With the New England Revolution assured second place in the Eastern Conference, Saturday’s game against Toronto FC was all about maintaining momentum ahead of the playoffs. Lee Nguyen helped assure that his team would end the regular season on a high note as his 35th minute goal turned out to be the game-winner.
The Revs have only suffered one loss in their last 12 games, posting an impressive record of 9-1-2. The sole defeat came on September 20th when a Federico Higuain free kick captured full points for the Columbus Crew. Beyond this small blip, the Revolution have been one of the hottest teams in MLS during the final months of the season. The team will hope to continue this good run of form when the playoffs begin next week.
“I think you want to go into the playoffs with a rhythm,” head coach Jay Heaps explained. “You want to go in confident.”
With this in mind, Heaps chose to start the majority of his regulars, including Nguyen, Jermaine Jones and AJ Soares. The decision proved to be a success as the Revs got the win and all players exited the field without injury or disciplinary action.
Perhaps the most important aspect of Saturday’s game was the fact that the Revs collected a shutout for the first time since August 30th. With playoff games often being decided by a single goal, it’s important to have a staunch and focused defensive core.
“It’s been a while since we’d gotten [a shutout],” Bobby Shuttleworth noted. “And it’s kind of perfect to get one going into the playoffs and that’s what we need to do at home.”
Although the Revs are happy to end the season in such a positive fashion, the players know that there is still work to be done. With the team now making its second consecutive appearance in the postseason, expectations are high.
“I think as soon as the whistle ends everybody knows next week is a playoff game and how important that’s going to be,” Shuttleworth said. “Last year, we’re going to take what we can from last year. But obviously, we want to advance past that round so going forward it’s all about focusing on us and getting our stuff right.”
(image courtesy of Kari Heistad)