With just nine matches remaining in 2018, the Revolution — owners of an eight-game winless streak — are in dire straits. Despite favorable results from conference foes on Wednesday (DC United and Toronto FC both lost), the Revs still don’t control their playoff destiny. With four of their final nine at home, New England needs to start collecting points at Gillette — and full points, at that — if they hope to be in the playoff conversation come October.
Their home slate continues on Saturday against the Western Conference’s fifth-place squad, Portland Timbers FC, which just snapped a four-match losing skid on Wednesday. Their 2-0 win over TFC pushed them up and over the red line from seventh place. Prior to their 0-4 run, they had reeled off 15 straight unbeaten to contend for a top spot in the West. With matches in hand, they still have a decent shot for a high seed.
Portland Timbers FC: A Closer Look
Overall Record: 11-7-7, 40 pts, 37 GF, 35 GA, +2 GD
Standing: 5th in Western Conference (2 points above red line)
Current Form: W-L-L-L-L
Record: 3-5-4, 13 points (1.1 points/match), -9 GD
GF: 15 (1.2 GF/match)
GA: 24 (2.0 GA/match)
Primary Formation: 4-3-2-1
A 3-0 home win over the Union in early August was the caboose of their 15-match unbeaten run, which had pundits talking Supporters’ Shield. However, Portland lost four straight, including two at home, and were outscored 10-2 before Wednesday’s victory over TFC.
Last Sunday, the Timbers were hard-luck losers at home vs. Sounders FC. Despite outshooting their rivals 22-6, Portland lost 1-0 on a second-half own goal.
Starting centerback Larrys Mabiala recently returned from injury, so the Timbers are relatively healthy for the New England match.
Team Leaders (on the road):
Valeri/Armenteros - 4
Mabiala/Blanco - 3
Valeri - 4
Blanco - 3
Adi - 2
Chara - 90.9
Cascante - 88.9
Paredes - 83.8
Clearances (per game):
Mabiala - 5.8
Cascante - 4.7
Powell - 2.9
Save % - 75.9
GA/gm - 1.11
Shutouts - 7
New England Revolution: A Closer Look
Record: 7-10-8, 29 pts, 38 GF, 41 GA, -3 GD
Standing: 7th in Eastern Conference (5 points below red line)
Current Form: L-L-L-D-L
Record: 6-4-3, 21 points (1.6 points/match), +5 GD
GF: 22 (1.7 GF/match)
GA: 17 (1.3 GA/match)
Primary Formation: 4-2-3-1
Following last week’s tough loss to Philadelphia, the Revs find themselves approaching must-win territory, especially at home. Supporters are already scoreboard watching and hoping for draws/losses by playoff contenders, not an ideal situation.
Newcomer Cristhian Machado finally got a start at defensive midfield in Scott Caldwell’s absence. Has he earned another? All-star Wilfried Zahibo was his counterpart, as Luis Caicedo was moved up the field as a central attacking mid. Usual number ten Diego Fagundez played a false nine position in Teal Bunbury’s stead.
The other recent arrival, Michael Mancienne, seems to have locked down a centerback spot for the rest of the season, as he started again alongside Antonio Delamea. Former captain Claude Dielna and Gabriel Somi are officially in Brad Friedel’s doghouse and possibly have seen their last days in a Revolution kit. Brandon Bye may be the left back option going forward.
New England might be back to full strength on Saturday, as Caldwell returns from suspension and Bunbury could be game fit. The Revs’ leading scorer missed the Union match after picking up a minor knee injury in training. Rookie Mark Segbers is also back from a second-loan stint with Orange County SC, although he hasn’t featured in league action this season.
New England’s all-around defending has improved as of late, but their attack has been subpar. The Revs haven’t scored a goal in two straight matches, and their offensive futility spans more than 205 consecutive minutes of game action. However, with Bunbury possibly back in the mix and Portland averaging two goals allowed per road match, there’s optimism that the current scoring drought will end this weekend.
Team Leaders (at home):
Bunbury - 6
Fagundez - 5
Penilla - 4
Penilla - 4
Caicedo - 81.3
Delamea - 81.2
Caldwell - 80.6
Clearances (per game):
Delamea - 4.1
Dielna - 3.8
Anibaba - 3.5
Save % - 65.3
GA/gm - 1.64
Shutouts - 4
Portland will look to expose the Revs’ high-press with an excellent counterattack. They generally create solid and numerous scoring chances through Diego Valeri, but they often struggle to finish. However, they don’t play wide too often, which should benefit New England defensively. The Timbers are strong at set pieces and will look to take advantage of the Revs’ aggressive style of play and poor defending in that area.
New England has a great opportunity to put their scoring woes behind them. Much like the Revs, the Timbers have trouble keeping possession, which could provide New England some quality chances in the attacking half. Portland also struggles with defending against through balls and shots from distance. Maybe Kelyn Rowe gets a run-out this weekend?
This is just the 9th all-time regular season meeting between these inter-conference clubs and the only one this season. Portland leads the series with a 2-1-5 record, but they have never won at Gillette Stadium (0-1-3). Four of the past five matches have ended in draws, two occurring in each city. New England’s lone win vs Timbers FC was a 1-0 home victory in 2012. Portland recorded its last victory over the Revs in 2015, a 2-0 win in the Rose City.
How to Watch
Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. ET on Saturday, September 1, 2018
Venue: Gillette Stadium, Foxborough MA
TV: NBC Sports Boston (Boston); KPTV Fox 12 (Portland)
Radio: 98.5 The Sports Hub (Boston); 750 The Game (Portland)
Streaming: MLS Live (now available on ESPN+)