Back on June 30, the Revolution were in prime position in the Eastern Conference. A victory over D.C. United had them comfortably in fifth place, within striking distance of fourth. A home playoff game seemed a real possibility, and they had come out of the international break with some momentum.
But the following week, New England’s season took a turn for the worse. A poor performance in a home draw with Seattle was followed by a catastrophic loss to Los Angeles, sending the Revolution into a downward spiral they have yet to recover from.
On Sunday night, the Revolution (0-4-2 in their last six) have another chance to rescue their season before it deteriorates any more, with a rematch against D.C. United on the road. Coach Brad Friedel remains confident that his team has the proper mentality to break out of its slump.
“I think you have to first instill that losing isn’t acceptable,” Friedel said. “I do think we have a group of players that do have the character with the will not to lose. It’s just a matter of attention to detail on a match day.”
After last week’s loss at home against Philadelphia, in which the Revolution conceded a late penalty that cost them the game, Friedel made his disappointment apparent. The former Premier League goalkeeper pointed to the MLS format as a possible reason for a casual attitude.
“In all of American sports, you don’t have relegation; you have that carrot when you’re over in Europe,” Friedel said. “You don’t have a big bonus structure over here, so that’s usually another big carrot. So you have to try to find other ways sometimes to get that winning mentality.”
One way for New England to get more victories is by bolstering its defense. Before the transfer window closed, the Revolution did just that, acquiring Michael Mancienne on a free transfer from Nottingham Forest. The center back is a former England youth international and was the Forest captain before departing his native England.
New England’s lapses in central defense have been a major reason for the recent struggles. Jalil Anibaba has sputtered following a tremendous first half, while Antonio Delamea’s vulnerability and lack of discipline shone through last weekend. The Revolution hope Mancienne’s arrival can spark a turnaround.
“Michael will provide leadership,” said Friedel. “He’ll absolutely know what it means to win. He’ll add some help in that department.”
Despite the new additions and rocky results, the Revolution’s resolve and camaraderie have not dissipated. Their core players have experienced spells like this before, and they cite the importance of sticking together as the way to earn positive results.
“These times are when true colors show,” said striker Teal Bunbury. “Great teams get through these by sticking by each other.
“I think a lot of communication helps get your mind right.”
Revolution vs. D.C. United
■ When, where: Sunday, 7:30 p.m., at Audi Field, Washington, D.C.
■ TV, radio: FS1, WBZ-FM (98.5).
■ Coaches: Revolution — Brad Friedel; D.C. — Ben Olsen.
■ Formations: Revolution — 4-2-3-1; D.C. — 4-2-3-1.
■ Goalkeepers: Revolution — Matt Turner; D.C. — Bill Hamid.
■ Referee: Chris Penso.
■ Out: Revolution — D Chris Tierney (knee); D.C. — D Jalen Robinson (knee), Taylor Kemp (labrum), M Nick DeLeon (knee).
■ Miscellany: This will be New England’s first visit to United’s new stadium . . . The Revolution are 9-23-4 all-time at D.C. . . . United have won two consecutive games for the first time this year, snapping Portland’s 15-game unbeaten streak with a 4-1 win Wednesday . . . FS1 will use an all-female broadcast team — Lisa Byington (play-by-play), Danielle Slaton (analyst), and Katie Witham (sideline) — a first for a national soccer telecast in the US.
Dan Shulman can be reached at email@example.com.