Sunday's trip to Foxboro will show a much different Union side than one in April meeting
A lot can change in four months, which is how long it's been since the Union squared off with the New England Revolution.
Sunday's rubber match in Foxboro has post-season implications for each side, especially for a Revolution team that's hovered around playoff position all season long without "getting over the hump", so to speak.
With 16 weeks of results between matches, those earlier games between the Union and Revs might not provide a true idea of what you'll see on Sunday (7:30 p.m., Comcast SportsNet).
"I think we can take some things, for sure, but at the same time I think both teams have changed a lot," manager John Hackworth told reporters at his midweek press conference. "Maybe not in personnel, but I think both teams have improved as the season's gone on. I think the game sets up being difficult for both of us."
New England is 8-6-4 (28 points) since the April match against Philadelphia.
That includes a 3-0-1 stretch in which Jay Heaps' team earned four straight shutouts and outscored their opponents, 9-0.
Statistically, the Revs have had one of the best defenses in the league for this entire season. Goalkeepers Bobby Shuttleworth and Matt Reis have combined for 12 shutouts, which is tops in MLS. Center back Jose Goncalves is a bona-fide candidate for MLS Newcomer of the Year and leads a backline that has conceded just 23 goals this entire campaign.
Offensively, Jerry Bentgston and Juan Toja have been relegated to bench roles. Saer Sene is healthy and American strikers Juan Agudelo and Charlie Davies have both joined the fold.
"You have to look into it more recently," goalkeeper Zac MacMath said. "I think we're both two completely different teams. Both times we played it was very early in the year. They've got a good streak going on right now, as do we, and they've got a lot of new players as well. We've got to look at their most recent games and take things away from that."
Philadelphia scrapped to a 1-0 shutout win on March 16. It was a cold, wet, and choppy affair in Chester, highlighted by Jack McInerney's 76th minute game-winner.
The second match of the season series was played just five weeks later in New England. The Union struggled for much of the game and lost 2-0 on goals from Lee Nguyen and Diego Fagundez.
"I think we didn't play well the last time we were up there," Hackworth added. "This is just an opinion, but I think that might have been one of our poorer performances on the year. We certainly want to change that. We've been trying to emphasize our preparation, our process, and our performance. We feel like if we get those three things right, we put ourselves in a good position to be successful in the game. I think having known that we didn't play well up there gives our guys a little bit of an incentive to rectify that situation."
Contact Union writer Kevin Kinkead at firstname.lastname@example.org