It has been nearly two months since the New England Revolution lost a league match, but their unbeaten streak will be tested when one of the world’s top players pays a visit to the East Coast.
The Revolution hope to stretch their unbeaten MLS streak to eight games when they welcome Zlatan Ibrahimovic and the LA Galaxy to Gillette Stadium on Saturday night.
New England (7-4-7) has posted two wins and five draws after being beaten 1-0 by the Columbus Crew on May 19. The Revs are in fifth place in the Eastern Conference, four points ahead of the Montreal Impact going into this weekend.
After defeating D.C. United 3-2 on June 30 to open a key three-game homestand, New England played to a scoreless draw with Seattle last Saturday.
Forward Teal Bunbury, who already has a career-best 10 goals, says the Revs are motivated to collect three points from LA.
“It definitely spurs us a little bit more,” Bunbury said. “Obviously, we get a point and that’s good, but at home, we always want three points. We know especially a game against LA, they’ve got the big names, they’ve got the stars and things like that, we’re going to want to perform.”
New England has won 11 of 17 games with three draws against the Galaxy all-time in Massachusetts.
“They’re a team that has a lot of very good individual players. They will attack with a few guys that can really break you down, but I think if we stick together as a team, we’ll be able to handle that,” Revs midfielder Scott Caldwell said.
The Galaxy (7-7-4) begin this weekend’s play tied with the Houston Dynamo for seventh place in the Western Conference. Those two clubs are one point behind the Vancouver Whitecaps for the sixth and final postseason berth.
After draws in their previous two games, the Galaxy put together arguably their best performance of the season with last Saturday’s 4-0 rout of the Columbus Crew. Ibrahimovic remained red-hot with his sixth goal in his last four matches. The Swedish forward also has eight goals in his last five starts.
With 11 goals for the season, Ibrahimovic starts Week 20 tied with Bradley Wright-Phillips of the New York Red Bulls and the Crew’s Gyasi Zardes for second in MLS. Josef Martinez of Atlanta United leads in the race for the Golden Boot with 18 goals.
Besides Ibrahimovic, New England will also want to watch for Romain Alessandrini, who scored twice in a reserve role a week ago.
“He also contributed when he came in, not just on the goal, he was disciplined about helping us out defensively,” Galaxy head coach Sigi Schmid told the league’s official website. “I was probably equally as pleased by that as I was about his offensive display.”
LA — 2-3-3 away from home in 2018 — opens a stretch of three road games in 12 days with this contest. The road trip concludes with the Galaxy’s first match against new crosstown rival Los Angeles FC on July 26.
Despite the middling road record from the opposition, New England goalkeeper Matt Turner is aware of the threat the Galaxy poses.
“There are just talented players all over the field that can hurt you if you give them an inch of space, so it’s going to take focus for 90 minutes,” he said.