Dating to 1996, one of the most potent rivalries in Major League Soccer has been the Revolution vs. D.C. United. On Saturday, the teams will meet for the 70th time, with United holding a 32-26-11 edge.
“You’ve got people that have been a part of all sides of those games,” said Revolution coach Jay Heaps. “It always fuels [the rivalry]. Those things don’t go away.”
The most recent bout came on June 25, 2016, as United cruised to a 2-0 home victory. All the damage was done inside the first half-hour, and the two goals held up for the hosts.
New England’s last victory over D.C. came back on Memorial Day weekend in 2014, when Diego Fagundez’s goal in the final 15 minutes sealed a 2-1 win.
The Revolution, who are in the midst of a three-games-in-eight-days stretch, played to a scoreless draw Wednesday against visiting San Jose after a disappointing 3-0 loss in Chicago last Saturday. They are 2-1-2 in their last five, and have kept a clean sheet in two of their last three.
“It’s a very important game for us to bring back our confidence and to finally score,” said defender Antonio Delamea. “We haven’t scored now for two games, and I think it’s time to win this game. We need to keep focus and we need to do better.”
Goalkeeper Cody Cropper was the star Wednesday, making a trio of stellar saves to keep the game scoreless in the second half. Cropper’s best stop came in the 66th minute when he denied a Fatai Alashe shot from the edge of the 6-yard box.
“Cody was magnificent,” said Delamea. “He saved us. He gave confidence to the whole team.”
D.C. United had a two-game win streak snapped last Saturday on the road with a 2-0 loss to the New York Red Bulls. D.C. also lost a pair of players to injury in the second half as Nick DeLeon hobbled off with an abdominal injury before Steve Birnbaum was forced off in the final moments with a concussion.
However, D.C.’s Luciano Acosta is back to full health after missing much of March. He leads the team with two goals and is one of the most clinically gifted midfielder in MLS.
While defense again will be important for New England, staying fresh presents another challenge in one of the team’s busiest stretches of the season.
“When you’re putting three games in [eight] days, you have to be a little bit of mind over matter, get through some tough stretches, and physically be able to get through it,” said Heaps.