FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The New England Revolution (11-11-8, 41 points) jump from the frying pan and into the fire as they get set to face the first-place New York Red Bulls (15-9-7, 52 points) on Saturday.
Off the heels of their high-stakes showdown with the Houston Dynamo -- an intense and physical affair that ended 1-1 -- the Revolution face an even greater challenge at Red Bull Arena, where they’ll be fighting for their postseason hopes once again.
While the Revolution were pleased to get a result out of a gritty Dynamo side last week, it’ll probably take much more than just absorbing the blows and getting a goal to get a result against a finely-tuned Red Bull machine.
“They can do anything they want,” Revolution coach Jay Heaps said. “They play both ways, they move the ball well, they can go long, they can go short, and they can play out of the back. They're a team that, to me, is as complete as you can be in this league.”
The Red Bulls showed just how complete a team they were last week in Seattle, where they claimed a 1-1 draw against the surging Sounders. Not only did New York nearly come away with a win, but they nearly did it without Thierry Henry and Jamison Olave, both of whom missed last week’s match.
With Henry and Olave ready to return to action on Saturday, and Tim Cahill in peak form, the Revolution are expecting to have their hands full -- and not just because of the talented trio, either.
“Dax (McCarty) is the glue of the team and he makes them run,” Revolution center back A.J. Soares said. “If we try and limit his involvement, (then) that can really help us. But really, every single player on their team can win a game. They're a very dangerous team.”
How dangerous? Entering Saturday’s game, the Red Bulls find themselves tied for the conference lead in goals scored (48), atop the conference in home goal differential (+15), and are riding the momentum of a conference-best five game unbeaten streak. Clearly, the Red Bulls are club to be reckoned with at the moment.
Knowing what New York brings to the table, many teams attempt to mirror what the Red Bulls do so well (i.e. build from the back and funnel the attack forward) in order to keep pace. But Soares doesn’t think a graceful, pass-oriented approach will do much to crack the first place club at its home park.
“You can't just go out there and start passing the ball around,” Soares said. “It doesn't work like that. So we have to go out there and fight, (like) we did against Houston, and the play will come.”
That’s the hope, at least. After last week’s draw, points are becoming even more important for the seventh-place Revolution as the regular season winds down this month. They know that the margin for error only gets slimmer with each passing week.
While they may be tempted to try to calculate just how many points they’ll need in their final four games to reach the postseason, Heaps said his team is only focused on the three in front of them on Saturday.
“It's one game at a time, and the locker room has to approach it that way,” Heaps said. “If we can balance it (out) one half at a time, or one segment at a time, then we have to get those moments in a game so that we can put that whole game together because we need points, and it's as simple as that.”