On Friday night, the last-place New England Revolution will face a Portland Timbers’ side desperate for points down stretch at JELD-Wen Field at 11pm ET/8pm PT.
The match will mark the first time that the Revolution will play in front of Portland’s notoriously-raucous home crowd, where many a team – including the top-seeded L.A. Galaxy – have watched their fortunes flounder before the vocal Timber faithful.
But one Revolution player who won’t be worried about the expected decibel level is veteran midfielder Chris Tierney, who doesn’t expect anything out of the ordinary once the team steps onto the pitch in Portland.
“We’ve been in atmospheres like that one before, like in Seattle and Toronto and other places around the league,” Tierney said. “I think that’s something that as pros, we look forward to playing in games like this where you know the home crowd’s going to be against you.”
Regardless of what the crowd’s allegiances are, the Revolution will have to play intelligent soccer if they hope to extend their four-game unbeaten streak (1-0-3). And although the Revs may have kissed their playoff hopes goodbye weeks ago, the Timbers are only one point away from the final playoff spot and with their ardent supporters behind them, will be certainly be smelling blood against the last-place Revs.
So, if the Revolution are to take any kind of positive result out of this game, they will have to control the midfield and make better decisions on the ball. Throughout the season, Revolution players and coaching staff have often alluded to the idea that better decisions while in possession could have changed the outcome of games and, by extension, the team’s current place at the bottom of the table.
Yet, the Revs want to prove that pride remains on the line, they’ll have to execute positive, intelligent play to prevent Portland’s crafty players from taking control of the game. The Revolution will have to keep an eye on Jorge Perlaza, one of Portland’s most versatile players who combines well with All-Star midfielder Jack Jewsbury, who leads the Timbers in both goals (7) and assists (8). Jewsbury has been a Revolution killer throughout his nine-year career, scoring six goalsof his 21 career goals against New England.
The Revolution will have to continue the attacking form that has seen them score nine goals in their past four matches. But, offensive-minded play will have to go hand in hand with smart defending, meaning that the Revolution will have to try to build on any leads they get and close down the Timbers when they come forward.
The key to scoring goals will be in controlling the pace of the game and making smart passes. The Revolution’s hopes lie square in the central midfield, where Benny Feilhaber and Shalrie Joseph have revived the attack in recent weeks. And if they can get the ball wide to Tierney and Monsef Zerka, or serve the ball to forwards Rajko Lekic and Milton Caraglio, the Revs will, at very least, test the Timbers’ paper-thin defense.
And while showing good form is obviously important, the Revs will also have to approach Friday night’s match with the right mindset.
“We just have to go out there with the attitude that we have nothing to lose and if we don’t start picking up points, the season’s going to be over come late October,” said Tierney. “We just have to go out there with the desperation I think we’ve been playing with lately. Hopefully we’ll get a slice of luck here and there, keep them out and get three points.”