Confidence is high right now.
An improbable win tends to do that.
Jack McInerney attested as much Wednesday following the Union’s first day back to training since a 2-1 victory over Colorado over the weekend.
“It’s the best feeling you can have,” said McInerney on the win. “It raises the confidence of the team and helps us put that first loss behind us.”
This weekend, the New England Revolution come calling and it’s a club also riding the high of a road win over Chicago last week. This week is being billed as MLS’ Rivalry Week, but Union manager John Hackworth isn’t reading anything into it, telling one reporter: “I didn’t even know this was Rivalry Week until you just told me.”
The Union have a great deal to look forward to in this matchup starting with the forward Conor Casey is slated to return to full health after a hamstring strain suffered just before the team’s flight to Colorado, thwarted the forward’s homecoming. Additionally, Hackworth revealed that fellow forward Sebastien Le Toux is hampering from an ankle injury and midfielder Danny Cruz sustained a broken nose, but that neither injury should keep them out of whatever mix the Union technical staff is brewing.
Knicks and bruises aside, this is a Union club that is confident heading into a match against a team it has had sizable success against. The last meeting came down to the wire before a McInerney gamewinner in the 73rd minute.
Expect another fierce battle come Saturday.
“New England came off a big win and they always play us tough, especially at PPL [Park],” said Okugo. “We are going to be confident and try to play our style of play and try to get the win…our demeanor right now is good we are just trying to carry it forward.”
As for New England, it also boasts an equally confident bunch. Perhaps no one more confident than longtime goalkeeper Matt Reis, who recaptured his starting role this season and notably, played some of his best soccer against the Fire.
“Matt has shown he’s kept that [same consistent] level since the end of last year to the beginning of the season,” said Heaps. “For me, that save on [Chicago’s Dilly Duka] is exactly what we need from a goalkeeper. [Chicago] really didn’t have much…[but] Duka unleashes one and Matt stays with it and makes a great save.”
Also keep an eye on forward Jerry Bengtson, the 25-year-old who helped bring an immense amount of relevance back to the Honduran national team and to CONCACAF with his play in both MLS and last year’s Olympic Summer Games in London. Unveiled as the Revs’ designated player, signing with the club last July, Bengtson scored three goals during Olympic play and added three more in just 14 appearances with New England last season.
“I feel like [New England] has changed their culture a little bit,” said Okugo. “They’ve brought in some technical guys, like Lee Nguyen and especially Jerry Bengtson; [the latter] who is there to pounce on your mistakes. So it’s going to be a tough matchup, we have to stay focused for 90 minutes and get the win.”
Earning three points is the macro for this weekend, but almost equally as important is returning PPL Park into “the fortress” it became in a relatively short amount of time. Of course, that comes one game at a time, beginning Saturday against New England.
“We talked about it and one of our goals [as a team] is to make this a very difficult place for opponents to come and play,” said Hackworth, who paused, reflected and then added:
“We certainly need to establish that.”
Contact Union writer Kerith Gabriel at firstname.lastname@example.org