The Revolution have capitalized on home-field advantage this season, setting a team record with a 12-1-4 mark at Gillette Stadium (14-2-6 all competitions). But playing there did not benefit them in knockout situations; they were eliminated from the US Open Cup in May and Leagues Cup in August.
Now, on the verge of playoff elimination, the Revolution are hoping to survive at home against the Philadelphia Union in the second game of a best-of-three series Wednesday night.
“The fans have shown up, and they’ve been such an immense help for us at home,” Revolution defender Dave Romney said. “It’s why we had such a good home record.
“I desperately want to get a playoff win for them and keep this run going. They’ve showed up for us this whole year, so we definitely are going to show up for them in this playoff game.”
In the postseason opener, a 3-1 loss to the Union, the Revolution got off to an encouraging start, as a Noel Buck shot hit the crossbar early. But after captain Carles Gil sustained a knee injury, the Revolution lost momentum.
The Union opened the scoring on a penalty kick, on the way to converting thrice in an 18-minute span.
This was the third time in four games the Revolution surrendered three goals in the opening half — a discouraging trend, considering they did not give up more than two goals in a game from May 31 through Oct. 7.
Offensively, though, the Revolution have been effective, thanks to Gil’s playmaking, plus the finishing of Gustavo Bou, who has recovered from a Leagues Cup injury, and Tomas Chancalay (six goals in 11 matches).
In the teams’ three matchups this year, the Union have gained the edge in tactical fouling, committing 43 fouls (six cautions), the Revolution 30 fouls (nine cautions). In both Revolution defeats, they lost Gil to injury in the first half.
“We do need to protect him as a team and as an organization,” Revolution midfielder Matt Polster said. “He’s our most important piece within our team. He makes us go as a group.
“We need to make sure the referees are aware, and I think the league should do that as well. We need to be more aware, and maybe even a little more forceful, on our side, as players, to maybe do something similar.
“We need to start targeting their players to an extent, obviously not to hurt, like what happened to Carles, but protect him and make sure it’s not OK just to keep hitting our players.”
Gil, who went down in a sixth-minute clash with Mikael Uhre in the opener, has been practicing at full speed. The status of Union central defender Jakob Glesnes (groin) has not been determined, but left back Kai Wagner, who was accused of using a racial slur in the first game, has been ruled out by Union coach Jim Curtin.
“We’re planning for Philly and whoever they put on the field,” said Revolution coach Clint Peay.
“In terms of the type of team they’ll be, I think we can expect a physical group that is looking to hit you with set pieces, hit you on the counter, and really make it difficult for you to score goals. They work together collectively really well.
“So, regardless of who’s on the field for them, I think they’re going to put in the effort in a collective way, and I think that is what makes them difficult.”
A victory would take the series to a final game in Chester, Pa., on Sunday. Not an inviting prospect for the Revolution, who are 0-7-5 on the road since May and 0-5-2 (15-8 goal difference) in away games since losing coach Bruce Arena (who resigned).
Should the Revolution advance, they would compete in a single-game Eastern Conference semifinal, likely as the visiting team.
“I’m not sure how they came to this,” Polster said of the playoff format. “But it’s benefitted us, obviously, so I’m happy that we have a chance to come back now and play at home in front of our fans and, you know, get a win, then go back to Philly and find a way to win there.”
Frank Dell'Apa can be reached at email@example.com.