FOXBOROUGH — On Monday, the Revolution acquired midfielder Juan Toja through the MLS allocation process. The 27-year-old Toja was an up-and-comer for FC Dallas in 2007 and 2008 when Jay Heaps squared off against the skilled midfielder.
“Great engine, great vision,” the Revolution coach said after Tuesday’s practice at Gillette Stadium. “Left-footer. Can play wide left. Can play wide right. Can play defensive. Can play attacking. He’s dynamic in each of those positions in a different way.”
Toja can’t get into Heaps’s lineup soon enough.
But he will not play Wednesday night against Chivas USA at Gillette. Toja, most recently of Greece’s Aris Thessaloniki, must receiver his international transfer certificate and his visa. Only then will he be eligible to play. Then it’s up to the Revolution to determine when he is ready to play.
“He’s physically fit,” Heaps said. “But is he soccer fit? We’ll see when he gets here. It’s going to be, when he gets here, working him in at the right speed.”
The Revolution could use reinforcements. They are grinding through an eight-game winless streak. Their most recent setback was last Saturday against Columbus, when they grabbed a 2-0 lead before the Crew stormed back and claimed a 4-3 decision.
Against Chivas, the Revolution are aiming to avoid a dubious achievement. The team’s longest winless streak is nine games, which took place twice: May 1 to July 13, 1990; and May 21 to July 17, 2011.
“When you do have a breakdown or lack of focus, whether it be a throw-in or a set piece or a foul, those are things that, as professionals, you have to deal with,” Heaps said. “We have to continue to get better at that. There’s no question about it.
“When we’ve done those well, we’ve played well and won. When we haven’t, we’ve been punished. Unfortunately, we’ve been punished more than any team I can remember in the past. It’s as simple as learning from your mistakes. Each game presents different challenges.”
Wednesday’s game will be critical for several reasons. It is the first of three home dates in eight days. The Revolution will be playing against a down-and-out Chivas club (minus-15 goal differential, second-worst in the league) that is coming off a 6-2 thumping against Seattle.
“It’s as big a game as we’ve had because of the results we feel have or haven’t gone our way,” Heaps said. “We’re obviously in a situation where every game is vital. Then you’re going to add to that that Chivas USA is in a similar boat.”
The Revolution will also be playing against their former captain.
For the first time, Shalrie Joseph will face off against his ex-teammates. Joseph played all 261 of his career MLS games with the Revolution until he was traded to Chivas on Aug. 1 for Blair Gavin, a 2013 second-round pick, and cash.
Joseph was an eight-time All-Star for the Revolution. His influence has yet to fade.
“Shalrie, his mind-set coming into the game, he’s always so positive and so confident,” said midfielder Lee Nguyen. “I think he brings that out in everybody. He’s a great leader.
“You keep trying to implement that into your game and into the locker room. We always want to show our best. Shalrie brings that out in us.”
The Revolution scored as many goals against the Crew as they did in their seven previous games (six losses, one tie). Jerry Bengtson and Ryan Guy had goals. Per his game plan, Heaps was satisfied with how the forwards attacked Columbus’s center backs to create isolation.
An offensive carryover against Chivas will be required.
“We had a lot of movement up top, which gave us a lot of options,” said Nguyen, who scored his fifth goal of the season on a penalty kick. “Jerry played really well holding the ball up and making runs in behind. Ryan did a great job of spreading out the back as well by making runs from the midfield. Overall, we just moved the ball really well.”