The top two teams in Major League Soccer clash on Saturday when the New England Revolution hosts FC Cincinnati at Gillette Stadium.
The clubs have identical records with six wins, two draws and a solitary defeat as they have set the pace in the Eastern Conference.
But New England, which has never won MLS Cup, knows only too well that regular-season performance means little if it isn't followed up in the playoffs. The Revs have won the East five times and claimed the Supporters Shield in 2021 for the best overall regular season record.
Knowing that history, Coach Bruce Arena
isn't getting carried away with the Revs' positive start to the season.
"You always have to think forward and you have to think where you need to be as you get towards the end of the season. So that's what we're building on. We're not anywhere near where we have to be, but to date we've done well," he said in a conference call.
Arena is also well aware that FC Cincinnati, despite only joining MLS as an expansion team four years ago, has developed into one of the most effective teams in the league.
The Ohio club's success has been based around the creative play of Argentine attacking midfielder Luciano Acosta
, who provides the ammunition for the prolific strikers Brandon Vazquez
and Brazilian Brenner
"They've got a really well rounded team and it's not surprising to see the kind of success they've had in the early going," said Arena, whose son Kenny
is assistant to Cincinnati head coach Pat Noonan
, who worked under him at the LA Galaxy (2013-16) and on the U.S. national team (2017).
Cincinnati completed a deal on Wednesday for Brenner to move to Serie A club Udinese
in July, but he remains available to Noonan in the meantime and is expected to play in Foxborough.
Cincinnati's solitary defeat this season came with their last game on the road, a 5-1 thrashing at new club St. Louis City FC.
The expansion team is in top spot in the Western Conference, level on points with the Seattle Sounders, and one ahead of defending champion Los Angeles FC, and continue its campaign at home to Portland on Saturday.
The pair have already met this season, in Week 3, when St. Louis enjoyed a 2-1 victory in Oregon, but City SC coach Bradley Carnell
knows that win came against a team that was weakened by early season injuries.
"They had a depleted squad ... they will have a real strong lineup with game-changers and difference-makers all over the field. It is going to be an opponent to be reckoned with," he said.
The pressure is growing on Inter Miami's English coach, Phil Neville,
whose team has suffered six straight losses ahead of Saturday's trip to Columbus.
Miami has lost each of its four away games this season, failing to score in any of them, while the Crew is unbeaten in its last 10 home games.
The Los Angeles Galaxy finally got its first win of the season with the 2-0 victory over Austin last week and is at Orlando City, which has lost its last three home games. sev/rcw
© Agence France-Presse
Photo: Luciano Costa and Carles Gil. Credit: New England Revolution