New England Revolution focused on Chicago amid playoff push
It all boils down to the final 180 minutes of the regular season for the seventh-place New England Revolution, who'll need maximum points and a little bit of help to sneak into the postseason. But as far as coach Jay Heaps is concerned, the only thing that matters is Sunday's match at Chicago.
In order to prevent his players from looking too far ahead, the Revolution coach is emphasizing the task at hand rather than playoff permutations.
"We only can control what we can control, which is stepping on the field and giving our best performance against Chicago," Heaps told the media on Wednesday. "[We're] preparing ourselves in the film room, preparing ourselves with the right focus on Chicago."
No doubt the next 90 minutes will be crucial. After all, if the Revolution fail to get three points from Sunday, then the final 90 will be little more than a dress rehearsal for a team that entered the 2016 season as a likely playoff contender.
One thing working in the Revolution's favor: Sunday's opponent, which happens to be the last-place Fire. While New England has beaten Chicago in each of their previous three encounters this season, the locals haven't won in the Windy City since 2013.
"They're fighting for pride in front of their home fans," Revolution midfielder Kelyn Rowe told the media on Wednesday. "We're going in to almost play spoiler on their home game. For us, it's a huge game because it's on us to prove that we're a playoff team, and we need these three points."
How the Revolution intend to get those three points will likely boil down to their form in the midfield. The club has won four of their last five, largely due to the surge in production they've received from the likes of Rowe, Lee Nguyen, Diego Fagundez and even Juan Agudelo, who has shifted between striker and attacking midfielder. And with Kei Kamara finding his form, the team appears primed to take three points from a vulnerable foe.
"We know that if we take care of our business, hopefully something happens and we get lucky," Rowe told the media on Wednesday. "For us right now, it's about going into Chicago and winning games, because if we don't win our games, there's no point in anyone else losing. For us, it's about winning these next two games."
Rowe could hardly be blamed for peeking ahead to the season finale vs. Montreal, a game in which the victor will likely wrap up the sixth and final playoff spot. After all, what player doesn't savor the prospect of playing in a winner-take-all contest?
But in order to get that opportunity, Heaps is mindful that anything less than three points in Chicago will render the Montreal contest largely meaningless for the locals.
"I think that if we take care of our business and go about it the right way, we'll have a good chance against Chicago," Heaps said. "Then we'll let everything else play out the way it should."