A pair of Eastern Conference clubs making moves up the table get set to do battle Saturday as Toronto FC heads to Gillette Stadium to face the New England Revolution.
The two clubs met earlier this season, playing to a 2-2 draw at BMO Field on June 23. Toronto held a two-goal lead with 19 minutes remaining, but New England battled back to claim a valuable road point thanks to goals from Blake Brettscneider and Diego Fagundez.
Toronto has found points hard to come by this term, bottoming the Eastern Conference on 13 points for the season.
But after an abysmal start to the campaign, the Reds have inched slowly toward a place out of the cellar. Toronto has lost just once in its last seven league contests, producing a 2-1-4 record over that stretch.
Most recently, TFC claimed a dramatic 3-2 win over Canadian rivals Vancouver Whitecaps FC. The Reds fell behind early in the second half but stormed back to take the lead. Darren Mattocks equalized on the stroke of stoppage time, but Terry Dunfield played the role of the hero by notching a late winner against his former club to rescue three points.
"I didn't think we played that well, I think we had a bit of rust in us from our travels but the crowd were fantastic and got behind us amazing," said TFC head coach Paul Mariner. "I thought we played our best football in the last 10 minutes and you can see what a response I got from these lads; I asked them for a big effort and they gave it to me."
New England is on the up-and-up as well, riding a five-game unbeaten streak, the longest such streak still running in the league.
The Revs are coming off a 2-0 home victory over Red Bull New York, extending their unbeaten run at home to seven games.
"I love that our team works hard at home, plays well at home and makes it hard for teams to play against us here," head coach Jay Heaps said. "But in the end, we still have room for improvement, aren't satisfied at all and don't want to use last year as any type of measuring stick."
New England's newest signing, Designated Player Jerry Bengston, enjoyed a dream debut against New York, scoring a goal to put the result beyond reach for the visitors.
"It's not an easy transition," Heaps said. "He literally signed his contract and joined our team in less than 12 hours. I think we have to manage expectations and make sure he acclimates well. He's done that -- he's come in and he's getting to know the team. To throw him out there for more than that would have been unfair to him."