The Revolution have been among the hottest teams in MLS over the last month, unbeaten in their last six league games and continuing to surge toward a playoff spot.
New England’s opponents on Thursday night, the Colorado Rapids, enter the match in Commerce City with a longer such streak, stretching seven games.
The teams have distinct similarities, each enduring a horrific start to the season before a coaching change sparked a turnaround. Both teams earned road wins against the LA Galaxy, which built confidence.
Both teams could keep their unbeaten streaks alive with a draw, but the full three points are crucial for the playoff hunt. For New England, a win would mean tying seventh-place Toronto FC in points for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Here’s what needs to be done:
What’s the difference?
While a win of any margin keeps New England climbing, at some point goal differential will come into play. With the Revolution conceding 11 times in the two games prior to their current unbeaten streak, their goal differential is minus-15 — second worst in the league. What’s more, the Revolution’s 20 goals are third fewest in MLS.
Goal differential and goals scored are the second and third tiebreakers (behind wins) when determining a playoff spot, and the time to make up ground must start immediately.
The Rapids have allowed 36 goals, one more than the Revolution. In 10 home games, Colorado has conceded 20 goals and has won just four times. The Revolution should look to attack from the start, much like they did at the Galaxy a month ago.
The Rapids like to let the game come to them, especially against attacking, pressing teams. In their most recent win over league-leading LAFC, the Rapids sat extremely deep to defend against attacks, sometimes placing eight players behind the ball.
In doing this, they can generate counterattacks with their swift wingers. With counterattacks come set pieces, which Colorado has had success converting into goals.
“They’re really dangerous on set pieces and restarts,” said Revolution goalkeeper Matt Turner. “They have [Kei Kamara] up top, who we’re familiar with. He can be dangerous with balls in the air. They’re playing with a lot of confidence.”
Power of positivity
Winning certainly solves a lot of problems, and for the Revolution it has resulted in a positive attitude. Even facing adversity, like an early deficit at home, or on Thursday night playing at high altitude, the Revolution have stuck together and are ready to embrace challenges.
The positive attitude around the club, along with the influence of coach Bruce Arena, has ingrained an aspect of mental toughness that has been the driving force behind New England’s success.
With a new outlook, the Revolution have made tactical and positional changes that have allowed everyone to get involved in different ways, most notably shifting winger DeJuan Jones to right back and striker Juan Agudelo to center midfield.
“Everybody’s optimistic,” said Agudelo. “It just feels way more like a team.”
Revolution vs. Rapids
■ When, where: Thursday, 9 p.m., Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, Commerce City, Colo.
■ TV, radio: NBCSB, WBZ-FM (98.5).
■ Formations: Revolution — 4-4-2; Rapids — 4-5-1.
■ Goalkeepers: Revolution — Matt Turner; Rapids — Tim Howard.
■ Coaches: Revolution — Bruce Arena; Rapids — Conor Casey.
■ Referee: Alex Chilowicz.
■ Out: Revolution — D Michael Mancienne (foot); Rapids — D Kortne Ford (knee), D Deklan Wynne (foot), M Sam Nicholson (hamstring), M Jack Price (hip).
■ Miscellany: Revolution D Edgar Castillo played 28 matches for Colorado last season while on loan from Monterrey in Mexico, scoring three goals . . . New England is unbeaten in its last six MLS matches, its longest streak since going seven matches without a loss last year (2-0-5) from May 26 to July 7 . . . The home team has won each of the last three meetings, with the last road win by New England in 2015 (2-0).
Dan Shulman can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @DanielRShulman.