For teams whose playoff hopes have already been dashed, the final games of the regular season often serve a dual purpose.
The first, of course, is for the coaching staff to continue to gauge the squad's progress. After all, just because the postseason push has come to a close doesn't mean the effort should.
The other purpose? To give the role players and less-experienced players a shot at making their mark with the first team.
Well, come Saturday, Revolution head coach Jay Heaps could be forced to put a greater focus on the latter with a series of starters unavailable for the club's clash with the Houston Dynamo at BBVA Stadium at 8:30 p.m. ET (TV: Comcast SportsNet New England; Radio: The Sports Hub 98.5).
With Lee Nguyen (right shoulder surgery), Ryan Guy (international duty), Chris Tierney (left knee sprain, left hamstring strain) and Flo Lechner (right MCL sprain) all listed as "out," and Clyde Simms (right calf tightness) listed as "questionable," Heaps will need some creative thinking as he fills out his lineup against the fifth-place Dynamo.
As for the Dynamo, they'll come into the contest seeking nothing less than three points as they teeter on the edge of a playoff spot. Going into Saturday's match, they sit one point above the make-it-or-break-it line, and will need every point they can get between now and the rest of the season.
On paper, it looks like Houston has the injury-ravaged Revolution right where it wants them. Without three starting midfielders, a pair of starting defenders and their leading scorer (Saer Sene), the Revolution may resemble a reserve team rather than a legitimate first-selection squad.
Making matters worse, the Revolution haven't won a road a road game since March. So even with their regulars in tow, three points on the road is a concept the team hasn't quite grasped this year.
So what is a head coach to do?
You can bet that Heaps is going use Saturday's game as a motivating tool for those are healthy enough to play. In short, the rookie head coach is going to look at his bench and ask them to prove their abilities within a 90-minute window.
Meanwhile, Saturday's game also presents an opportunity for the recently dropped Benny Feilhaber to get one more extended look before the door shuts on the regular season. After a series of substandard performances doomed him to the bench, he'll likely return to the starting lineup with the hope that he can return to his World Cup form.
Another player who'll almost certainly get additional time is Juan Toja, the former MLS All-Star who's seen second-half action in the last two games. Fitness may still be an issue for the Colombian midfielder, but given the circumstances, it's likely Toja will be pressed to play as many minutes as he can muster.
On second glance, these final four games for the Revolution may serve yet another purpose, albeit one that Heaps could probably do without: trying a coach's patience.