At Gillette Stadium on Thursday, there was no talk of last season’s heart wrenching loss in Carson, California—an LA Galaxy triumph to bring home the 2014 MLS Cup—sending American soccer legend Landon Donovan off in style.
The New England Revolution had enjoyed arguably one of their best seasons in franchise history last year, with a player in the MVP discussion (Lee Nguyen) and a team that looked as deep and cohesive as ever.
New England’s squad has not changed a whole lot since then, and when MLS MVP Robbie Keane shattered the Revs’ hopes with his go-ahead goal in stoppage time, the focus immediately switched to 2015.
Jay Heaps and Co. now have another crack at the Galaxy in a regular season bout on Sunday, to be televised on FOX Sports 1, and the Revs’ head coach is far from hyping up this Cup rematch.
“We’re focused on this year and this game. We look at what they’ve done the last games….We’re on to this game,” Heaps said prior to training, mirroring the resolute sentiment of his Gillette Stadium-based colleague Bill Belichick.
The Revs have either drawn or lost in their past four competitions, their latest victory being in early May against the New York Red Bulls. Two red cards–given to Nguyen and defender Chris Tierney–marred what resulted in a 1-1 draw vs. D.C. United a week ago, and hectic sequences at Sporting Park three days earlier had the Revolution at their most vulnerable all season.
Sporting KC dominated the Revs on the quick strike and exposed Jermaine Jones playing as center back in the wake of injuries, the final score 4-2 in favor of the Wizards, but it didn’t look like a game that warranted such defeat.
Nguyen’s presence has been quiet, while forwards Juan Agudelo and Charlie Davies, as well as midfielder Kelyn Rowe, have piloted NE’s attack.
Meanwhile, the LA Galaxy were expected by some to number in the top-three of the Western Conference at this point, but Robbie Keane’s seven-game absence with a groin strain had the Galaxy staring into the face of adversity.
Regardless, after a 0-2-3 stretch, Keane returned and two consecutive wins ensued. Bruce Arena’s side has climbed up to fourth place, tied on points (20) with the Revolution.
“I look at what’s on film,” Heaps said of the current Galaxy. “To me the standings are—you know, look—they have the same number of points as us. I think they’re as good as team as there is in this league, always. Probably one of the the best coached teams; they have a veteran group. They’re as difficult as they are every year.”
The entrance of Steven Gerrard in mid-July could change the offensive production of the Galaxy, who haven’t produced wide-margined score lines to put their attack in conversation for the best in the league.
Individuals have stepped up to supply the victories for LA while Keane still recovers to regain form, most recently rookie Ignacio Maganto earning the PK for the lone goal in a win over Real Salt Lake on Wednesday.
Arena admitted after this contest, though, that the season hasn’t been as smooth sailing as anticipated.
“This has been a very difficult start of the season,” he said. “The injuries, the schedule, the untimely suspensions with it as well, it’s been patchwork since game one.”
New England will need to put forth a top-notch performance, no doubt, and the Galaxy will be braced to match it. Get ready for some serious MLS soccer this weekend.