This Revolution season has had several twists and turns. With two games remaining, New England, rather improbably, can clinch a postseason berth for the first time in four years.
The Revolution sit 4 points ahead of Chicago for the final playoff spot and can clinch as early as Sunday against Eastern Conference front-runner New York City FC.
The last time the Revolution played NYCFC was Sept. 7, when an early red card — later overturned — was costly in a game New England lost, 2-1, despite leading for more than an hour. The Revolution were still the aggressors in the early going despite playing a man down.
It hasn’t been smooth sledding since then, but their most improbable result may have come Wednesday at Portland — and it was one that can provide momentum moving forward.
Down, 2-0, in the 87th minute, the Revolution engineered a comeback with a goal from Gustavo Bou and another on a late, VAR-ruled penalty in stoppage time by Carles Gil to secure a 2-2 draw.
All points are good at this stage, but New England could really use a victory Sunday, and here’s how it can be done.
Play more direct
Once the Revolution began a more direct style of attack Wednesday, chances began mounting. New England did so at times in the first half but strayed from it in the second half, which led to the deficit.
On their first goal, for example, the Revolution slid a strong through ball to Teal Bunbury, who took a touch before feeding Bou for the tap-in. It was reminiscent of a goal New England scored in New Jersey against the Red Bulls.
“We’re ready for anything the game will throw at us and we’re confident about our chances,” said Revolution defender Jalil Anibaba.
Capitalize on corners
The Revolution had 16 corner kicks against Portland and scored on none. Zero. They were awarded a penalty because of a foul against Wilfried Zahibo on the final one, but otherwise didn’t threaten.
Part of that has been due to their crossing on corners, sometimes either too short or far too long. The Revolution also haven’t been able to meander into dangerous areas along the near post.
But it’s also that they take too many short corners, which seldom work. It was a problem with Jay Heaps, continued under Brad Friedel, and now is slowly being phased out under Bruce Arena. When gifted a free cross into the box, why not take advantage of that?
Don’t be overwhelmed
New York City has a bevy of attacking options with offensive talisman Heber back to full health. At Yankee Stadium earlier this month, NYCFC peppered the Revolution defense with relentless attacking pressure.
Playing at even strength, NYCFC has the ability to press hard and overwhelm opposing defenses. The solution: spread the game out. They play on a shortened, condensed field that barely meets league minimum standards. At Gillette Stadium, New England’s speed on the wings would allow for a wider game and perhaps fatigue by the final whistle.
“There’s urgency to get it wrapped up on Sunday but also do it our own way and not have to look at results,” said Revolution defender Andrew Farrell. “We’re looking forward to that.”
■ TV, radio: NBCSB, WBZ-FM (98.5).
■ Coaches: Revolution — Bruce Arena; NYCFC — Domenec Torrent.
■ Formations: Revolution — 4-4-2; NYCFC — 4-3-3.
■ Goalkeepers: Revolution — Matt Turner; NYCFC — Sean Johnson.
■ Referee: Nima Saghafi.
■ Out: Revolution — D Edgar Castillo (ribs); NYCFC — D James Sands (shoulder), D Anton Tinnerholm (concussion), M Keaton Parks (hamstring), M Alex Ring (yellow card), F Taty Castellanos (international duty).
■ Miscellany: Alexandru Mitrita recorded the first hat trick for NYC in two seasons during Wednesday’s 4-1 win over Atlanta . . . In that same game, NYC’s Maxi Moralez became the third player in league history to record 20 assists in a season . . . New England leads the all-time series, 5-4-3, and is 3-1-1 at Gillette Stadium.