Union at New England Revolution
7:30 p.m., CSN
CHESTER, Pa. — With the Gold Cup over, the Union (7-9-5) get some much-needed help as they face the Revolution (6-9-5) tonight at Gillette Stadium, looking to win their second straight and improve upon this season’s road struggles.
Here are five things to know:
1. Pontius returns, with a trophy
Chris Pontius didn’t get to play in the final two games for the U.S. national team during their run to the Gold Cup title, but that didn’t make it any less sweet to win a championship.
“It was pretty special,” Pontius said Friday, two days after the Americans beat Jamaica in the final. “With the national team, a lot of guys were talking, there’s not many times you get a chance to win trophies. So you enjoy it.”
For Pontius, just getting back into the national team picture was special after many years away. But he knows to stick around, he has to perform for the Union.
“I’m ready to get back,” said Pontius, who has missed the last three Philly games while on international duty. “It was my first time sleeping in my bed in a long time. … I gotta put up a lot of numbers here and hopefully we get wins on the road and get into the playoffs. That’s what I can control and that’s what I’m gonna do.”
In addition to Pontius’ return, head coach Jim Curtin said Fafa Picault is set to come back from a hamstring strain, giving the team a lot more depth than it had on the wing over the past week.
2. No Blake, for now
The other player to return from Gold Cup duty this week is Andre Blake. But the Jamaican goalkeeper had to come out of the final because of a nasty cut to his hand — and the injury will likely keep him out of at least one more Union game.
“It’s good to know it’s not too big of an injury but I feel for him,” Pontius said. “For me, he was the best player in the tournament, hands down. He’s a big part of our team as well.”
The good news for the Union is that backup John McCarthy has been sharp in Blake’s absence, picking up the shutout in Wednesday’s 3-0 win over Columbus Crew SC after making a couple of big-time saves vs. Columbus four days earlier.
But McCarthy’s start this weekend vs. the Revs may be his last, depending on how quickly Blake’s hand heals.
“We hope to get him back as quick as possible, hopefully for Dallas [next weekend],” Curtin said. “If he’s a quick healer, it could be a possibility.”
3. Dominating the Revs
The Union have beaten New England three straight times, outscoring the Revs by a whopping 11-0 margin in those games.
Does that give Curtin confidence they can win just their second game on the road in 11 games this season?
“You can throw that stuff out the window,” he said. “MLS makes no sense in terms of history or tradition, or rivalries, or whatever we want to talk about. It comes down to on the day, and on the day we know New England has five or six attacking players that can individually beat you yourself and score a goal.”
Even still, with many tougher road games looming ahead and the playoff red line probably higher than it was last last season in the East, Curtin knows they have to find a way to pick up points in games like this one.
“Even the one-pointers can come up and be so huge at the end of the year,” the Union coach said. “Not taking losses on the road is gonna be critical down the stretch.”
4. Players to watch
C.J. Sapong: The Union striker is coming off arguably his best game of the season, scoring his record 10th goal and adding a pair of pretty assists Wednesday. It also came with some drama as he argued with teammate Roland Alberg about who would take a penalty kick he drew. It will be interesting to see how Sapong responds just a few days later.
Juan Agudelo: The Union aren’t the only team getting players back from the Gold Cup as the Revs’ top striker returns, rejoining a potent attack that features Lee Nguyen, Kei Kamara, Kelyn Rowe and Teal Bunbury.
5. This and that
• The Revs are coming off a wild 4-3 win over the LA Galaxy last weekend in which Bunbury scored twice and Kamara also scored before revealing trade discussions after the game.
• The Revs bolstered their defense Friday with the signing of French defender Claude Dielna, who could be plugged into the lineup immediately vs. Philly.
• Union midfielder Derrick Jones has cleared concussion protocol after missing the last three games.
• The Union are 10-5-4 all-time vs. the Revs and 4-2-2 in New England.