With the New England Revolution in the middle of a condensed portion of their schedule and Atlanta United about to embark on a challenging slate of games, fitness could be the deciding factor when the teams meet Wednesday night.
New England (5-4-3) opened a stretch of three matches in eight days with a 3-3 road draw against the Vancouver Whitecaps on Saturday. Cristian Penilla and Teal Bunbury scored second-half goals for the Revolution, who fell to 1-2-2 on the road.
“We’ll take the point, we’ll learn from our mistakes and we’ll move on to Wednesday real quick,” New England goalkeeper Matt Turner told the team’s official website.
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After facing Atlanta (8-3-1), the Revolution remain at home to face the New York Red Bulls on Saturday. Bunbury, the club leader with six goals, recently noted that this part of the schedule is key with the club currently sixth in the Eastern Conference, one point behind Orlando City.
“You don’t really want to think about all these games you have, but it’s a part of the job. We knew these games were coming at some point, but that’s part of it. That’s why we have a tough preseason, that’s why we have tough training sessions to be fit, to have good endurance,” he said
New England and Atlanta played to a scoreless draw in Massachusetts last Sept. 30, just 17 days after the Five Stripes matched the league record for largest margin of victory with a 7-0 beating of a nine-man Revs squad in Georgia.
New England is 4-2-1 at Gillette Stadium, while Atlanta has won four of five on the road in 2018.
The Five Stripes are tied with Columbus for the top spot in the tightly packed East. Both teams are one point ahead of New York City FC and three in front of the Red Bulls.
A break for Atlanta may have come at an opportune time. Starting with this contest, coach Gerardo Martino’s squad plays four matches in 15 days, including road contests at NYCFC and Columbus.
However, Atlanta hasn’t strung together consecutive wins since beating the Montreal Impact on April 28 and the Chicago Fire on May 5. The Five Stripes have alternated wins and losses in their last four matches as they play for the first time after falling 3-1 to the Red Bulls on May 20.
“It seems like we are getting every team at an interesting point in their season,” midfielder Jeff Larentowicz told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “Sporting (KC) comes in in first place. Red Bulls have been climbing the table. Orlando won six or seven straight, Zlatan (Ibrahimovic) had just gotten to LA.
“I think mentally it’s been difficult because the games have been so big.”
Atlanta has 26 goals this year and boasts two of the top eight goal scorers in MLS. Forward Josef Martinez has eight goals to tie Bradley Wright-Phillips of the Red Bulls, David Villa of NYCFC and Columbus’ Gyasi Zardes for the Golden Boot lead. United midfielder Miguel Almiron has six goals on a league-high 61 shots.
Martinez scored three times, twice on penalty kicks, in last season’s rout of the Revolution.
Atlanta will be without suspended defenders Greg Garza and Leandro Gonzalez Pirez for this match.