If there is any word of warning that I can give to the Revolution faithful as they go through their day in preparation for tonight’s MLS IS BACK Tournament Group C tilt with DC United, it’s this: don’t be complacent.
In other words, don’t be like Toronto FC was on Monday morning.
While New England already had its first three points of the tourney in its back pocket, Toronto and DC hadn’t played yet due to late arrivals to central Florida. Their game was supposed to be played last Friday, but then pushed back 48 hours to Sunday. That, too, didn’t kick off due to a false positive test on a United player.
And once those players were re-tested, the league re-scheduled it for Monday morning, 9 a.m., on ESPN.
As it happened, DC United looked like it was still sleeping when the match kicked off, as TFC controlled a good amount of the tempo. DC tried to play physically at first, their center backs stepped up and tried to harry the Reds.
It only lasted so long, as they gave plenty of shooting space — see also, Pablo Piatti in the sixth minute, Ayo Akinola throughout; what a tourney for the latter so far — and failed to close down fully on Akinola’s 12th-minute opener. DC made multiple poor decisions in the first 10 minutes and no fluidity on the ball. On the second Toronto goal, DC’s defending was incredibly sloppy — defending that a U6 team wouldn’t be caught doing in a match.
But around the hour mark, things switched on for United, with Federico Higuian coming off the bench and scoring in the 84th minute, before Frederic Brilliant tied it up in the first minute of second-half stoppage time.
Simply put, DC was bad in the first half — legendarily bad — but put things together in the last half an hour to snatch a point.
DC will look to play the ball forward with an over-the-top ball after starting out of the back, the Revs will need to be ready to win the 50/50 and the second ball. Then, with possession, pounce and pound: this is a United team that gave up 38 goals last year, and Bill Hamid is in front of the onion bag, so their bests shots will need to be implemented.
And while DC scored 42 goals a year ago, nearly half of those goals are gone: Wayne Rooney is back in England while Luciano Acosta is in Mexico. The Black and Red did bring in former Providence College winger Julian Gressel from Atlanta United in the offseason, so those whip-ins from the right will be constant.
They will, however, be without Junior Moreno in the midfield, as he saw two yellow cards in the first half Monday and misses tonight through suspension.
Elsewhere in the league this weekend
The Revs and DC aren’t the only ones playing at 8 p.m. tonight, as Sporting Kansas City plays Colorado (ESPN2), as well. At 10:30 p.m., Real Salt Lake plays Minnesota United (ESPN). Both of those are Group D showdowns.
Tomorrow sees Portland take on Houston at 8 p.m. (ESPN) prior to El Trafico, LAFC and LA Galaxy, at 10:30 p.m. (ESPN).
On Sunday, Chicago takes on San Jose (8 p.m., FS1) in the Quakes’ last match of the group stage before Seattle plays its final match of the group stage with a Cascadia match against short-handed Vancouver (10:30 p.m., FS1). If the Sounders want to stick around, they’ll want to play their best football of the tournament.
After this weekend, we’ll be at two matches played for everyone, with the exception of San Jose and Seattle, who’ll either advance, or go home.
Columbus advanced to the knockout stages with Thursday night’s 2-0 win over the Red Bulls, joining Orlando City and Philadelphia in the next phase of the competition. Atlanta United has been jettisoned, and so has Montreal.
We’ll have all the permutations for you by noon Monday.
In the USL Championship
Hartford Athletic gets its season underway this weekend, its first under new head coach Rahdi Jaïdi, the former Southampton FC U23 coach, when it takes on New York Red Bulls II at Red Bull Arena. They play tonight at 7 p.m.
But there is a quick turnaround for The Boys In Green, as they’ll return to Dillon Stadium to take on Loudon United (7 p.m.).
In the Premier League
Sixteenth-place West Ham hosts No. 17 Watford in a massive relegation-threatened six-pointer this afternoon (3 p.m., NBCSN). Both are coming off big wins in their last times out, with both sitting on 34 points. West Ham is in the driver’s seat with a goal difference of -15 to the Hornets’ -21.
A win in this one should be enough for Premier League survival, as 18th-place Bournemouth are on 31 points.
After tonight’s game, everyone will be at 36 league matches played, with two to go.
It’s also FA Cup Semifinal weekend: Arsenal takes on Manchester City (2:45 p.m., Saturday), while Manchester United takes on Chelsea (1 p.m., Sunday), both games at Wembley Stadium.
Both are also on the ESPN+ streaming platform.
Enjoy the weekend of football, wherever you happen to be.