The New England Revolution have credited an improved defensive mindset for pushing them to the verge of their longest win streak of the season and powering an unbeaten run.
The Revolution will pursue a fourth consecutive victory Saturday night against an Orlando City club that won’t have its top two goal scorers.
New England, largely inconsistent for much of this season, is on the upswing again because it’s outscored its opponents 9-3 on a 4-0-1 run. The Revolution (10-9-7) have also won a season-high three straight at home by a combined 6-1 margin.
A 1-0 win in Philadelphia last Saturday was their third shutout in the past five contests and put them nine points up on an Eastern Conference playoff spot. New England’s 37 points are tied with fourth-place Toronto but TFC has one more victory.
"(Coach Jay Heaps) and the staff have really focused on our shaping these last five weeks," defender Chris Tierney said. "It’s not about just the back four defending, or the goalkeeper having a good game or anything like that. It’s about team mentality of defending and playing on both sides of the ball. I think we’re starting to do that much better now and it’s showing in our defensive effort."
The Revolution will get to face their next opponent at an advantageous time and place. Orlando City (7-12-8) is without Cyle Larin (11 goals) and Kaka (nine) because of international duty.
They’ve combined for nearly two-thirds of the team’s 33 goals this season.
Larin scored the first of two goals in the final 15 minutes of regulation in a 2-all draw May 8 against New England, the first matchup between the teams. Aurelien Collin had the tying score in the 90th.
Midfielder Darwin Ceren is also away while New England is playing only without Jermaine Jones, who has no goals or assists in 12 games. Orlando midfielder Carlos Rivas is suspended after receiving his fifth yellow card in a 1-all tie with Chicago last Saturday.
That result gave the expansion club its first five-game winless streak (0-3-2). Orlando City is 0-5-1 in its last six road contests and has been outscored 18-4 while losing four in a row.
That has the team clinging to a one-point lead on a playoff spot in the East over Montreal and New York City FC.
"We’re at that stage of the season now where every game is that much more important," coach Adrian Heath told the team’s official website. "We’re going to have to come up with a big win on the road."
Orlando is playing three of its four games this month on the road.