After two straight losses, the New England Revolution enter the U.S. Open Cup Semifinal on Tuesday night at Gillette Stadium with some added motivation. Right now, there is a great deal of doubt surrounding the team and their playoff chances going forward. After trading local star and strong locker room presence Charlie Davies, the direction of the franchise seems very clouded.
A few weeks ago, it would be easy to think that Heaps and his staff would approach this contest conservatively and save players more for MLS competition. However, given the poor performances during the last few weeks, the Revolution are reeling and looking like the odd man out in the Eastern Conference playoff picture. The Open Cup could be an opportunity to experiment with lineups and try to cement player roles as they move into the final push of the season. Over the last two games, the Blue and Red have been outscored 7-2 and currently hold the worst goal differential in the entire league. Although the year has been filled with ups and downs, the trajectory does not look promising and the team, as a whole, lacks stability.
Last year, the Revolution only won one game in their final five before falling to D.C. United in the first round of the MLS Cup Playoffs. A lot is riding on the end of this season, particularly for Jay Heaps, who is now in his fifth season with the club and is responsible for the development of many players on the roster.
From a personnel standpoint, the Revolution are almost fully recovered from injuries. Juan Agudelo and Donnie Smith are listed as questionable for tonight’s game while Femi Hollinger-Janzen and Xavier Kouassi are the only ones downgraded to out.
On the flip side, Fire head coach Veljko Paunovic most likely will put in his best lineup as Chicago continues to rebuild and have little chance to surge down the stretch of the MLS season. The importance of the Open Cup differs from team to team, but is usually predicated on a team’s standing in the MLS season. For a team like Chicago, the Open Cup is an opportunity to save face with the fan base and market the team to the general public.