Three months may still remain in the MLS regular season, but the Revolution are treating Saturday night's game at DC United as a must-win.
The Revolution (7-7-6, 27 points) could potentially enter playoff position with a win over DC (2-14-4, 10 points) at RFK Stadium. Given that DC have the league's worst record, the game isn't just a must-win-- it's a should win.
"For us it's one game at a time," explained Revolution Head Coach Jay Heaps at practice this week. "We're still a club that needs to grind out results. We need points and we have to find a way to get them. Each game for me is more important than the next."
Though New England is statistically better than DC, United have proved twice this season that games aren't won on paper. They kept the Revolution scoreless in a 0-0 affair at Gillette Stadium on June 8 and then knocked them out of the US Open Cup, 3-1, in a quarterfinal game two weeks later.
United enter Saturday night's game on a four-game winless run, but will be with Chris Pontius, Carlos Ruiz, and Lionard Pajoy, all of whom have hurt the Revolution before. Dwayne DeRosario and Nick DeLeon are listed as questionable on the injury list, but could feature as well.
"They're obviously a team that can get results," said goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth. "We can't think about what they've done so far. They've got some good attacking players, dangerous guys. We need to go in there ready to play, be focused, and try to get three points."
The Revolution have remained steadfast in their climb up the Eastern Conference standings for a playoff place. Last week, the Revolution showed their resolve by snapping a two-game losing streak and snatching a 2-0 victory at Columbus with most of their first-choice starters either injured or resting.
On Saturday, the Revolution will be considerably stronger than they were against Columbus. Diego Fagundez, Lee Nguyen, and Juan Toja have had a full week's rest and should feature in the starting lineup. Juan Agudelo (knee) and Saer Sene (hip) are still out which will likely force Heaps to play either Chad Barrett or Dimitry Imbongo instead.
Defensively, New England will probably rest Chris Tierney (knee) and Stephen McCarthy (head injuries), but have plenty of depth to cover both positions. AJ Soares will probably slot into central defense again, in place of McCarthy.
And either Darrius Barnes or Kevin Alston, who has yet to make an appearance since being activated following successful rehabilitation for chronic myelogenous leukemia, are potential fill-ins for Tierney at left back.
Despite the shuffling Heaps will have to do with his lineup, whatever team he puts on the field on Saturday should be more than capable of taking three points from DC. In addition to the fact that DC have allowed the league's second-most goals (33) and have scored the fewest (9), the Revolution are more than motivated by the possibility of jumping into the fifth and final playoff position in the conference.
"We're in the hunt for the playoffs and we want to move up the table so any game we can get the three points is huge for us," explained Shuttleworth. "Every game is almost like a playoff game for us at this point.
The Revolution are 8-18-4 against DC at RFK Stadium all-time...Their last win in Our Nation's Capital was a 1-0 decision on July 20, 2011...A Houston Dynamo tie or loss to Chicago on Saturday and a Revolution win over DC will be enough to push New England into fifth place.
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