First-year coach Brad Friedel of the New England Revolution often drills into his team the mantra that good ones don’t lose consecutive games.
Coming off a poor showing, New England will try to continue its dominance over defending MLS Cup champion — and injury-riddled — Toronto FC on Saturday night at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass.
The Revolution return home after a 4-2 loss to the Montreal Impact last Saturday in which New England midfielder Wilfried Zahibo registered his first MLS brace to help the team avoid being blanked. The Revs’ previous two losses this year have been followed with a win and a draw.
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“Coach harps on it,” New England forward Teal Bunbury said, “especially not losing games at home. It’s going to be a big test. Toronto is a great team, an Eastern Conference team, and these games mean a lot.”
But this year’s version of TFC (2-5-1) bears little resemblance to the team that has been to the MLS Cup each of the last two years.
En route to Toronto winning its first championship in 2017, two of its five losses came against New England (4-3-2). The Revs are 4-0-2 in the last six home meetings and 7-2-2 in the last 11 with Toronto.
“Obviously, we’re confident that we can beat any team, especially at home, so it doesn’t matter who we’re playing against,” New England defender Andrew Farrell said.
Zahibo, a native of France, is second on the club in goals (three) and assists (four) in his first season in the league.
“He’s been great all year,” Bunbury said.
For Toronto, it’s a quick turnaround after a 2-1 home loss to the Seattle Sounders on Wednesday night in a rematch of the last two MLS Cup games.
Toronto is 1-1-1 after opening the season with four losses in five matches, and 0-3-0 on the road. Playing two matches four days apart will test Greg Vanney’s club, which is dealing with a host of injuries.
“My concern is we are running the guys we have into the ground because we don’t have the depth to continue to give guys an opportunity and games are coming fast and furious,” Vanney told the Globe and Mail.
Midfielder Nicolas Hasler (quad) missed Wednesday’s loss, and fellow midfielder Victor Vazquez exited at halftime — he has been dealing with a nerve issue in his back all season. Their availability for Saturday’s match is not immediately known.
“We’re asking a lot of your guys physically right now because we’re thin. That to me is more of the current concern, it’s not the play (of the team),” Vanney told the newspaper.
Altidore, Vazquez and midfielder Jonathan Osorio are tied for the team lead with two goals each. After scoring 55 goals in his first three MLS seasons with TFC, forward Sebastian Giovinco has only one through six matches in 2018 but still commands respect.
“Their current standing in the table doesn’t tell the truth of the team that they are. They’ve got some really dangerous pieces,” New England goalkeeper Matt Turner said. “They obviously have Giovinco, who’s just a huge threat always, and we’ll have to know where he is at all times.”