The Philadelphia Union and New England Revolution clashed six times in the truncated 2020 season, an abnormally high number due to regional play when the season resumed during the COVID-19 pandemic. It became a bit of a running joke.
Philly enjoyed the better of New England on most occasions, winning four and drawing one of the six. But their lone loss happened to end their season.
Bruce Arena's Revs traveled to Subaru Park for round one of the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs and outplayed the Supporters' Shield winners, pulling off an upset on the road. The two are about to play one another for the first time in 2021, but Union head coach Jim Curtin isn't focused on any notion of revenge.
“This game is an opportunity for three points, it’s not an opportunity to avenge last year in the playoffs or anything like that," Curtin told media during a virtual press conference. "Just two different teams fighting for points, last season is gone.”
Gone but not forgotten, of course.
“It hurts, when a team ends your season it stays with you," Curtin said. "It hurts for a while, that part is hard. We got the better of them in the regular season, which led to our Supporters’ Shield, but in the most important game they beat us. They outplayed us and deserved to win. But it’s a new year, new challenge.”
The Union's regular season success against the Revs led Bruce Arena to joke that they deserved credit for the Shield too, given the Union won three of the four regular season meetings (as well as a knockout round victory at the MLS is Back Tournament).
Both teams have changed.
Philadelphia transferred two MLS Best XI honorees in January, with Brenden Aaronson heading to RB Salzburg and Mark McKenzie to KRC Genk. The Revs were without Carles Gil for much of the time the two faced in 2020, someone Curtin called among the very most under-appreciated players in the league. New England are a different team with their talisman on the pitch, as he is expected to be on Wednesday (7:30 pm ET | MLS live on ESPN+).
“The Revs are the most dangerous and best team we’ve scouted this year," Curtin said. "All of their performances, even in their recent losses. They’re one of the strongest teams in the conference, if not the league, so we’ll have our hands full. We can make the joke about how many times we’ve played them, obviously last year was six. Every game was high intensity, two really good teams competing. The margins were very tight in all, I expect this game to be no different.”
When might Daniel Gazdag debut?
The Union officially announced the signing of Hungary international Daniel Gazdag on Tuesday. With uncertainty around the visa process and travel during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the expectation that the midfielder is called up to Hungary's squad at the European Championships in June, that fans would have to wait months to see their new star.
Philly are hopeful, though, that he may debut before departing for national team duty following MLS's break in play in June.
“Our goal is to get him in as quickly as possible, to squeeze in and try to get him to play," Curtin said. "Hope and wish for D.C. (on May 23), maybe even Red Bulls (May 15), possibly Portland (May 30). In all likelihood he’ll be called into the Euros and he’ll miss time with us. … We have to be smart about not giving him too much, too soon. We’ll find time for him to recover. I do know we’ll be a better team with him on the field, we have to find that balance.”
The game against Portland's is Philly's last until June 20.
“That’s the hope, yeah," Curtin said. "I hope he gets here tomorrow. But I know how difficult the visa process is this year. Hopefully he can help us before this June break.”
If he's called up to Hungary's squad for the Euros as expected, the earliest his team could be eliminated is after their final group stage game on June 23.