After a lengthy run of excellent play to get back into playoff contention, the New England Revolution look to find a second wind for the stretch run, starting with Saturday night’s critical encounter against Real Salt Lake.
The Revolution (10-10-10) were one of the best teams in the league following Bruce Arena’s arrival, going on an 11-match unbeaten run at one point. While New England has lost just twice in its last 18 league contests (8-8-2), matches that were wins have become draws and jeopardized its playoff chances.
New England still holds the seventh and final playoff spot in the East on 40 points – three better than Montreal and Chicago with a match in hand – but threw away two points in settling for a 3-3 draw at Orlando City last Saturday. Carles Gil set up first-half goals by Cristian Penilla and Gustavo Bou to stake the Revs to a 3-1 lead, but the Lions pounced early in the second half and scored twice in the first nine minutes after the restart.
“We made some mistakes defensively and been a little bit better in attack, but over 90 minutes we had some real good moments and mental lapses that cost us dearly,” Arena told the club’s official website. “As we get towards the end of the season, we need to avoid those mistakes.”
Bou and Gil continue to form a dynamic offensive tandem, and the duo have factored on eight of New England’s last 10 offensive goals scored in the last six matches. Bou has seven goals and an assist in 10 matches since signing from Liga MX side Tijuana, while Gil – who has been with the Revs all season – has team highs of nine goals and 14 assists.
Real Salt Lake (14-4-12) is looking to move closer to clinching a playoff spot and avoid being dragged into the scrap for the final three playoff spots in the West. RSL are currently fourth on 46 points but only three better than eighth-place FC Dallas with four matches remaining.
They have alternated wins and losses in their last six matches, but the last two defeats have come on the road, including a 3-1 setback at Minnesota United on Sunday. Albert Rusnak got Real off to a bright start in the 17th minute, but the Loons leveled the match three minutes later and took the lead for good early in the second half.
“We’re looking at it as there’s four games left, they’re all important, but we need to figure out how to go and collect some points,” interim coach Freddy Juarez said. “New England is always hard to go into and collect some points. When you look at it realistically, those two home games are very important for us.
“We learn from this game, show the guys the recap like we do every week because the guys need to see it and learn from it, and then we get back to training and New England’s ahead of us.”
Former coach Mike Petke, who was fired last month for allegedly calling a Panamanian referee a derogatory Spanish word regarded as a homophobic slur, filed a lawsuit against the team Wednesday for breach of employment contract. The team acknowledged the lawsuit Thursday while maintaining its stance Petke was terminated with cause.
RSL snapped a three-match winless streak and 299-minute goalless drought against the Revs with a 4-1 home victory last year as Damir Kreilach had a goal and an assist. New England has won the last two games at Gillette Stadium by a combined 8-0.
(Gustavo Bou photo courtesy New England Revolution official Twitter account)