Jay Heaps' squad kicks off a crucial home-and-home series with the Columbus Crew without the services of Saer Sene and Lee Nguyen.FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — It is do or die for many teams this weekend in Major League Soccer, and the New England Revolution are right in the middle of that tightly contested playoff race in the Eastern Conference.
Saturday night will see the seventh-place Revolution host the eighth-place Columbus Crew, in the first game of a season-ending home-and-home series between the two teams.
Last week, New England impressively won 1-0 at the Montreal Impact, but it came at the expense of losing forward Saer Sene to a gruesome leg injury.
"It's a big player to lose and I think he has been playing well for the past two months," said Revolution midfielder Kelyn Rowe. "But Saer is the first one to say he is happy we won the game."
While the loss of Sene is certainly not in the best interest for the team, there are plenty of offensive options at the disposal of coach Jay Heaps.
Dimitry Imbongo, who has featured regularly for Heaps this season, would be the likely candidate to take over Sene's spot for the time being. Imbongo, however, is listed as questionable with a hamstring injury.
Another forward option is Jerry Bengtson. The striker recently returned from a World Cup qualifying stint with Honduras, during which he scored the game-winning goal over Costa Rica.
The Revolution midfield will be without the services of Lee Nguyen, as he is suspended for yellow card accumulation. This will test the resolve of a young team ahead of a potentially massive moment for the organization.
"We have said it all year that we have depth," Rowe said, "whether it's (Andy) Dorman, Clyde Simms or Ryan Guy. I think the guys are going to come in and step up."
With Saturday's game at Gillette Stadium, the Revolution hope to gain an edge from the home support. Over the past few seasons, the home finales have been relatively meaningless for the team — but not this year.
"As a person playing at home, there is nothing better, especially with the way the fans have been this year," Rowe said. "(We're) going into a big game where it is do or die for the playoffs. For us, this is a big moment for the team."
Star forward Diego Fagundez is also confident that the home support will help his team earn three points and get a foot in the door for the playoffs.
"The last home game is going to be special, especially now that we are still in the playoff mix," Fagundez said. "We are fighting to get that spot, so it's going to be nice to come back to our stadium and get a win. We are going to have to work hard to get there."
Fagundez also can see the back-to-back matches against Columbus as an advantage, due to the playoff-like feel to the final two games of the season.
"It's an advantage because that's how playoffs are, you have to play one home and one away," Fagundez said. "We are going to be ready for that. We know it's going to be a hard game at home, but once we are away it's going to be even harder."
The team could end the weekend as high as third place or could be mathematically knocked out of playoff contention, depending on results. If everything falls into place, New England could reach the postseason for the first time since 2009.