FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Two blown leads in four days and a nine-match winless streak in league play will prompt any coach to make serious changes. New England boss Jay Heaps plans to do just that ahead of Saturday's match with Philadelphia (7:30 pm ET, MLS Live).
Heaps will see his hand forced by injury concerns to Saër Sène (out – left knee sprain) and A.J. Soares (probable – whiplash), but said on Friday that he had planned to make alterations to the defensive unit anyway given the fixture congestion facing his side and the recent struggles to keep the ball out of the net.
“Any time you give up seven goals in two games, you have to look [at it],” Heaps told MLSsoccer.com. “We never put blame on one area. It's not the backline, always. There are times with individual goals – of the seven goals in the two games, we could pinpoint a few people who aren't on the backline for contributing to a goal against.
"However, when you do give up goals like that, maybe it's a chemistry issue, maybe we have to put players [in] to defend. At the same time, it's about tired legs, too. There are a combination of reasons to change the lineup.”
Those factors suggest Darrius Barnes could earn a recall into the revamped back four. Barnes would likely slot into central defense in a straight swap for Soares if he claims a place in the starting lineup, but it remains to be seen whether Flo Lechner will also earn one of the two available fullback berths with either Kevin Alston or Chris Tierney (an interested observer, rather than a participant, during Friday morning's training session) making way.
Sène definitely will miss the match against the Union, but his medium-term status remains uncertain. The 11-goal striker underwent medical tests on Thursday after injuring his left knee in Wednesday's 3-3 draw with Chivas USA. Heaps said he did not have further news on the extent of Sène's ailment on Friday morning.
Although Sène's presence in the starting lineup would help matters, the focus will once again fall upon cutting out the persistent and the problematic lapses inside the defensive half. Philadelphia haven't won or scored two goals in a game since defeating the Revs 2-1 at PPL Park on July 29, but the Union will still pose a significant test in John Hackworth's first match in permanent charge due to the number of players thrown into attack and the incessant movement employed in the middle and final thirds.
The burden rests with the Revolution to cope with those threats and sidestep those crippling letdowns in order to secure a first victory since July 8, according to Revolution goalkeeper Matt Reis (above, right).
“It's been the same old story,” Reis said. “We've had mental lapses and bad decisions and those have come back to haunt us. Any time we make a mistake, it's costing us. We've done well in scoring three goals [in the two previous games]. As a team, we just have to be better at managing the game. It's about game management and taking care of what we need to take care of.”