New England Revolution

Revolution face important Eastern Conference test against Union amid difficult stretch

"I would not recommend us falling behind."

Dylan Borrero Revolution
Dylan Borrero playing for the Revolution against Vancouver in June. Jordan Jones/Getty Images

While the Revolution (6-7-6) sit a disappointing ninth in the Eastern Conference standings, it’s worth noting that a margin of just four points is all that separates New England from fourth place.

In a pattern that has become highly recognizable to MLS fans, a plethora of teams have collected in the middle of the standings. Each lives the up-and-down existence of perpetually being one or two wins away from fourth place while simultaneously being one bad run away from ninth place.

Fortunately for New England, this MLS version of musical chairs will continue for a few more months. But when the music finally does stop in October (the end of the regular season), where will Bruce Arena’s team be?


Given the myriad of factors involved — including the upcoming introduction of newly signed striker Giacomo Vrioni on Tuesday — it’s obviously difficult to predict.

But as the Revolution navigate the July stretch of the schedule, the current run of games offers a measuring stick for New England.

The first two games in July (a 2-2 draw against Cincinnati, and a 4-2 defeat to New York City FC) showcased the best and worst of the team’s qualities.

Orchestrated by defending MLS MVP Carles Gil, the Revolution consistently remain a threat in possession. Yet New England also looks vulnerable defensively far too often, surrendering a second half equalizer at home against Cincinnati following an ill-timed turnover. The defeat a week ago in New York — a game dominated by polarizing officiating decisions — offered more of the same.

Looking ahead, the Revolution face the Philadelphia Union on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. New England then travels to play Columbus on July 23. Both teams currently occupy would-be playoff spots if the season ended as things stand.

The Union will prove to be an especially tough test. Currently first in the Eastern Conference, Philadelphia is tied with New York City FC for having the best goal differential in the conference (+17). A large part of that is attributable to the Union’s defense, which has yielded only 14 goals in 20 games (by far the best in the league this season).


“It’s obviously going to be a low scoring game, which is very typical with the Union,” Bruce Arena told reporters during a press conference on Thursday. “It’s going to be hard fought, and it’s going to go down to the last minute. You need to be as mistake free as possible and as you can in this game, which is not easy to do. They obviously have a good defensive record, so I would not recommend us falling behind.”

Though he’s only been with the Revolution since 2019, Arena has already accrued quite a bit of experience leading New England against Philadelphia. Because travel was limited during the 2020 and 2021 seasons due to Covid-19, the two northeast teams have played each other more than usual in the past few years.

Most of the games in that time have been separated by paper-thin margins (with several ending in draws). In fact, the last Union-Revolution game that wasn’t either a draw or a game decided by a one-goal margin was New England’s incredible 2-0 upset of Philadelphia in the 2020 playoffs.

Knowing that they will have to play a composed and disciplined 90 minutes on Saturday will provide the Revolution with a chance to see where the current version of the team stands in comparison with the conference’s top challenger.


Having seen the 10-game unbeaten run end in New York, New England also has a chance to show how it responds to adversity.

Formally, Arena denied looking at the game vs. the Union as a measuring stick for his team. But while the music plays on for the array of teams jockeying for chairs at the postseason table, Arena also knows that the margin for error — never too big in MLS — is beginning to grow smaller.

“We’re getting, obviously, past the midway point of the season,” he explained, “so the results are going to be important.”


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