Another week, another game with grand playoff implications for the New England Revolution.
The Revolution will host the Houston Dynamo — the team directly ahead of them in the Eastern Conference standings — at Gillette Stadium on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. It is the first of three consecutive matchups against teams in the East’s top four.
New England is in fifth place — the last spot to qualify for the playoffs —
“It’s a 6-pointer because they’re ahead of us by 3 points,” said defender Andrew Farrell. “It’s a big game with a good team. They got the win on us the last time they came up here, but we’re looking forward to getting back at it.
“It’s going to be a fun one. It’s kind of like a playoff atmosphere every weekend now, and we have to get the points at home.”
For the first time in nearly a month, the Revolution will take the field coming off a win. They beat D.C. United, 2-1, last Saturday to climb back onto the right side of the postseason cutoff mark.
Against United, the Revolution fell behind, 1-0, on an own-goal early in the first half, then missed a penalty kick before rallying. Forward Diego Fagundez netted his team-high 11th goal of the season to tie the score before midfielder Lee Nguyen — who missed the PK — put New England up in the 83d minute.
Houston, meanwhile, is on a bit of a roll. Dynamo have won two in a row, defeating the Philadelphia Union (1-0) and Chivas USA (5-1).
“It’s a good challenge for us. They’re obviously coming off a big win against Chivas USA this past weekend, scored a bunch of goals, so their confidence is high as well,” said defender Chris Tierney. “We’ll make sure it comes down to our preparation and making sure that we’re ready individually and as a team to put in a performance that will get us a win.”
Forward Giles Barnes, who has a team-high eight goals, scored twice in the most recent win. Midfielder Oscar Boniek Garcia (two goals) and forward Will Bruin (one goal, one assist) also came through.
Houston goalkeeper Tally Hall made a single save, but that was more a testament to the Dynamo controlling the pace than it was of Hall, who has a 1.24 goals-against average and .680 save percentage while starting all 29 games.
In a smaller sample size — seven games — Revolution keeper Matt Reis has been even better. He is allowing half of a goal per game while stopping 83 percent of his shots.
It is also worth keeping an eye on Revolution forward Dimitry Imbongo, who received a red card in each of the teams’ previous two meetings this season. Forward Juan Agudelo is questionable again. He has scored six goals in nine games with the Revolution, but a balky hamstring has severely limited his time on the field this month.
“Juan would step on the field any time he can,” Revolution coach Jay Heaps said. “He’s a competitor, he wants to play. Sometimes it’s the training staff that has to manage that and mitigate that, and I think now he’s back and he’s feeling really good.
“It’s important that he’s done so well for us, we have a special confidence when we’re on the field with him. We haven’t dropped many points when he’s been on the pitch for us, so yeah, you want him to play, but at the same time, you don’t want to see any more setbacks, because we need him these next five games and into the playoffs.”Tim Healey can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @timbhealey.