The New England Revolution have done well to get themselves at a level where they are contending for a playoff spot considering their disastrous start to the season. They get another chance to show if they can punch above that level Saturday when they face the Seattle Sounders on the road.
Until last week, New England (9-6-9) was the hottest team in MLS as it used a club record-tying 11-match unbeaten streak in league play to climb off the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings to occupy the seventh and final playoff spot thanks to Bruce Arena’s revival following the storied coach’s arrival in May.
The emphasis, though, is on “was” as the league’s best team – Los Angeles FC – flew across the country and recorded a clinical 2-0 victory last Saturday which showed there is still a sizable gap between the league’s elite and those like the Revs fighting for a playoff spot.
“They’ve been – I don’t know what the right word is – a resilient group,” Arena told the team’s official website about his players. “They’ve been mentally tough the whole year, because they’ve had a bit of a peaks-and-valleys type of season, where there were a lot of valleys in the early going, and they hung in there, to their credit. It’s a team with a lot of character.
“If you’d asked me (three) months ago, I’d say you were crazy,” he added about his team’s playoff chances. “I still think you’re crazy, but I think we’re more optimistic at the point.”
New England does have reason to be optimistic. Gustavo Bou has made a mostly seamless transition since his signing from Club Tijuana in Mexico’s Liga MX, forming a partnership with fellow designated player Carles Gil. Keeper Matt Turner, who made five saves in the loss to LAFC, has conceded just 13 goals in 11 matches since taking over between the sticks – and five of those came in losing his first match.
The jury is still out on Seattle (11-7-5) being an elite team as it looks to avoid its first three-match home losing streak since May 21-July 9, 2016. The Sounders are one of three teams tied for second on 38 points in the West but coming off a 3-2 loss to Sporting Kansas City on Sunday.
Jordan Morris had a second-half brace as he twice rallied Seattle in hopes of nicking a point, but the Sounders failed to find an equalizer after his second goal on 82 minutes. Morris is showing more flashes of the form that led to him scoring 16 goals as a rookie in 2016 as he appears all the way back from a torn ACL suffered in February 2018.
The U.S. international has scored in back-to-back matches and has seven on the season – more than double his total from a disappointing 2017 campaign in which he totaled three.
“It’s a different position for sure and you find yourself more in the wing channels, but I’ve always said I want to be goal-dangerous from the right,” Morris explained to the team’s official website about learning to play wide with Raul Ruidiaz sidelined. “Trying to make those runs from behind. (Ruidiaz) brings so much to the team and I’m excited to have him back.”
Ruidiaz, who has a team-high eight goals in just 12 matches, has missed the last two matches due to a concussion. Seattle will again be without center back Roman Torres, who is two games into his 10-match ban for violating the league’s PED policy.
The teams have played to draws in the last two meetings, including a 0-0 stalemate on the East Coast last year. The Revolution are 0-2-3 in their last five trips to the Pacific Northwest after a 1-0 victory in their first visit in 2009.
(Jordan Morris photo courtesy Jennifer Buchanan/USA TODAY Sports)