A calling out by their coach and a drastic lineup switch finally got the New England Revolution a desired result.
Maintaining that newfound momentum may be challenging, however, as they enter one of the league's most difficult venues for Saturday night's test against the Columbus Crew.
A three-game losing streak, which began with a 2-0 home defeat to Columbus on March 9, prompted Revolution coach Brad Friedel to orchestrate a much-needed shakeup. Unhappy with his team's listless performance in a 2-0 home loss to expansion FC Cincinnati on March 24, the former U.S. national team goalkeeper held a closed-door meeting with his players before inserting six different starters into last Saturday's match with Minnesota United.
Friedel also dropped his best player, Carles Gil, from the front line to central midfield and moved Brandon Bye up to the wing from right back. The moves paid off, as Gil picked up his first MLS assist by setting up Jalil Anibaba's early score and Bye knocked in the deciding goal in the 62nd minute to give New England (1-3-1) a 2-1 win and a welcome sigh of relief.
"It's a big turning point for us," forward Teal Bunbury told the Revolution's official website. 'I know it's only five games into the season, but we've got to look forward and try to build off this momentum."
That may be easier said than done considering the Crew's continued run of success at MAPFRE Stadium, where they're unbeaten in 11 straight matches (9-0-2) counting last year's playoffs. Columbus' 89 points in home games since the start of the 2017 season are the most in MLS during that period.
Bolstered by the returns of forward Gyasi Zardes and goalkeeper Zack Steffen, the Crew extended the streak and bounced back strongly from their lone loss of the season with last Saturday's 2-0 victory over struggling Atlanta United. Zardes scored his third goal in three games after coming back from U.S. national team duty, while Steffen came up with five saves after sitting out a 3-0 loss at Philadelphia on March 23 with a minor knee injury.
"You see the complete picture when you have the whole group together," Columbus coach Caleb Porter said. "I'd be lying if I said that Zack, Wil 1/8Trapp 3/8, Gyasi and Waylon 1/8Francis 3/8 and those 1/8other missing 3/8 guys don't make a difference. I'd love to say it's all great coaching last week by me, but a lot of it is I'm a great coach when I have good players."
New England is well aware of Zardes' capabilities. The 2018 MLS Comeback Player of the Year had both goals in the Crew's win over the Revs last month and has scored seven times with two assists in eight career meetings with Saturday's opponent.
"They have some good players. But now that we've seen them once, we'll make a couple of adjustments ourselves and hopefully we can get the three points," Friedel said.
Columbus has often had the upper hand against New England of late, going 5-1-1 in seven matchups dating back to August 2016. The Revolution did play the Crew to a 2-2 draw in last season's visit to Columbus, however.
Updated April 5, 2019