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September 28, 2012
Injury-riddled Revs head to Houston

By Adam Burrows
New England Soccer News Contributor

A rash of midfield injuries might open the door for Juan Toja to make his first start for the Revolution on Saturday night against Houston.
A rash of midfield injuries might open the door for Juan Toja to make his first start for the Revolution on Saturday night against Houston.
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
The New England Revolution (7-15-8, 29 points) make their first trip to BBVA Compass Stadium Saturday night to take on the Houston Dynamo (12-8-10, 46 points) as the regular season winds down and the playoff race – at least on Houston’s side of the equation -- heats up (CSN, 8:30 p.m. ET).

The match is the Revolution's fourth consecutive encounter with an Eastern Conference rival competing for one of five playoff spots. New England took points at home from Columbus, winning 2-0 at Gillette Stadium on September 5th, and from New York last Saturday, equalizing 1-1 on Darrius Barnes's first career goal in the closing seconds of stoppage time. In between those two contests, the Revs bowed to DC United at RFK Stadium as the Black and Red came from behind for a 2-1 victory to eliminate the Revolution from postseason contention.

The Dynamo lost 3-1 to Philadelphia at PPL Park last weekend and have won only once in their last eight MLS outings, dropping from second place to fifth, just one point above the Crew, who have also struggled of late. Saturday's matchup with the Revolution opens a crucial three-game homestand for the Dynamo, who made it to the MLS Cup Final last year, losing 1-0 to the Galaxy at the Home Depot Center.

The odds are in the Dynamo's favor. The Dynamo have never lost at BBVA Compass Stadium, compiling a 9-0-5 record in this inaugural season, and are undefeated in their last 22 home matches, a streak stretching back to June 18, 2011. Meanwhile, the Revolution have struggled away from Foxborough in 2012, winning only once in 14 attempts, a record outmatched in road futility only by the winless Portland Timbers.

After the Revolution match, the Dynamo host Montreal and Philadelphia before closing out the regular season in Colorado.

The Revolution arrive in Houston decidedly shorthanded. After losing top scorer Saer Sene to season-ending left knee surgery on September 17th, New England lost their most dynamic midfield presence and second-leading scorer Lee Nguyen to right shoulder surgery this past Monday.

The Revolution also will be without Ryan Guy, who delivered the game-tying assist against the Red Bulls, and right back Flo Lechner. Guy left to join Guam, the birthplace of his father, ahead of international competition in the Philippines this weekend, while Lechner left the New York match late in the first half with a left MCL sprain. Chris Tierney remains unavailable with knee and hamstring problems.

The absences may provide an opportunity for midfielder Juan Toja, who was acquired through the MLS allocation process in late August, to make his first start for the Revolution. The 27-year-old Columbian-born former MLS All-Star and veteran of European competition has been working his way back into game condition but has impressed in two appearances as a second-half substitute.

After last week's game, Revolution coach Jay Heaps declared his intention to test out new talent, in particular goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth. Despite a blunder that allowed Joel Lindpere to give New York its brief lead, the understudy has allowed only two goals in his three starts.

With their role for the remainder of 2012 reduced to spoiler, New England will look to build on last week's comeback and begin to set the stage for next year.

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