was particularly active in the first half before he predictably tired in the second half due to a lack of fitness. On the whole, it wasn't his strongest game, by any stretch. But he may have shown enough glimpses to warrant a call off the bench on Wednesday if the offense is in need of a spark late in the game.
• Getting the jump on a busy month of action. While the month of July often means barbeques and pool parties for many New Englanders, the Revolution won't get much time to enjoy the festivities between now and August 1. Not only do the Revolution have eight games lined up between now and July 30, but they'll be tasked with three road tilts against Western Conference opponents. In other words, Saturday is a must-win for the Revolution, who won't get the benefit of another break until mid-August.
"We want to start the second half of the season with a win, obviously, and playing at home, we're confident we can win," Soares said. "We want to go out there and have a good performance, get three points, and roll through July with that momentum."
Working in Boston's downtown financial district, Williams, along with several of his co-workers, made the decision to head several blocks over from the office to City Hall Plaza, where Boston mayor Marty Walsh was hosting a viewing party for Team USA's World Cup game against Germany.
It wasn't your typical Thursday lunch break, Williams pointed out. There was no half-hour rush for food or hourlong sit-down at a restaurant nearby. Instead, Williams and his co-workers decided -- on their own terms -- to take an extended break, one that would conveniently end at the conclusion of the soccer game.
"We were a little proactive on that," Williams said.
Nor were they alone as thousands in Boston made their way to City Hall Plaza despite a noontime kickoff to see Team USA lose 1-0 to Germany in pool play. Although the crowd was small at first, fans of all ages continued to fill the plaza as play went on, all cheering vigorously as a Portugal win over Ghana Thursday afternoon sent the U.S. to the round of 16 at the World Cup.
"The thing that makes soccer so special is that whole communal feel of being at the event together, cheering together, singing together," New England Revolution team president Brian Bilello said. "It's a sport where you want to be with others when you're supporting and I think you see that here."
Following the success of their House of Blues watch party Sunday evening for the U.S.'s game against Portugal, the Revolution worked with the mayor's office and the city of Boston to get Thursday's event together on short notice.
"I know they're excited about soccer and the potential for soccer in the city," Bilello said. "They thought it would be great to get people out to City Hall Plaza and of course we were more than happy to try to support that."
Bilello got things started roughly 20 minutes before kickoff, leading the crowd in an inspiring chant of "I believe that we will win," the de facto cheer for this year's team. He then handed the microphone over to Mayor Walsh, who pleaded with everyone in attendance to cheer loud enough for the team to hear them down in Brazil.
Walsh wasted no time doing his part, ending his speech with a chant of "USA!" that the entire crowd joined.
"I love World Cup soccer -- it's the best," said Walsh, wearing a custom-made No. 14 Team USA away jersey with his name on the back. "The people that are watching -- if they don't like soccer, they think it's boring -- if they watch the game, watch how they pass the ball and kick it, it's unbelievable."
A soccer fan himself, Walsh shied away from offering a score prediction for the game but correctly guessed that it would be close as the U.S. was the first team to hold the highly touted Germans to a single goal during Cup play this year. Furthermore, Walsh made it clear that the city will look to continue holding watch parties for games as World Cup play continues into the next round.
"As long as we're in this tournament we will have the games on at City Hall Plaza for the rest of the tournament," Walsh said.
Plan your extended breaks accordingly.
With that in mind, coach Jay Heaps utilized a mix-and-match lineup comprised of regulars and reserves for the second straight week in Wednesday’s 2-1 fifth-round Open Cup win over the Rochester Rhinos.
“I think it’s really good,” Heaps said about his club’s depth. “If you look at our lineup, we went with a lot of different guys. I thought Alec Sundly stepped in and did an excellent job (and) I thought Donnie Smith did a great job at left back.”
Though the Revolution certainly won’t be thanking the schedule makers for the gauntlet of games on the slate during the month of July, Heaps has to be happy about the opportunities the Open Cup has afforded his squad thus far.
Much like he did in Richmond last week, Heaps used a hybrid lineup in Providence. But the one seen on Wednesday had a couple of distinct wrinkles.
The most obvious was the insertion of Saer Sene up top. Sene, who spent the majority of his minutes over the last two seasons as a wide player, returned to the striker’s role, one that he’s often said he finds the most comfortable.
“I miss it,” Sene said. “It was very good. I had a lot of fun. That’s the position I love to play, just like scoring goals and running behind the defense. I had fun today, and we won, so it was a nice night.”
