The New England Revolution host the reigning MLS Cup Champions tonight as the Portland Timbers travel to Gillette Stadium for a midweek showdown. Both teams have been plagued by dull starts to their respective seasons. The Revs and the Timbers have earned 8 points apiece entering tonight and both sit outside of potential playoff position.
To make matters worse for the home side, the Revs will be without veteran left back Chris Tierney after he strained his hamstring during Saturday night's loss versus D.C. United.
New England: DDL
We can try to decipher what has been going wrong for the Revolution recently, whether it be injuries, unfair refereeing (cough, cough, PRO), or poor coaching. In the end, however, the Revs just simply have not played well enough. We know that the squad has the talent on paper, but they have yet to figure out how to piece it together.
This trend continued on Saturday as the Revs coughed up an early penalty to give D.C. United the lead. New England showed promise at times, playing possession-style soccer, but two garbage-time goals left the scoreboard reading 3-0 as the Revs left RFK Stadium.
The Timbers' title defense got off to a shaky start, but they could breathe again last game after ending their five-match winless streak in hectic fashion. Portland handed the San Jose Earthquakes just their second loss of the season after a gritty effort gave them a 3-1 victory. The Timbers come to Gillette after a 10-day vacation and will be well-rested and healthy.
Injuries, injuries, injuries galore. Not only will Chris Tierney not be available for tonight's match, but both Juan Agudelo and Teal Bunbury are questionable with hamstring injuries as well. The absence of Agudelo and Bunbury will cause Charlie Davies to step up. Davies has started just two of the Revolution's eight games so far, but will be in the spotlight tonight.
With or without Agudelo and Bunbury, however, the Revs' attacking corps has been abysmal in 2016. Excluding the three-goal performance on opening day in Houston, the Revolution have scored just five goals. Of those five goals, just one belongs to Bunbury. Agudelo and Davies have been shutout. Will Davies step up, or will the goalscoring role fall to an attacking midfielder?
Lineup changes have been abundant for Portland in recent weeks, and their starting XI tonight will have a different look than it did against San Jose. Midfield staple Diego Valeri will be serving a one match suspension after picking up two yellow cards last match, but in his place the Timbers will welcome back Darlington Nagbe. Nagbe has recovered quickly from Nigel de Jong's horror tackle of which he fell victim, missing just two matches. In addition, goalscorer Fanendo Adi will return to the starting XI looking to capitalize on the Revs' handicapped back line.
A win for the Revolution over the defending champions would certainly turn some heads around MLS, but mostly those of Revs fans who have been holding onto hope that they can squeeze out a win. Having won just one out of eight total matches this season has made a win a crown jewel for the Revs, and they will need one tonight.
The Revolution host Portland in a midweek matchup tonight at 7:30 PM EST.Follow @TheBentMusket