For the first time in, I actually don't know when, the New England Revolution currently occupy a spot in the Eastern Conference playoffs, vaulting into sixth place with a 3-1 victory at the Montreal Impact on Saturday night.
The Revs got things started just seconds into the match as right from the opening kickoff they went down the field, with Juan Agudelo cutting back down the right flank for Kelyn Rowe at the top of the box. Rowe sent in a cross that found Kei Kamara and a flick header towards the far post and New England had a lead not even thirty seconds into the game.
In the 27th minute, the familiar cut back to Kelyn Rowe at the top of the box on the right side worked again, this time the Revs midfielder dialed up a long range shot, striking off the post and in past Impact keeper Evan Bush to double the Revs advantage.
Montreal would be given a lifeline early in the second half however, as London Woodberry was whistled for a handball at the top of the box. The Revs defender was turning away from the ball and was also likely outside the area, but referee Allen Chapman pointed to the spot and Didier Drogba slotted home for the Impact to cut their deficit to 2-1.
But near the hour mark it would be Rowe who would restore New England's two goal advantage. Prior to the score a goal mouth scramble ensued where the Revs hit another post and a follow up shot from Kelyn was blocked out for a corner. Rowe would latch onto a loose ball in the middle from that corner kick and fire into a mostly open net as a defenders scrambled on the goal line desperately trying to clear the ball away.
The two goals were Rowe's fourth and fifth of the season to go along with his seventh assist on the year. That puts Rowe tied for second on the team with Kamara and Agudelo for goals and alone in assists. Lee Nguyen leads the Revs in both categories with six goals and eight assists in 2016.
Here's three more thoughts on the match...
1. It's amazing what a three game winning streak can do in the East...
It's not always about how good you are, but when you starting playing well. Right now, with New England on a three game winning streak, they've jumped both DC United and Orlando City SC who are two teams that have plenty of results but not a lot of wins this year with identical 7-9-13 records. Both DC and Orlando have a game in hand on New England at 36 points, but sit two points back with 34.
The way the Revs are playing right now in this new 4-4-2 diamond formation is impressive, and with the talent they have New England can cause trouble in the playoffs. Coming off an Open Cup loss to Dallas midweek it was nice to see the Revs respond in a positive way. However...
2. The perils of a stretch run
New England right now is down every holding midfielder not named Scott Caldwell. Yes, center mids Daigo Kobayashi and Zachary Herivaux can fill in for Scotty in a pinch but right now the Revs roster is already dangerously thin and that's when it's at 100%.
The Revs are no where near healthy and Jay Heaps needs to manage these minutes down the stretch far better than he did on Saturday. Using just two subs after the 80th minute in a game where the Revs dominated from basically start to finish is a very quick way to burn this team out. I'd like to think the Revs can get into the playoffs and have a chance in a likely midweek road game in the first round.
But a week ago the Revs went on the road to a playoff team in the USOC final and got annihilated. While it's nice for the Revs to claw their way back into the playoffs, they also have to be in a position to play that playoff game as well if and when they get there. Gershon Koffie and Je-Vaughn Watson will return and will bolster the options Jay Heaps has at his disposal, but this can't be a team of walking wounded going into the playoffs if New England wants to advance and host a game (or two).
3. Speaking of the stretch run...
This came across my feed not from the original post from Jeff, but from a protected account the said simply "Four winnable games." And it's not wrong, I'd argue the hardest team on that list would be Sporting KC at home, then Montreal at home. If the Revs can't go to Columbus and Chicago and get at least four points if not six from those two games then I'm not sure this should be a playoff team anyway.
That said, the Revs probably need 10 points at a minimum and surely a win against the Impact to get into the playoffs. Checking back a few years in the standings show that 46 points usually doesn't get you into the playoffs, even in the East, which is perhaps more bad at soccer than it usually is this year. I don't think the Revs can jump ahead of the Union in fourth place as they're five points back though stranger things have happened.
The Revs are getting hot at just the right time, this is bad news for the rest of the league. But I will not bring back memories of last year's stretch run. I can only hope that this year's version is much better than the last.