Sene’s familiarity as the target forward paid immediate dividends for the Revolution. Inside of 11 minutes, the French striker gathered a pass from Lee Nguyen and fired a shot that slipped inside the far post to put his team on top in the early going.
On its face, the play appeared to be a well-worked sequence between a pair of like-minded teammates. But Sene admitted that it was a play that he and Nguyen had plotted on the training pitch, probably a number of times.
“We did a nice one-two, and he slid it for me in the box and I just finished it,” Sene said. “We work on it in practice and it was successful today.”
Sene may have ran out of gas late -- something Heaps admitted after the game -- but his performance during the majority of his 79-minute performance made a positive impression.
“He gave us a lot more than he’s really fit enough to do,” Heaps said. “But I thought he was really sharp at the beginning of the game when he was feeling his legs.”
While Sene’s contributions were certainly easier to quantify, a player who may not get as many accolades is rookie Alec Sundly.
The rookie midfielder, who was recalled from Rochester on Tuesday, went the full 90 in the central midfield. He partnered with fellow rookie Steve Neumman, Kelyn Rowe and Daigo Kobayashi, and held his own during his first-team debut.
“It was awesome,” Sundly said. “It was definitely good to be back, coming back and training with the team. It was good to see familiar faces and getting back on the pitch with them.”
Then there was Donnie Smith, a second-year outside midfielder who found himself stationed at left back. If Smith was uneasy with the assignment, he certainly didn’t show it as he won a number of challenges in the rear.
While Heaps also credited McCarthy and fellow defender Darrius Barnes for putting together a solid performance, it was clear the likes of Sene, Sundly and Smith left a positive impression.
“(McCarthy) and Darrius, they were their normal selves,” Heaps said. “But those guys, having not played those positions for us recently, they did excellent.”
Rowe scored his sixth goal in five career Open Cup games to help give the New England Revolution a 2-1 fifth-round win over the Rochester Rhinos (USL-PRO) at Stevenson Field on Wednesday.
The third-year midfielder tallied in the 33rd minute, while Saer Sene opened the scoring in the 11th minute. Lee Nguyen, a creative force for the Revolution in the first half, assisted on both goals. Colin Rolfe scored the lone Rochester goal on a Johnny Mendoza cross in the 55th minute.
Rhinos defender Babacar Diallo was red carded in the 90th minute to leave his team shorthanded in the waning minutes.
With the win, the Revolution advance to the Cup quarterfinals, where they’ll face the Philadelphia Union at PPL Park on July 8.
What it means: For the second straight week, the Revolution were forced to withstand a lively opponent, though this time the pressure came in the first half. Rochester pressed New England early and often before halftime, hoping to jump out to an early lead, which would allow them to drop back and defend. But the Revolution’s quality in the final third proved to be the antidote to Rochester’s tactic, with goals from Sene and Rowe sending the hosts along to the quarterfinals for the second straight year.
Familiar foe: Wednesday’s meeting between the Revolution and Rhinos was noteworthy for a couple of reasons. For starters, the two sides entered into a player development agreement prior to last season, with the Revolution loaning out rookies and reserves to Rochester in order for them to get valuable playing time. In fact, Revolution goalkeeper Luis Soffner, along with defender Jossimar Sanchez, both were available for the Rhinos against their parent club. In addition to the affiliation agreement, Wednesday’s match marked the sixth time since 2013 the Revolution and Rhinos have met in Open Cup play, with New England holding the advantage in the all-time series (3-0-2).
Rowe returns: Open Cup hero Kelyn Rowe, who missed last week’s game in Richmond after a hamstring injury kept him from making the trip, made his 2014 debut in tournament play on Wednesday.
Another mixed lineup: Just as he did in Richmond, Revolution coach Jay Heaps used a blend of regulars and reserves for Wednesday’s match. Lee Nguyen, Jose Goncalves and Darrius Barnes were among the regulars in the lineup against the Rhinos, while Stephen McCarthy, Scott Caldwell and Brad Knighton were the notable reserves who got a second straight start on Wednesday. Daigo Kobayashi, who’s started 11 games for the Revolution, entered the match in the second half to spell Nguyen, while starting striker Patrick Mullins entered in the 79th minute for Sene.
Sundly makes debut: Rookie Alec Sundly, who was recalled from Rochester on Tuesday, made his first-team Revolution debut, starting in the central midfield. Sundly was the Revolution’s second-round pick in this year’s draft.
