Foxborough, MA – Two Eastern Conference rivals will meet on Saturday for the first time in the 2012 season as the New England Revolution welcome D.C. United to Gillette Stadium.
The new season looked dim for the Revs and first-year head coach Jay Heaps as they lost their first two matches in uninspiring fashion. But a turnaround saw the club take six points in two games from Western Conference opponents, claiming a home win over the Portland Timbers before taking an improbable victory at The Home Depot Center against the reigning champion Los Angeles Galaxy. New England looked destined for a another positive result in its last outing, but a goal from Zach Loyd in the dying minutes saw FC Dallas deny the Revs a point in Frisco, Texas.
"We definitely did not play our best game," said goalkeeper Matt Reis. "We were a little bit off and we were not as cohesive as we needed to be. That being said, it was 0-0 at halftime. We came out in the second half and really turned it up a notch. We had them on their back foot for most of the second half. Unfortunately, we didn't do the right things at the end of the game."
It was a disappointing end to the two-game road trip, but now the Revs will return home to the comfort of their own stadium.
If that isn't enough, New England can also take solace from the statistic that it has not lost to D.C. United since October of 2008. The club's last home loss to United came one year prior in August of 2007.
The Revs, however, will be without midfield stalwart Shalrie Joseph who will be serving a one-game suspension after a reckless challenge in the 62nd minute of New England's loss to FC Dallas.
That loss certainly bodes well for a D.C. United side that has struggled to get goals this season - four of the team's five goals on the year came in one match, a 4-1 defeat of FC Dallas at RFK Stadium. With the Revs lacking Joseph's leadership in the center of the park, D.C. may be able to impose a more fluent style of play to create scoring opportunities.
D.C. had the chance to record back-to-back wins for the first time since 2009, but it instead played to a scoreless draw with Seattle Sounders FC in the nation's capital.
"I thought we could have snuck the win," said United head coach Ben Olsen. "It was one of those games where if we're a little sharper in the final third, I think we come out of here with three [points]."
One bright spot from the match was Dejan Jakovic, who replaced the suspended Brandon McDonald in the center of United's defense.
"He stepped in and did well to be vocal," Robbie Russell said of Jakovic. "What we wanted from him was a big, physical presence and he showed that. He did a great job."
A strong, physical presence will certainly be needed to shut down Saer Sene. The French striker leads New England in scoring with two goals on the season, both of which were headers.