After snapping a four-game losing streak with a 2-0 win on Wednesday night against Toronto FC, the Portland Timbers are readying for their sixth game in the last 22 days: a matchup in Massachusetts with the struggling New England Revolution (4:30 p.m., TV on KPDX).
It's been a tale of two seasons in New England, where former U.S. international goalkeeper Brad Friedel took over as manager in the winter.
The Revs started hot, winning half of their first ten games, and were comfortably above the red line through the end of June. Since then, however, the wheels have fallen off. Starting with a 0-0 home draw against Seattle, New England has gone straight games without a win — losing six times.
The problems have been myriad. The Revs had the benefit of a slew of home games to open the season, and have been terrible on the road. More than that, though, the team's lack of talent — which it covered for by running and beating the hell out of everyone it saw in the first half — has been exposed.
The current slide has taken New England out of the playoff places. They're currently in seventh, trailing Montreal by four points for sixth, with D.C. and Toronto both chasing from behind. They do have two games in hand on the Impact, but likely have to win all four of their remaining home games to have a chance.
Friedel has, to put it lightly, put his stamp on this team. Lee Nguyen was traded, Kelyn Rowe doesn't play, and new contributors have stepped in to replace them.
The Revs don't play great soccer — they don't have very many players who can pass, relatedly — but they're an athletic group that likes to press and play physically. They can be a buzzsaw going forward when they're on, but they haven't nearly been as good defensively in what recently has been a 4-2-3-1.
The Timbers stuck with the 4-3-2-1 against Toronto, pouring a ton of numbers into the center of the field, much as they did against Seattle, and looking to combine forward. That plan of attack eventually broke TFC down, but this game should have a different tenor.
With the onus on New England to win, the Timbers should be able to sit further back and look to play more on the counter. It won't matter, though, if they don't come with the requisite energy. In their last two road games, they were pretty well overrun. Despite the short turnaround, that can't happen here.
Lastly, this will be a homecoming of sorts for Giovani Savarese — who controversially spent a single season with the Revolution during his player career, scoring 10 goals in 1999.
1 - Attinella
32 - Farfan
18 - Cascante
33 - Mabiala
2 - Powell
13 - Olum
21 - Chara
11 - Polo
10 - Blanco
8 - Valeri (C)
99 - Armenteros
— The regulars who were rested on Wednesday night include Powell, Olum, Cascante, and Dairon Asprilla. All four players will likely be involved on Saturday.
— Jorge Villafaña was only supposed to go 60 minutes against TFC. He ended up going 80, and isn't likely to play in this one.
— Might it be a good day to rest Valeri or Armenteros? Valeri has started every game this year, while Armenteros has missed just one start since June 9.
— Farfan had a very difficult time against Kansas City in his last outing, but he remained on the bench for the last two games and this would be a natural spot to get him more minutes. If he doesn't have Savarese's confidence, Zarek Valentin will start.
Portland has gotten 1-1 draws on both of their last two visits to Foxborough. The first of those draws, in 2014, was secured thanks to Liam Ridgewell's memorable first goal for the club.
This is absolutely a do-or-die game for the Revs, who got a boost on Wednesday night with Toronto and D.C. both losing. The Timbers, meanwhile, will be running on fumes. New England wins 2-1.