FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — The World Cup break allowed the New England Revolution to pause and reflect on a disappointing start to the campaign.
The introspection revealed flaws to address during the interlude and underlined a glaring need to start accumulating points quickly when the second portion of the season kicks off against Chicago on Sunday night.
“We have the first part of the season behind us and this is a good opportunity to start off on [the right foot],” New England midfielder Pat Phelan said. “We need to catch Chicago here and we need to start picking up some points at home. We need to put all of the hard work we've been doing here into a good performance for our fans and for ourselves. We need to get some points. We need to get back into the race.”
Revolution goalkeeper Matt Reis will return to the starting XI to bolster his side's efforts to climb back into the playoff picture. Reis underwent surgery on his left shoulder and left knee in December and spent most of the past month strenuously preparing to return to his customary spot between the sticks.
“It has been a long road,” Reis said. “When all of this went down and the doctors said six-to-nine months, I wanted to make it as close to six months as I could. I think I did that. We're about 25 days into the six months. For me, I'm happy with that and happy to be back playing. Hopefully, I can help the team get some points here.”
New England coach Steve Nicol said he believes Reis can help the Revs eran results because he possesses the calming influence and the adroit positioning required to influence matches.
“It's going to be small things that win us games between now and the end of the season,” Nicol said. “One of those small things might be that extra experience he has stopping a shot or avoiding a goal. When you lose goals, it puts pressure on other parts of your game. That's why [he's] playing.”
Reis may have the opportunity to return to the lineup, but a few of his teammates will have to settle for a spot on the sidelines.
Taylor Twellman (post-concussion symptoms) joined Preston Burpo (right leg fracture) on the season-ending injury list earlier this week, while fellow striker Edgaras Jankauskas (strained left adductor) will miss out once again in his injury-marred campaign. Steve Ralston (dislocated left elbow) and Khano Smith (right ankle sprain) suffered injuries in a 3-0 friendly defeat to Cruzeiro on June 13 and will not feature against the Fire. Darrius Barnes (right foot sprain) ran sprints as his teammates trained on Saturday morning, but he won't play against Chicago either.
While the Revolution could certainly use some of those players to help combat a Fire side that can pose problems with the numbers it sends forward from midfield, Nicol said his squad will focus solely on their own performance as they aim to start the second portion of the season with a victory.
“Chicago's got some good players and they've got a good solid team,” Nicol said. “They've got some ability and they'll certainly give us some problems, but we have to sort our own stuff out. If we do that, then I think we'll win games.”