FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Lingering lessons from the last meeting with the Montreal Impact are sure to inform the New England Revolution's approach to a critical visit to Stade Saputo on Saturday afternoon (2:30 pm ET, TSN, MLS LIVE). A Revolution win would bring New England to within one point of Montreal in the Eastern Conference standings, although the Impact do have a game in hand.
Box to Box: Revs looking ahead to Impact
“I think we're coming in with the right mentality: If we keep all 11 guys in the field, then we'll have a chance against anybody,” Revolution midfielder Lee Nguyen told MLSsoccer.com.
Montreal claimed a 4-2 victory at Gillette Stadium last month after the Revolution played down a man for 85 minutes after the early ejection of starting goalkeeper Matt Reis. After allowing two goals from penalty kicks in the loss, the Revs were left wondering what might have unfolded if not for Reis's premature departure.
An early ejection – or, in the case of Saturday's wild 2-2 draw with New York, an early error in possession to concede the opening goal and spark a bright period for the Red Bulls – constitutes a misstep the Revolution cannot afford at this tenuous juncture. Such a misstep has also been seen all too commonly for Revolution boss Jay Heaps of late; in their last five games, the Revolution have allowed goals in the first 15 minutes on three occasions.
The need to avoid such pitfalls highlights the sort of problem coaches hate to address: a quandary without an evident solution.
Heaps said his players pride themselves on engineering the proper response in these situations (New England ranks second in the league in winning percentage when trailing at halftime), but he also noted that the slim margins at this stage of the season – New England enter the weekend three points behind fifth-place Philadelphia for the final Eastern Conference playoff spot – leave scant latitude for recovering from setbacks.
“You can't control a mistake,” Heaps said. “What I like is that we move on as quickly as we can. It's an unfortunate situation. We're playing by the skin of our teeth. Anything that gives a goal up is hurting our chances.”
It is a point the Revs acknowledge and understand as they prepare to depart for Quebec on Friday. Their continued playoff hopes hinge on keeping things tight defensively to place themselves in a position to claim all three points by the final whistle.
“It's crucial,” Revolution defender Chris Tierney said. “You can't give goals away, especially on the road. It's so hard to come from behind in this league, if you look at statistically what first goals do for teams. First thing's first, we're going to try to make sure we don't give anything away.
"If we stay in the game – if it's 0-0 at half, 0-0 in the 70th or 80th minute – we're confident that eventually, with the quality we have attacking-wise, we're going to find a goal. We'll look to limit our mistakes and take our chances when they come.”
Tierney's analysis is backed up by the numbers: New England's No. 2 rank in rallying from halftime deficits comes with only a 2-5-2 record, a testament to how difficult teams have found it to recover from the early mistakes that have plagued the Revs lately.
Kyle McCarthy covers the New England Revolution for MLSsoccer.com.