KANSAS CITY, Mo. – New England Revolution midfielder Lee Nguyen said he and his teammates will lean on the belief fostered during their recent run of good form to book a place in the Eastern Conference Championship at Sporting Kansas City tonight (9 pm ET, MLS Live).
The visitors extended their unbeaten run to seven matches (six regular season, one postseason, 5-0-2 in total) with the 2-1 victory at Gillette Stadium in the first leg of this Eastern Conference semifinal tie. Their ability to procure results over the past two months will receive a strict examination at Sporting Park, but Nguyen notes his side will offer a stern test to a home side in need of a triumph to at least send the series into extra time.
“We're confident right now,” Nguyen told MLSsoccer.com earlier this week. “We're on a good run. We know that as long as the game is close, we have players on our team that can create chances and change the game. As long as we keep it close, I think we'll have the edge.”
It is a tenuous advantage, though. This slender one-goal advantage is the sort of difference wiped away by one mistake or one moment of brilliance. And the Revs know all too well they they cannot afford to squander the hard work from the weekend given the effort exerted to reach this stage.
The toil required to reach this juncture extends several weeks. The camaraderie and the knowledge culled from those critical matches will prove particularly useful in this difficult assignment against Sporting, according to Revolution defender Andrew Farrell.
“You have to take it as another game,” Farrell said. “It's just another game, with more on the line, obviously. It's just soccer. In the locker room, we've had great energy all year. We have great chemistry going on. Now you just have to know the guy next to you, the guy behind you is going to put it on the line with you to hopefully get the result. That's how you deal with the pressure: you can't think about it too much.”
- Get more New England Revolution news at RevolutionSoccer.net
Revolution coach Jay Heaps must ponder whether he can make a change at left back with Kevin Alston (questionable, right hamstring strain) and Chris Tierney (questionable, right ankle soreness) still hobbling. Both players continued their recovery work this week, but their fitness ahead of this encounter remains uncertain.
“Hopefully, they're available,” Revolution coach Jay Heaps said on Monday. “It's tough when you're playing without a couple of guys with experience on your team. We'll see where they are. They were close on Saturday. We'll see where they are for Wednesday.”
If Alston and Tierney miss out on a place in the side, then Darrius Barnes would almost certainly retain his spot at left back after earning the nod for the first leg. Heaps will also assess the health of veteran goalkeeper Matt Reis (questionable, left ankle sprain) before he submits his starting XI.