FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — The New England Revolution recently slogged through a cross-country odyssey — the same scenario facing opponents Vancouver on Saturday night (7:30 pm ET, Direct Kick, MatchDay Live).
After the two teams played to a 1-1 draw at Empire Field on April 6, the Revs trekked all the way across North America in time to face Real Salt Lake at Gillette Stadium three days later. RSL fielded a reserve-laden team in that match and still plundered a 2-0 victory without too much trouble.
The entire episode — plus the supporting evidence provided by the struggles other teams have had while making similar trips between coasts this season — shows that Vancouver face a tough task as the ‘Caps prepare for the Revs after securing a 1-1 draw against San Jose on Wednesday night.
“Any time you go across the country, it's a real pain in the ass,” Revolution defender Ryan Cochrane told MLSsoccer.com. “If you look at the record by teams who are going cross-country, it isn't great. We have the advantage that way.”
The edge only matters if the Revs can find a way to exploit the Whitecaps' inevitable fatigue. New England must press the initiative and control the play in order to extract the most benefit from Vancouver's plight.
“Hopefully we can take advantage and high pressure a little bit,” Cochrane said. “Hopefully we can get them running around and chasing us instead of the other way around.”
It will take more than tiring out the opposition to secure the desired result. In order to procure the necessary three points, the Revs need to allay their recent improvement in possession with an increased amount of supply into the penalty area.
If the Revs cannot improve the quality of their work inside the final third, they could once again fall prey to the stalemates that have plagued their season to date.
“We want to try and win the game,” Revolution coach Steve Nicol said. “There's a reason why we've got four draws: It's because the ball in the final third hasn't been good enough to get the goals to win the games. We need to continue to work on that. Hopefully, starting Saturday, we'll be a lot better than we've been.”
Any boost in production will have to come without three key figures in the starting XI. Ousmane Dabo strained his right adductor during practice on Tuesday and will miss out after his influential MLS debut in Saturday's 0-0 draw with Colorado, while Didier Domi (left quadriceps strain) and Marko Perović (left knee sprain) remain sidelined.
While those three players would certainly help the cause, their absences do not provide an excuse for dropping points against a tired Whitecaps side given the Revs' desperate need to collect a victory.
“It's really important [to win],” Cochrane said. “Coming off of Chivas, we didn't look good. I think last week, we did look good. We need to keep going forward and taking steps forward. At the end of the day, you need results and you need three points [in these games] to be there at the end of the year where you want to be. It's a very important game.”