Next up: Following a two-week break from MLS action, the Revolution resume their regular-season schedule on Saturday when they host the Philadelphia Union at Gillette Stadium. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. The match will conclude the season series between the conference foes, who have split 1-1-0 so far.
Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m., and will be video streamed live at revolutionsoccer.net.
New England enters the match a week removed from a 3-2 fourth-round victory over the Richmond Kickers (USL-PRO) at City Stadium in Richmond, Virginia. A trio of first-half goals gave the Revolution a two-goal lead at halftime, but they were forced to withstand a late Richmond surge to hold on for the win.
Rochester is riding the momentum of a 1-0 upset win of the tournament’s reigning champion, D.C. United, last Tuesday. In a match that was interrupted twice by lightning, the Rhinos got the only goal they needed in the 27th minute from Colin Rolfe.
Wednesday’s clash is the second since the Revolution and Rhinos entered into an affiliation agreement prior to the 2013 season. Revolution loanees Luis Soffner and Jossimar Sanchez are both “Cup-tied” to Rochester, while Alec Sundly was recalled by New England on Tuesday. The only other player on the roster who spent time in Rochester -- Donnie Smith -- also will be available to the Revolution.
In last year’s third-round Open Cup clash, the Revolution throttled the Rhinos 5-1 on the back of a Kelyn Rowe brace.
Here’s what to watch for during Wednesday’s fifth-round clash in Providence:
Making the case for more minutes. For the second straight week, Revolution coach Jay Heaps likely will be leaning on a mix of regulars and reserves to get the job done in Open Cup play. Among those who shined in last week’s match were Steven Neuman (1 goal, 1 assist), Stephen McCarthy (1 goal) and Scott Caldwell (90 minutes at holding midfielder). With six MLS matches on tap for July, and an Open Cup quarterfinal should the Revolution beat the Rhinos, expect Wednesday to be another audition for key reserves.
“It’s huge,” Revolution defender Darrius Barnes told revolutionsoccer.net on Tuesday. “This is one of those tournaments (in which) guys are getting significant minutes, and look forward to be able to get some playing time and get minutes and show that you should be playing with the first team week in and week out.”
Staying locked in for 90 minutes. If there’s one lesson the Revolution took away from last week’s match in Richmond, it’s that mental focus must be present from start to finish. They opened the match in spectacular fashion, grabbing a trio of first-half goals. But the second half nearly spelled doom for the local XI, who allowed the Kickers to creep back into it thanks to a swarm of late opportunities for the hosts. To avoid a similar scene on Wednesday, the Revolution can’t give into the temptation of easing up late.
Will the cozy confines give the Revolution the edge? Stevenson Field won’t soon be confused with Gillette Stadium, by any stretch of the imagination. Between the seating capacity (3,500) and the close proximity of the stands to the pitch, the Revolution are hoping that the intimate atmosphere seen during last year’s 4-2 fourth-round win at Harvard will propel the club to similar results on Wednesday.
“We’re definitely hoping for the same,” Barnes said. “Hopefully, the fans will come out and support us. It’s a small venue, but hopefully, the atmosphere will be fantastic.”
Open Cup hero in line for start? Now that he’s no longer on the injury report, Kelyn Rowe should get the green light for his first Open Cup match of the year. And there’s every reason to believe that he’s eager to get back on the pitch. In four career Open Cup games, Rowe has scored five times and added an assist; he collected a two-goal, one-assist game against Rochester in last year’s 5-1 win. Finally healthy after a nagging hamstring injury sidelined him for portions of the season, the third-year midfielder will be keen to resume his scoring touch at Stevenson Field.
Dual task for technical staff. There’s no question that Heaps and the rest of the technical staff are taking this tournament seriously. Unlike a number of MLS sides who don’t give a great amount of weight to the historic tourney, the Revolution have every intention of reaching the championship tilt. But Heaps also will be looking ahead to Saturday’s league match against Philadelphia when he puts together his lineup and manages the minutes of his regulars and role players.
“You have to be mindful of the turnover,” Heaps told revolutionsoccer.net on Tuesday. “The way I look at it, Saturday to Wednesday is a heck of a lot easier than Wednesday to Saturday because you have the extra day. We want to advance and it’s a tough game against Rochester, so we have to prepare for them with an eye on Philly.”
The event will start at 11:30 a.m. ET, with the game starting at noon.
The Revolution street team will have on-site give-a-ways and activities for fans. Slyde, the Revs mascot, and the Rev Girls will also be there.