Having gotten back to winning ways last weekend, the Revolution enter a stretch run few imagined would have been possible after a 2-8-2 start to the season. The push for a playoff spot begins with one of the biggest games of the season Saturday against Toronto FC at home.
New England sits in sixth place in the Eastern Conference with 38 points, just 1 point ahead of eighth-place Toronto. The Revolution also hold a 1-point edge over seventh-place Montreal.
The Revolution have two games in hand on fifth-place D.C. United (39 points) and one in hand over the fourth-place New York Red Bulls (41 points), putting them within distance of a home playoff spot.
While optimism remains high, there’s work to be done for New England to get there, starting with a tough Toronto team. Here’s how the Revolution can earn another win:
Not so disappointing
Can you believe New England sports fans voted Gustavo Bou the team’s most disappointing player? Somehow, five goals in seven games — including a game-winner against Chicago last Saturday — wasn’t enough.
Bou’s addition has allowed the Revolution to add a dynamic dimension to their attack. Bou is versatile — playing on the wing, in midfield, and up top as a striker — and he has built a pretty nice partnership with midfield playmaker Carles Gil.
It’s clear that when Bou is on, so is the Revolution offense. And with goals in three straight games, he seems to have found his stride. He’ll need to be in form with Teal Bunbury (hamstring injury) set to miss time.
“We’re definitely happy to have him,” said Gil through a translator. “He adds a different dimension to our attacking front. If he was here since the beginning of the year, he’s certainly a player who could score over 20 goals a year.”
Keeping it tight
While the defense has shown some shakiness in recent weeks, newly re-signed goalkeeper Matt Turner has gotten stronger. The Revolution were missing defender Antonio Delamea and allowing plentiful chances in his absence. Delamea returning to full strength this week certainly will help.
Fortunately for New England, Turner has stood tall and the defense has patched things together. Turner made a game-saving stop in Seattle Aug. 10 and had a career-high nine saves at Red Bull Arena Aug. 17. Last week was no different, as Turner came up big on various occasions to keep a goal-hungry Chicago at bay.
But Toronto presents a stern test for the defense.
“It’s going to be a challenge for our center backs,” said Delamea. “In the last couple of games, I think we really improved in a defensive aspect.”
Over the last few weeks, Toronto has been largely dormant over the opening 45 minutes before flipping the switch in the second half. The Reds have a ton of attacking weapons, with Alejandro Pozuelo and Jozy Altidore at the center of things.
What Toronto thrives on is quick ball movement in the final third. The team’s conditioning shows it can outlast opponents and press hard on the attack during the final, vital minutes of the match.
“They have very good players in important positions on the field,” said Revolution coach Bruce Arena. “They have key players down the middle of the field.”
. . .
Former Revolution defender Chris Tierney is returning to the club he spent his entire 11-year career with, but in an off-field role. Tierney has been added to the Revolution’s technical staff as a player recruitment manager.
A native of Wellesley, Tierney will serve under sporting director and coach Bruce Arena and technical director Curt Onalfo, with a focus on scouting.
“It is always a great moment for our club anytime there is an opportunity to bring one of our former players back in a new role,” said Revolution president Brian Bilello. “Chris was a great player, teammate, and ambassador for the Revolution on and off the field during his time as a player, and we’re thrilled to have him join the front office.”
Tierney announced his retirement from MLS in November 2018 after a knee injury in May forced him to miss the remainder of the regular season. The former left back ranks third in club history with 246 games played and fourth in both starts (220) and assists (40).
He was an MLS All-Star in 2015 and helped lead New England to an appearance in the 2014 MLS Cup final, where he scored the team’s lone goal in the match.
Revolution vs. Toronto
■ When, where: Saturday, 7:30 p.m., Gillette Stadium, Foxborough.
■ TV, radio: NBCSB, WBZ-FM (98.5)
■ Coaches: Revolution — Bruce Arena; Toronto — Greg Vanney
■ Formations: Revolution — 4-2-3-1; Toronto — 4-1-4-1
■ Goalkeepers: Revolution — Matt Turner; Toronto — Quentin Westberg
■ Referee: Timothy Ford
■ Out: Revolution — D Edgar Castillo (rib), F Teal Bunbury (hamstring); Toronto -- none.
■ Miscellany: The Revolution lead the all-time series, 13-8-9, including 10-2-4 at home . . . Toronto F Jozy Altidore has five goals and two assists in his last seven games . . . Revolution M Carles Gil also has been hot, with five goals and seven assists in his last nine games.
Dan Shulman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org; follow him on Twitter @DanielRShulman.