A pair of conference foes coming off of stunning wins will meet on Saturday at PPL Park, where the New England Revolution (5-3-2, 17 points) will face the Philadelphia Union (2-5-5, 11 points) for the second time this season. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. ET.
The Revolution enter Saturday’s match less than a week removed from a 5-0 thrashing of the Seattle Sounders, who came to Gillette Stadium on Sunday at the top of the MLS table. Another upset came to pass on Wednesday when the Union sent shockwaves across the league after they beat defending champion Sporting Kansas City 2-1 -- and at a raucous Sporting Park, no less.
As impressive as the aforementioned victories were for both sides, the truth of the matter is that the Revolution and Union have taken particularly different paths since their first encounter on Mar. 15.
Although a 31st minute Sebastien Le Toux goal sent the Union on their way to a 1-0 win on a sunny afternoon in Chester, Pa., the Revolution have gone 5-1-2 since that defeat. On the flip side, Philadelphia soon slipped into a 0-5-4 funk that mercifully came to an end with Wednesday’s win in Kansas City.
With two teams looking to build upon recent upset wins, here’s what to watch for on Saturday at PPL Park.
-- Don’t tell the Revolution that this is a trap game. Wins against Kansas City, Toronto and Seattle have undoubtedly made the Revolution a team to fear in the east, but they won’t be tricked into thinking that the struggling Union won’t pose any danger. By no means. Revolution coach Jay Heaps knows full well that Philadelphia can pull the rug from under any opponent, as evidenced by Wednesday’s 2-1 upset win at Sporting Park, which at last check, is one of the toughest places to play in MLS.
“They should never be overlooked,” Heaps said about the Union. “In terms of the chances they create, the mentality they have, they're a fighting team and they're tough to beat."
-- No Jack Mac this time around. One player the Revolution won’t have to worry about this weekend is Jack McInerney, who scored in three of the last four games New England has played at PPL Park. But not long after the Revolution’s last trip to Greater Philadelphia, the Union dealt McInerney to Montreal for Andrew Wenger. While Wenger has shown flashes of the potential that warranted the top pick at the 2012 SuperDraft, he hasn’t shown himself as capable of scoring goals as the former Union striker.
-- Revolution seeking revenge. The Union aren’t nearly as imposing as any of the opponents the Revolution have faced in the last three weeks. However, Heaps’ squad won’t be lacking for motivation come Saturday. Their recent five-game unbeaten run (4-0-1) has done wonders for their confidence, but rest assured, they’re still smarting over the 1-0 loss the Union handed them two months ago.
“We can’t compare them to anyone else,” Revolution midfielder Diego Fagundez said. “We went there (on Mar. 15) and they beat us 1-0. So we have to go there with the mentality that we lost to them over there, and we don’t want to go there and lose again.”
-- No such thing as a walk in PPL Park for the Revolution. Philadelphia hasn’t exactly fielded the strongest squads since their inaugural season in 2010. Yet, they’ve somehow managed to keep the Revolution out of the win column in each of their six contests at PPL Park. And it’s not just the poor run of form at the Union’s home grounds that’s made playing there a nightmare for the Revolution. It’s the way in which they’re forced to taste their disappointment. They’ve been shutout in their last three at the Union’s home grounds, and prior to that, were victimized by late Union goals on two straight occasions. Clearly, the Revolution will have to be at the top of their game to avoid more of the same.
-- Changes galore for Union. For all of the high-profile additions they’ve made since the end of the 2013 season, the Union have hardly looked like a side that’s ready to take the conference by storm. But it hasn’t been for lack of trying. Not only have the Union welcomed the likes of Wenger, Cristian Maidana, Vincent Nogueira, and Maurice Edu, but coach John Hackworth has tinkered with the lineup looking for the combination that will catapult his club to the success many predicted for them prior to the start of the season.
“It takes a little while to adjust for sure in this league, and believe me, they've added some special players,” Heaps said. “They've changed their lineup a little bit (too), so they're even harder to gauge.”