OBETZ, Ohio – In these extraordinary times, the New England Revolution sought a bit of normalcy on the training field at the Crew Training Center on Saturday afternoon.
Revolution coach Jay Heaps and his players arrived in Columbus by a pair of charter flights shortly before 1 pm and immediately proceeded to their final preparations for Sunday's season finale against the Crew (4 pm ET, Stream of the Week on MLSsoccer.com, MLS Live).
Heaps ran his players through a short session on a blustery afternoon to establish the proper tone ahead of this campaign-defining match. A victory against the Crew will send the Revolution to the postseason for the first time since 2009, while a defeat or a draw – depending on results elsewhere – could dash those dreams entirely.
Revolution forward Diego Fagundez said he and his teammates grasp the magnitude of the situation ahead, but they also know the utility of maintaining the proper deportment ahead of their second consecutive date against the Crew.
“You have to act the same way you did all season,” Fagundez told MLSsoccer.com earlier this week. “It's another game, but there's a little more pressure on you because if you win, you're automatically in the playoffs. That's the most important thing.”
It is also critical to deploy the knowledge culled from the 3-2 victory over the Crew on Saturday to bolster the efforts to fulfill that objective. Columbus coach Brian Bliss hinted at some changes to his setup from that frantic affair at Gillette Stadium, but the Crew's fundamental principles – particularly with Federico Higuain (hip) unlikely to feature – remain.
“There's an advantage and a disadvantage,” Heaps said. “It's how you prepare yourself, the attention to detail. The teams now know each other. There are subtleties that the players pick up themselves. It's using the last game and taking not just the good and the bad to try to prepare.”
Heaps will ponder those considerations and weigh potential changes to his own setup before the match. Lee Nguyen's return from a one-match ban prompts a quandary in central midfield in the wake of Andy Dorman's man-of-the-match display against the Crew last weekend. One of those two veterans will likely feature, though Heaps could make further alterations if he wants to accommodate both of them.
There are also further issues to weigh in defense after Chris Tierney (QUESTIONABLE – right ankle irritation) departed during the second half against the Crew. If Tierney isn't fit enough to feature in his usual role at left back, then Kevin Alston – his replacement against the Crew – could earn his first start since Aug. 10.