With four games remaining in the regular season, the Revolution face a difficult schedule, probably the most difficult in MLS.
All four opponents are currently playoff teams, including this Saturday’s visitor to Foxborough, Real Salt Lake, which sits in fourth place in the Western Conference. After that comes a trip to Portland, Ore., on Wednesday.
Regardless of the difficult path, the Revolution must focus on correcting their current form after a pair of frustrating results at New York City (2-1 loss) and Orlando (3-3 tie). Since their 11-game unbeaten run was snapped to start August, they are 1-2-4 with a minus-2 goal differential. They are currently holding the final playoff slot in the Eastern Conference, with a 3-point lead on Montreal and Chicago, and a game in hand on each.
Coach Bruce Arena must find a way to get the Revolution back on track after more than a month of subpar play, and here’s how they can start against Real Salt Lake:
Work the overlap
In its most recent defeat at Minnesota, Real Salt Lake had trouble defending the overlapping runs Loons forwards were making down the middle or along the wings.
The Revolution have been using this tactic more since Arena came aboard and have the perfect personnel to do so. With speedy fullbacks, who at times serve more as wingbacks with the holding midfielder dropping deep, along with midfielder Carles Gil and wingers like Cristian Penilla and Diego Fagundez also having quick accelerative ability, the Revolution can be a tough team to defend.
New England needs to continuously get into threatening positions with RSL struggling to defend this attack.
Improve the D
Over the past couple of weeks, the Revolution have endured injuries and suspensions to their center backs, meaning there hasn’t been a steady lineup in some time. Antonio Delamea has returned to full health, as has Michael Mancienne, and Andrew Farrell remains a steady presence.
But what really needs to improve is constant marking in the middle. The Revolution were undone twice in quick succession at the start of the second half last weekend in Orlando, and the same happened Aug. 10 at Seattle.
New England allows too many shots from distance and two many diagonal passes to the back post without resistance. And with RSL midfielder Albert Rusnak and Damir Kreilach adept at serving these balls, it will require a monumental defensive effort by New England.
“We made some mistakes defensively [in Orlando],” said Arena. “Over 90 minutes we had some real good moments, and we also had some mental lapses that cost us dearly in the second half.”
Salt Lake has been strongest when developing chances off turnovers or catching the defense flat-footed. At the same time, it is vulnerable to this same type of attacking threat.
New England is a very similar team, making for what could be one of its most entertaining matches of the year. The Revolution’s counterattack can be potent at times, but they also can be victims of their own tactics.
RSL, said Revolution goalkeeper Matt Turner, has “five guys up top that can be pretty dangerous attacking-wise. They’ve gotten some good road results this year, so they’ll come in and be ready to play.”
Revolution vs. Real Salt Lake
■ When, where: Saturday, 7:30 p.m., at Gillette Stadium, Foxborough
■ TV, radio: NBCSB, WBZ-FM (98.5)
■ Coaches: Revolution — Bruce Arena; RSL — Freddy Juarez
■ Formations: Revolution — 4-4-2; RSL — 4-2-3-1
■ Goalkeepers: Revolution — Matt Turner; RSL — Nick Rimando
■ Referee: Armando Villarreal
■ Out: Revolution — D Edgar Castillo (rib); RSL — D Tony Beltran (knee), M Jordan Allen (knee), M Nick Besler (knee), M Luke Mulholland (hamstring).
■ Miscellany: Revolution M Carles Gil ranks fourth in MLS with 14 assists but has the most primary assists in the league with 12 . . . New England is 4-4-2 all-time at home against Salt Lake, including consecutive 4-0 victories in 2015 and 2017 . . . New England is 6-1-3 against Western Conference foes this year; Salt Lake is 7-3-1 against the East.
Dan Shulman can be reached at email@example.com; follow him on Twitter @DanielRShulman.