Just when it looked as though things were finally turning for the Revolution last Saturday at Kansas City, they came crashing back to reality.
Up, 3-1, at halftime in a place where they seldom win, the wheels came off with a pair of second-half red cards and a massive comeback by the hosts to force a 4-4 draw.
With two games left on the current road trip, the Revolution head to Philadelphia Saturday night missing two key defenders and once again hoping to change the tide of the season.
The Union (5-3-2) enter the contest with injuries to both goalkeepers, forcing emergency keeper Carlos Miguel Coronel into the starting role.
Meanwhile, New England (2-6-2) will be without suspended defenders Jalil Anibaba and Brandon Bye, who received the red cards in Kansas City. With Michael Mancienne and Anthony Delamea dealing with nagging injuries, it’s unclear what the Revolution back line will look like.
So without much on the back end, how can they succeed in a place where they haven’t won since 2015? Here are three keys.
For the second time in 44 games under coach Brad Friedel, the Revolution had two players sent off during a road game, and that forced the coach to build a makeshift back line. The other occasion? Last March in Philadelphia.
With fouls come set-piece opportunities for opponents to get a free cross into the box, which has led to goals on several occasions this year. The Revolution must stay composed and limit the amount of fouls they commit.
It took until the 10th game for a Revolution striker to find the net. Juan Fernando Caicedo scored his first two MLS goals against Kansas City, and Juan Agudelo opened his account as well, marking a positive development from a concerted team effort.
What was different? Speed. The Revolution started draft picks Tajon Buchanan and DeJuan Jones on the wings and placed Carles Gil in an advanced position to provide service to the two strikers.
The red cards changed the game dramatically, forcing the Revolution to withdraw Caicedo for a defensive option. But with a full 11, including those same attacking options, the Revolution have the potential to be a dangerous team up front.
“We’ve been creating a lot of chances, and sometimes you need to take the one and it gives more confidence,” said Friedel. “Hopefully we’ll see a lot more of that this weekend.”
Przybylko has two goals in as many games, using a combination of physicality, deceptive speed, and aerial ability to earn scoring chances. The shorter Picault is a constant threat in the box, finding open space to get on the end of crosses or rebounds as well as unleashing a zipping shot from distance.
While the Revolution back line held during the first half last weekend, it looked awfully vulnerable at times. New England cannot switch off against this duo, especially with the lack of depth at the back.
“They’ve got guys with pace, guys who can finish, guys good in the air,” said Revolution defender Andrew Farrell. “It’s going to be a tough task — that’s a great team. It’s always fun to play against Philly.”
Revolution vs. Union
■ When, where: Saturday, 7:30 p.m., at Talen Energy Stadium, Chester, Pa.
■ TV, radio: NBCSB, WBZ-FM HD2.
■ Coaches: Revolution — Brad Friedel; Union — Jim Curtin.
Formations: Revolution — 4-4-2; Union — 4-4-2.
■ Goalkeepers: Revolution — Cody Cropper; Union — Carlos Miguel Coronel.
■ Referee: Joseph Dickerson.
■ Out: Revolution — D Jalil Anibaba (suspended), D/M Brandon Bye (suspended), M Isaac Angking (ankle); Union — G Andre Blake (adductor), G Matt Freese (abdominal), D Mark McKenzie (appendectomy), M Marco Fabian (ankle), M Ilsinho (hamstring), M Anthony Fontana (ankle).
■ Miscellany: Philadelphia has won six of the last seven meetings, outscoring New England, 16-2 . . . Last weekend, New England and Sporting KC played to the ninth 4-4 draw in MLS history; it tied for the second-highest-scoring draw in league history . . . Scott Caldwell’s assist last weekend was his first since September 2017.
Dan Shulman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org; follow him on Twitter @DanielRShulman.