FOXBOROUGH — Wednesday night, said midfielder Teal Bunbury, is when they find out what they are made of.
The Revolution, losers of eight straight games and carriers of infinite optimism, have not won a league match since May 24.
They have lost two starters to injury — offensive-minded left back Chris Tierney joined Andy Dorman on the injured list when he sprained his left MCL in the first half of Saturday’s 2-1 loss to the Columbus Crew — and have been shut out four times during their string of futility.
They will try to get back on track against the Colorado Rapids (8-6-6), who won their last game, 3-0, and are brimming with confidence.
So Bunbury, whose near-goals during the string of losses have epitomized the team’s close-but-no-cigar attack, said that it’s now time that the Revolution (7-11-2) discover their resilience.
“This is where you really find out your true colors,” Bunbury said before the team’s training session on Tuesday morning.
What are those colors?
From late April to late May, New England looked like one of the best teams in the land, winning five straight and thrashing the league’s current points leader, the Seattle Sounders, 5-0, on May 11. Goals abounded, 16 of them during the five-match tour de force, and the back four posted half of the season’s four shutouts.
Since then, though, the Revolution have been outscored, 19-4, and lost in nearly every way possible: outplaying opponents but lacking finish (New York, Columbus), missing a late penalty kick (Chicago), opening the proverbial defensive floodgates (Los Angeles).
“There’s not excuses you can come up [with] for it,” Bunbury said.
And they haven’t. Bunbury, defender A.J. Soares, coach Jay Heaps and most other New England players have shouldered the losing streak with poise and vowed to move forward.
“We’re all pros. We’ve all won and lost games. We’ve been through tough stretches,” said Soares, who scored the Revolution’s lone goal Saturday against the Crew. “It’s business as usual.”
But their professionalism doesn’t obscure reality: Once at the top of the Eastern Conference, the Revolution are now in sixth place, one point from the final playoff berth.
The Revolution, still with 14 games left, can catapult back into the postseason conversation, if for a few changes.
It starts with the first goal. In every one of the eight losses the Revolution’s opponent has scored first, four times within the first 20 minutes. When they concede the game’s first strike, the Revolution are 1-11-1; when they score first they are 6-0-0. The early deficits naturally lead to pressure to equalize, which stretches the formation and allows teams more opportunities to counter.
Next, the attackers have to take their chances: The near-goals must become goals. The Revolution average nearly 14 shots a game and rank fifth in Major League Soccer in shots on goal, with 98. But they’ve scored only 25 goals, 14th in the league, and their 9 percent shooting percentage is 16th. They haven’t scored from the run of play in over a month — a span of 466 minutes.
The defense, though, isn’t absolved from blame, either. It has allowed several goals that could have been avoided, from set-piece lapses to poor positioning. The main difference is that their opponents have exploited the Revolution’s defensive blunders; New England has not done the same.
Finally, the losses of Tierney and holding midfielder Dorman to knee injuries have been costly. In Dorman, the Revolution lost a seasoned and tireless distributor and tackler in front of their back four. And without Tierney’s inquiring runs and crosses along the left flank, their width is compromised, which restricts offensive engine Lee Nguyen in the middle of the field.
Heaps, though, treats the injuries like he does most everything else in soccer: There will be obstacles; move past them.
“You have to roll up your sleeves and keep going forward,” Heaps said after Saturday’s loss.
The march onward started Monday and continued Tuesday, when Heaps barked encouragement while his players completed a passing drill under a blue sky and the burden of so many losses. Heaps, along with orange cleats and blue shorts, was wearing a gray long-sleeve T-shirt.
The sleeves were rolled up.Rob Harms can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @harms__way.