New England Revolution coach Bruce Arena hopes his team are going in the right direction ahead of their meeting with the Columbus Crew, having won two of their last three games.

Arena’s team have won back-to-back games in Massachusetts, but sit 10th in the Eastern Conference after losing five of their opening nine MLS games.

However, Bruce noted the standings are still tight as he heaped praise on upcoming opponents Columbus.

“It’s early for everybody, I think you can see in the league it’s pretty tight from top to bottom. A few teams are a little bit ahead but everyone else is within striking distance. Hopefully we’re heading in the right direction,” Arena said.

“(Columbus) started the season with two wins and then got into a little bit of a slump, but their team is very similar to their team last year, they’ve had a pretty solid start and the ownership has done a wonderful job.

“They’re a team that are going to be good year-in, year-out, they’re just seeking to be a little more consistent, and they will be, they have everything in place to be really good.”

Columbus are seventh in the Eastern Conference after keeping two consecutive clean sheets, beating D.C. United and drawing with Sporting KC, leading head coach Caleb Porter to praise their solidity ahead of a tough run of road games.

“I think we’re defending really well right now, two clean sheets in a row. We’re not keeping the ball as much, we’re not creating as many big chances, but I think what we’re doing is not giving up much,” Porter said.

“(We’re) being tough to play against, tough to beat, and our mentality has been excellent. We’re going to need that now that we go on the road for three or four.”

PLAYERS TO WATCH

New England Revolution – Carles Gil

The 29-year-old Spaniard leads the Revs’ scoring charts with three goals this season, and could play a decisive role for a team with eight goals across their last four games.

Columbus Crew – Pedro Santos

Santos netted a superb free-kick to open the scoring for the Crew against D.C., and his set-piece prowess could make the difference for Porter’s solid visitors.

KEY OPTA FACTS

– The Revolution were unbeaten in all three matches against the Crew last season (W1 D2), following a run of seven losses in the previous nine meetings (W1 D1, incl. playoffs). The Revs have recorded just three wins in the last 15 MLS meetings between the sides (D4 L8, incl. playoffs) dating back to 2015.

– New England earned their third win of the year with a 2-0 victory over Inter Miami on Saturday. The Revs haven’t won consecutive matches since September victories over the Fire, Orlando, and Montreal. New England has followed their last five wins with a draw (twice) or a loss (three times).

– The Crew have won three of their last 33 away matches (D14 L16) dating back to September 2019. Columbus kept a clean sheet in its last away match, a draw at SKC, and could keep consecutive away clean sheets for the first time since May 2018 (3 straight), with the second of those a 1-0 win at New England.

– Damian Rivera scored in the first minute against Miami on Saturday, doing so in his first career start. Rivera became the third player to score in the first minute of his first start in MLS history after Aaron Pitchkolan in 2005 and Matias Mantilla in 2007.

– Pedro Santos’ direct free-kick goal was the Crew’s seventh of the season and eighth since the start of 2020, both the most in MLS. It was the Crew’s first direct free-kick goal scored by somebody other than Lucas Zelarayán or Federico Higuaín since August 2011 (Josh Gardner vs. Seattle).