FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Consider this visit by Houston on Saturday night as a potential coming of age moment for the New England Revolution.
All of the progress made and all of the promise shown this season has placed this youthful group in a position to chase and possibly claim the club's first playoff berth since 2009. A home victory against the Dynamo – fourth place in the Eastern Conference, three points in front of the fifth-placed Revs heading into the weekend – makes the goal more obtainable.
Any other result might place those hopes in considerable peril with Chicago, Columbus and Philadelphia in close pursuit and trips to New York and Montréal on tap over the next two weeks.
Every step to this point has prepared the Revs' blossoming core players for the battle to come. Now it is just a matter of seeing whether the lessons learned from those strides will allow them to cross the threshold against the savvy, seasoned Dynamo (7:30 pm, MLS Live).
“These young players are some of our most important players,” Revolution defender Chris Tierney told MLSsoccer.com. “You can see it in the second half with the way players like Diego [Fagundez], Kelyn [Rowe], Andrew Farrell, Scott Caldwell, Dimitry [Imbongo], all of these guys are really key, key players for us.
"The veteran guys who have been there before will look to pass down any wisdom that we may have from being in these spots before, but these guys have been in tough spots all year and they've reacted really well. We expect the same this weekend.”
Revolution coach Jay Heaps said the emerging prospects must lean on the wiser veterans to help them navigate through this exacting gauntlet and locate the balance required to manage the game against the Dynamo.
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“It's vital,” Heaps said. “We've built a team that has veteran presence and has a lot of leadership, but we have a lot of younger players who have played themselves into the lineup. Now it's going to be important. You see leadership when you go on the road, when you play a tough home game and you have the leadership and the communication.
"It's not just when you step on the field, it's the preparation when you're leading up, the conversations we're having as a staff and the players are having amongst each other about what we're asking them to do.”
Many of those discussions involved how to cope with the Dynamo and find times in the game to assert their own strengths. A few of those chats also pertained to the availability of key players, particularly with Juan Agudelo back in full training this week after missing the 2-1 victory against D.C. United on Saturday.
Agudelo, who is currently listed as questionable with a right hamstring strain, is expected to feature in the matchday squad against the Dynamo after responding well to a few extra days of rest last weekend. The extent of his involvement remains uncertain, but the prospect of his introduction at some stage provides a boost to the Revs as they seek to continue their emergence with a critical victory over the Dynamo.