Still unbeaten since Bruce Arena’s arrival but lamenting two points thrown away, the New England Revolution look to gain ground in the Eastern Conference standings Wednesday night when they host the struggling Vancouver Whitecaps.
The Revolution (6-6-8) are unbeaten in their last eight league matches (4-4-0) and begin this week’s play two points behind Toronto FC for the seventh and final playoff spot in the East. They frittered away a two-goal lead Friday night at D.C. United, finishing with 10 men in a 2-2 draw after conceding an equalizer in the 86th minute.
“Obviously coming out with a point in a tough place against one of the better teams in the East is a good result, especially after what we’ve been through,” Andrew Farrell told the club’s official website, referring to the weather-related issues that led to New England not arriving in the nation’s capital until six hours before kickoff. “But obviously we wish we’d had three.”
Arena, who hindered there will be changes for this match as New England is in the middle of a three-match, nine-day stretch, will be forced into at least one switch in his first XI after midfielder Wilfried Zahibo was booked twice in a 12-minute span of the second half.
The good news is Gustavo Bou is in line for his Revolution debut after his paperwork cleared the league’s offices Monday. The Argentine striker and newly minted Designated Player was signed from Liga MX side Tijuana last week and drew raves in his first practice.
“He’s a big personality,” goalkeeper Matt Turner said. “He’s really fit in well with the guys already, and you see his quality on the pitch. He’s a guy that wants to be in front of goal, wants to score, and is just bringing an intensity to the game that’s going to help us.”
Vancouver (4-8-9) is at the foot of the Western Conference table on 20 points, nine back of seventh-place FC Dallas for the final playoff spot but also looking to avoid a fourth consecutive defeat. The Whitecaps had their winless spell in league play stretched to six matches (0-3-3) following a 3-0 home defeat to Sporting Kansas City on Saturday.
“(At) this stage right now, we’re a little bit fragile. We’re in a position now where every time an opponent scores, it looks ‘heavy.’ And we need to grow at that. We need to have a different type of mental toughness and react in a better way,” coach Marc Dos Santos told the Vancouver Sun after watching his team get blanked for the third time in four matches in all competitions.
“I told the players what I’m going to say now. I have to apologize to the fans for the first half. I think that’s where the game happened. It was very sloppy, lack of intensity, lack of willingness, mentally not in the game for a game that had so much importance for us.”
The road has not been kind to the Whitecaps, who have totaled seven points from 10 matches (1-4-5), yet to record a clean sheet and have been outscored 12-6 while going 0-2-3 in their last five outside Vancouver.
The teams played out a wild 3-all draw in the lone meeting last year, with five of the six goals scored in the second half. Vancouver gained a split of the points in the 74th minute when Cristian Techera completed his brace. The Revolution have gone 3-1-1 at home in the all-time series.
(Gustavo Bou photo courtesy New England Revolution official Twitter account)