FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- For the first time since last year’s thrilling conference final, the Revolution and Red Bulls will meet on Saturday at Gillette Stadium. But this time around, the guests will look much different.
With Mike Petke no longer at the helm, and Thierry Henry, Tim Cahill and Jamison Olave all moving onto different adventures, the Red Bulls barely resemble the squad that pushed the Revolution to the brink in last year’s postseason classic.
Despite those changes, Revolution center back Andrew Farrell expects the Red Bulls, who are undefeated through their first six (3-0-3), to present as strong of a challenge as ever.
“The midfield is going to be a huge battle for us,” Farrell said. “They probably have one of the best midfields in the league, (but) I think we have a really good midfield as well.”
No doubt the midfield has shown itself to be a source of strength for New York, even with Henry and Cahill no longer in tow. The additions of Sacha Kljestan and Felipe Martins have given the squad more balance, as evidenced by their league-leading 55.3 possession percentage.
While the additions of Kljestan and Martins have helped New York avoid a post-Henry hangover, there’s also something to be said about the contributions of the holdovers. Dax McCarty, Lloyd Sam and Bradley Wright-Phillips continue to make the Red Bulls a team to be feared in the east.
“They don’t have one go-to guy making plays anymore,” Farrell said. “They have multiple guys making plays. Sacha’s playing great. Dax is always great, and Wright-Phillips -- he is what he is. When he gets the chance, he’ll score.”
Revolution coach Jay Heaps credits new Red Bulls coach Jesse Marsch for implementing a style of play that’s built upon work rate and discipline.
“They do a lot more pressing, bring a lot more energy, have a lot more team shape,” Heaps said. “I think when you have Henry and Cahill, the idea is those guys are going to make the plays, and the other guys around them are going to do the work. Now, all the guys are doing work.”
To counter what Marsch and his men will bring to Saturday’ match, Revolution striker Charlie Davies pointed to what the club was able to do against Real Salt Lake in last weekend’s 4-0 win. The locals grabbed two goals in each half, and could have scored more had it not been for the exceptional efforts of goalkeeper Jeff Attinella.
“We’re going to go into it with the same intentions as we did last game: trying to attack, attack, attack,” Davies said. “We’re confident, and we just have to be prepared.”
Confidence hasn't been an issue of late for the locals. Similar to the Red Bulls, the Revolution enter Saturday’s match on the heels of a six-game unbeaten streak (4-0-2), and have gotten results at home and on the road.
More importantly, they’re getting production from nearly every area on the pitch. During their recent run of success, seven different players have scored, while the defense hasn't allowed a goal from the run of play since March 15.
Things may have changed since last year’s exhilarating postseason clash, but based upon each club’s current run of form, Saturday’s rematch could be just as compelling.
“I think we match up well with them,” Farrell said. “They’re a great team and it’s always kind of been a rivalry that we have with them, especially after last year. It’s going to be a good game.”