Scouting report: A breakdown of what to expect from New England this Sunday (7:30 p.m.)
This game might be one of the more important ones on the remaining Union calendar.
Five points separate New England and Philadelphia in the Eastern Conference. It's the slightest of gaps, especially considering the fact that the Revs are currently in sixth place and the Union in second. A Sunday win would increase the gap to eight points, but a loss would allow the Revs to pull to within two points and insert themselves into the conference's already jumbled playoff picture.
New England has been hovering right around sixth and seventh place for most of the year. They began the season with a 1-3-2 mark, which included a 1-0 loss to the Union at PPL Park on March 16th. Since then, they've gone 9-6-4, a respectable streak that began with a 2-0 win against Philadelphia at Gillette Stadium in April.
This will be the rubber match in 2013, but the Union have a large historic advantage against New England. Philadelphia is 5-1-3 all-time against the Revs with a 2-1-1 record in Foxboro.
Improved offense is the main reason for the Revs' turnaround this season.
Flashback to April 27, when the Union traveled to Gillette Stadium for the first time this season. The Revolution had scored just two goals in six games coming into that match. One was a poached Jerry Bengtson goal and the other was a Brandon Barklage own-goal.
In the 19 games since, New England has bagged 27 goals. It's a drastic turnaround for a team that simply could not score in March and April.
So what changed?
The emergence of Diego Fagundez and signing of Juan Agudelo are the main reasons for the turnaround. Still just 18 years old, Fagundez is enjoying a breakout season with seven goals, four assists, 20 shots on goal, and 1,538 minutes played. Agudelo has four goals in six appearances and recovered from a recent knee injury to score this audacious goal last week.
Up top, you've also got a healthy Saer Sene contributing to the attack. He's got three goals and two assists but will miss this weekend's game due to red card suspension. Dimitry Imbongo, similar in stature and hairstyle, will be available and has three goals to his name as well.
The club also went out and signed former American international Charlie Davies, who made his Revs' debut as a substitute last week. Chad Barrett has seen decent minutes this year while Bengtson and Juan Toja have been relegated to bench roles.
As far as the midfield, Kelyn Rowe and Lee Nguyen have been playing exceptionally well throughout the Summer. Rowe, just a second year player, leads the team with six assists and has three goals of his own. Nguyen has five assists and two goals and isn't afraid to shoot. He's tops on the team with 43 shots this season.
Rock solid in every sense, New England's top-ranked defense has allowed just 23 goals in 24 games this season.
Only Houston and RSL have similar defensive numbers.
It really begins with linchpin center back and all-star snub Jose Goncalves, who's been the key to turning things around in Foxboro. Whether paired with A.J. Soares or Stephen McCarthy, he's been incredibly composed and steady, bringing a good blend of physicality and control to the Revs' backline. He looks comfortable in possession and will begin play out of the back, similar in style to former Union captain Carlos Valdes.
At the fullback spots, Chris Tierney is healthy and delivering his typically solid service from the left side. Rookie Andrew Farrell is growing into the right back role and veteran Kevin Alston is once again back on the playing field after getting the upper hand in his battle with leukemia.
Goalkeeper is probably the only unsettled position in the Revolution defense. Bobby Shuttleworth has started most of the games this season and is tied for the league lead with nine shutouts. Veteran Matt Reis, however, started last week in the team's 2-0 win against Chicago. Reis hasn't allowed a goal in 2013 and has three shutouts in his three starts. Bottom line, there doesn't seem to be a right or wrong decision for Jay Heaps to make in this department.
Possible Starting XI: Reis/Shuttleworth (GK), Tierney, Goncalves, Soares, Farrell, Caldwell, Nguyen, Rowe, Fagundez, Barrett, Agudelo (4-1-4-1)
Contact Union writer Kevin Kinkead at firstname.lastname@example.org