Justin Meram is not one to mince words, particularly when it comes to rivalries.
The New England Revolution will be at MAPFRE Stadium on Wednesday night, and the Columbus Crew SC midfielder spoke bluntly about the match-up.
“They don’t really like us, and we don’t really like them, so it’s going to be a battle,” Meram said.
The rivalry between the two clubs intensified after last season’s playoff series when New England won both legs to knock Crew SC out of contention. There’s a mutual respect between the clubs, but that won’t lessen the intensity.
“These teams go at it and play attacking football, attractive football,” Sporting Director and Head Coach Gregg Berhalter said. “It’s an intense rivalry and it’s going to be an intense game, I know that much.”
The congested Eastern Conference playoff race adds to the intensity of the match-up, as both teams look to create cushions for themselves. New England currently sits in second place with 24 points, but only seven points separate the club from eighth place New York City FC. Given the Revolution’s recent 1-3-2 run, the margin of error has shrunk considerably.
As for the Black & Gold, four teams are currently tied near the edge of the playoff race with 17 points apiece. With some external help from other clubs, a win could help Crew SC break away from the pack.
“There are no moral victories at this point of the season,” defender Michael Parkhurst emphasized. “We need to start winning games, we need to start climbing up the table.”
By the numbers, the two sides match up fairly evenly. New England boasts a plus one goal differential, while Crew SC sits at a minus one; they have also registered 71 and 76 shots on goal respectively this season.
And much like Crew SC, New England struggles on the road. The Revolution haven’t won a road fixture since beating Philadelphia 2-1 on April 19. That amounts to a four-match winless streak in which they were outscored 10-5. Overall, the Revs boast a 2-5-1 road record.
But make no mistake, Crew SC is preparing for this match like it would for any other, according to Berhalter. New England’s offensive attack is one of the best in the League, to the tune of 23 goals, and limiting New England’s opportunities is atop the priority list.
Meram and company want to do so while ramping on the pressure the entire 90 minutes.
“We want to take it to them," he said, "and show that we can play with intensity while also playing good soccer.”