FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – The fixture list could not have worked out better for New England last weekend. Fellow Eastern Conference playoff chasers Chicago and Houston suffered defeats before the Revolution hosted Montréal on Sunday night. Philadelphia faced a difficult match at San Jose later in the evening and would eventually lose.
The scenario provided the Revs with an opportunity to create some separation from the closely packed quartet of teams chasing the final two playoff spots. But those hopes were quickly dashed. Matt Reis' fifth-minute dismissal, a pair of Patrice Bernier penalty kicks and Marco Di Vaio's influential display handed the Impact a 4-2 victory and scuppered any chance to wriggle free.
A trip to Chicago on Saturday (8:30 pm ET, MLS Live) offers another chance to create breathing room in a more direct manner against the Fire, a side just one point behind in the postseason race heading into the weekend.
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“It's a huge game for us,” Revolution goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth told MLSsoccer.com. “There are six or seven teams pushing for five spots. Every point is going to matter. Every result is going to matter. Every goal might matter. It's definitely a big one for us.”
The stakes increase because of the correlation between the outcomes. A victory moves the Revs four points clear of the Fire with six games to play. A draw maintains the current one-point advantage and presents an opportunity for Houston to move into the playoff places with a victory at Philadelphia. A defeat could leave the Revs in seventh place by Sunday.
Every match from now until the end of the season will carry some sort of playoff permutation for the Revolution. The focus, however, remains firmly fixed on the outcome of the matches, not the potential fallout, according to Revolution forward Diego Fagundez.
“We need points,” Fagundez said. “That's the thing we need right now. Whoever wins this gets points. Whoever loses this drops points. It's hard when we're so close in the table. Games are important right now. We can't lose more than one in a row.”
In their quest to take advantage of this predicament, the Revs can point to their unblemished record against the Fire this season (two wins from two matches, including a season-opening 1-0 triumph at Toyota Park back in March) for inspiration. At this stage of the season, the past matters little, though. It is all about taking advantage of the opportunities at hand.
“They've been on a good run, but I think we'll be ready for them,” Shuttleworth said.
Kyle McCarthy covers the New England Revolution for MLSsoccer.com