Sports

REVOLUTION VS. UNION: SATURDAY, 7:30 p.m.

Revolution ready to make playoff push

New England Revolution midfielder Xavier Kouassi, left, and Columbus Crew midfielder Mohammed Abu, right, vie for control of the ball during the first half of an MLS soccer game, Sunday, May 21, 2017, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
Steve Senne/AP
The expected return of midfielder Xavier Kouassi (left) should shore up the Revolution defense.

With 14 games remaining for the Revolution this season, the team sits eight points clear from a playoff spot with games in hand over several teams above in the standings.

One of those teams, the Philadelphia Union, pays their only visit to Gillette Stadium this season on Saturday night.

“We’re in that one-game-at-a-time [mentality],” said Revolution coach Jay Heaps. “And we have to just get all of our focus on progressing from each game, but making sure that our focus is 1,000 percent on the game ahead of us.”

Advertisement

The Revolution, 10th in the 11-team Eastern Conference, are one point behind ninth-place Montreal and three behind eighth-place Philadelphia entering the weekend. With the Impact heading to face the red-hot New York Red Bulls, this weekend presents an opportunity for New England to make a serious leap in the standings, as high as eighth place, and right back into playoff contention.

Get Sports Headlines in your inbox:
The most recent sports headlines delivered to your inbox every morning.
Thank you for signing up! Sign up for more newsletters here

Another major advantage for New England is hosting a team coming off a mid-week match. Despite missing a pair of talented players to international duty in goalkeeper Andre Blake and midfielder Chris Pontius, Philly managed to knock off visiting Columbus Crew SC, 3-0, on Wednesday night.

The major weapon on offense for the Union is C.J. Sapong who netted his career-high 10th goal of the season on Wednesday. Nursing a minor ankle injury, the striker is listed as questionable for the weekend but will likely be in action.

Although Pontius is set to return this weekend, Blake will remain out of the lineup after sustaining a nasty hand injury in the Gold Cup final. Blake collided with Kelyn Acosta during the first half of the match and was forced to leave the game.

Reserve keeper John McCarthy has gone 1-2-1 since taking over the job for the absent Blake.

Advertisement

Last time out, the Revolution knocked off the LA Galaxy, 4-3, in front of a season-best crowd of 27,441 at Gillette Stadium. Teal Bunbury scored two goals in a substitute appearance during the second half and Kei Kamara grabbed his first goal since May 31.

Defensively, New England will look to break out of its current funk as the backline has allowed 13 goals over its last five MLS games. With defensive midfielder Xavier Kouassi likely to return, his presence will help reinforce the team’s defensive posture.

“I think you can see in the games he’s played this year that we look pretty secure back there with him in there,” said Revolution defender Chris Tierney. “He does a lot to break up play. He’s good positionally. I think you’ve seen the team with and without him and he’s a big part of our group.”

.   .   .

The Revolution completed the signing of free agent defender Claude Dielna, most recently under contract at English club Sheffield Wednesday. Though his primary position is central defender, the left-footed Dielna has experience playing as a left-back as well — an area of need for the Revolution.

Dan can be reached at dan.shulman@globe.com; follow him on Twitter @GlobeDanShulman