Bruce Arena is refusing to get carried away despite guiding New England Revolution to the joint-best start to a season of any MLS club after 22 matches.
The Revs thrashed FC Cincinnati 4-1 last weekend to make it four wins in a row and nine matches without defeat since early July.
Only Los Angeles FC in 2019 have ever accrued as many as 49 points at this stage of the campaign, with New England well on course for a first Supporters’ Shield triumph.
Despite his side being well clear at the top of the Eastern Conference, however, Arena insists the first target is to simply qualify for the MLS Cup.
“It’s not going to be an easy end to the regular season,” Arena said ahead of Saturday’s trip to New York City FC.
“We have 12 games remaining and we have to do well to position ourselves where we want to be. We haven’t actually qualified for the playoffs yet.
“We want home field advantage so there’s a lot to focus on. There will be a few more bumps in the road but hopefully we can get through it and be in a good position come early November.”
New York City are the latest side aiming to end the Revs’ unbeaten run, but they had a six-game run without defeat of their own ended by Philadelphia Union last time out.
The Pigeons have had a 10-day rest between games due to their derby clash with New York Red Bulls being postponed, giving boss Ronny Deila a chance to work closely with his players.
“I think we were solid defensively in our last match, giving the opponents one chance that they executed,” he said. “We know we need to be more clinical in the final third.”
PLAYERS TO WATCH
New York City FC – Valentin Castellanos
Deila has options to choose from in attack this weekend but has largely relied on Castellanos to lead the line – and to good effect over the past month or so. Castellanos could not find a way through on a frustrating day against Philadelphia Union, but he has still scored four and set up three more in his last six matches.
New England Revolution – Tajon Buchanan
The Revs confirmed this week that Buchanan has agreed to join Belgian side Club Brugge for an undisclosed fee, though that transfer will not go through until the 2021 MLS season concludes. The Canada international will be eager to go out on a high in his remaining few months as he looks to build on a return of six goals and four assists in 17 games this term.
KEY OPTA FACTS
– The Revolution have won consecutive matches against NYCFC, winning 2-1 in October 2020 and 3-2 in June 2021, both on the road. New England have never won three straight against NYCFC, home or away, while only the Timbers from 2015 to 2019 have won three straight away matches against New York City.
– New York City FC have won six straight home matches, outscoring opponents 15-2 in those matches. NYCFC can equal the longest home winning streak in club history, a seven-game run set from November 2017 to June 2018 (including playoffs).
– New England’s 49 points (W15 D4 L3) through 22 matches equals the best 22-match start in MLS history, tied with Los Angeles FC in 2019. LAFC won their 23rd game that season, 2-0 at New England.
– City have scored an MLS-high 15 left-footed goals this season and Jesus Medina leads the league with seven goals with his left foot this season (all seven he has scored). Ismael Tajouri-Shradi is one of four players with five left-footed goals in MLS this season.
– The Revolution have won 12 matches by a one-goal margin this season, while no other team has more than seven such wins. The MLS record for one-goal wins in a single season excluding play-offs is 13, done four times, last by Colorado Rapids in the 2016 season.