A second straight road win will be on the agenda for the New England Revolution (1-2-1, 4 points) on Saturday when they take on D.C. United (0-2-1, 1 point) at RFK Stadium. Kickoff is set for 7:00pm.
Last week, the Revolution used a 93rd minute goal from Lee Nguyen to secure its first victory of the season, a 2-1 win over the San Jose Earthquakes. D.C. enters Saturday’s contest fresh from its first point of the season, which came in a 2-2 draw to the Chicago Fire last weekend.
Looking back to last year, the New England got the best of D.C., going 2-0-1 in league action. However, United managed to knock the Revolution out of the U.S. Open Cup tournament in a 3-1 quarterfinal win.
Here’s what to watch for when the longtime rivals step onto the field at RFK Stadium:
The right mentality: It may not have been the prettiest game last weekend, but Jay Heaps was pleased with what he saw from his players in San Jose. For the second straight week, the Revolution came out of the gate eager to press the issue. But the difference in last week’s match is that they were able to do so on the road, and at a venue -- Buck Shaw Stadium -- which has never been a comfortable place for an opponent to play.
“I think our mindset was really good,” Heaps told the media on Wednesday. “Guys did an excellent job following what we wanted to do tactically. The game plan will change, (but) mentally how we approached the game, we want to keep it the same.”
Staying strong on defense: One key to the Revolution’s recent defensive renaissance has been the stout play of Andy Dorman, who’s manned the six spot with strength and precision. The veteran’s presence in the middle has certainly made it easier for center backs Jose Goncalves and A.J. Soares, both of whom have employed a strong, physical brand of defense over the last two weeks. Meanwhile, Andrew Farrell and Chris Tierney have remained their consistent selves, with the former clearing a number of dangerous balls and the latter keeping opposing wingers at bay. After securing their first two goals of the season last weekend, D.C. may have discovered its attacking groove, which could make for a busy evening for the Revolution defense.
Can’t sleep on D.C.: Ben Olsen’s group may have the “new” label affixed to it, but the jury is still out on whether the “improved” tag is appropriate. The additions of Eddie Johnson, Fabian Espindola and, most recently, Chris Rolfe, have made D.C. a team to beat -- at least on paper. But the pitch has been another story so far, as they continue their search for win number this weekend. Nevertheless, the Revolution won’t be taking D.C. lightly -- especially on its own turf.
"They've got some new dangerous attacking players in, and they've brought some experience across their backline, so they’ve made a lot of positive changes,” Revolution left back Chris Tierney told the media on Wednesday. “It's going to be a very tough game for us, and we'll have to prepare accordingly."
Winning the aerial war: Last week, the Revolution defense was given the unenviable task of keeping Steven Lenhart and Chris Wondolowski silent -- a task which entailed plenty of aerial duels. Although Wondolowski managed to score from a poor clearance, Lenhart failed the make much of an impact before he was subbed off for Alan Gordon late. With Johnson, Espindola and Bobby Boswell on the pitch, the Revolution will have to remain strong in the air against a D.C. United side that won’t be shy to contest curling crosses and dangerous long balls.
Keeping the pressure on: Although their first strike of the season may have come in the form of an own goal from the opposition, the Revolution were relentless last week. They put five of their 11 shots on frame, found a host of opportunities in the San Jose end, and kept pressing for the entire match. The approach paid off when Lee Nguyen netted the game-winner just before the final whistle. After watching the film on last week’s match, Heaps is surely looking for more of the same on Saturday.
“I thought we did a nice job pressuring and had some good chances and stayed strong the whole game and finished it well," said Heaps.