New England Soccer Today

Five Questions: Revolution at New York Red Bulls

Red Bulls keeper Jeremy Vuolo gets set to send it down the field as Revolution midfielder/forward Fernando Cardenas approaches. (Photo: Joshua Pearson)

The good news for the Revolution going into Saturday’s conference clash is that the Red Bulls back four from Sunday’s 4-1 drubbing in D.C. will be back on the field.

The bad news? So will Thierry Henry and Kenny Cooper.

In a game that promises to deliver plenty of firepower, the Revolution will be hoping that their hosts are in an especially generous mood once the opening whistle screeches on Saturday afternoon.

But before the action gets underway, here are five questions to consider going into the the next chapter of the Revs-Red Bulls rivalry.

1. Can A.J. Soares and John Lozano – or Stephen McCarthy – contain Thierry Henry and Kenny Cooper? So far, opposing center backs have had a hellish time keeping Henry and Cooper off the scoresheet. When Henry’s not scoring, he’ setting up Cooper. And vice versa. Soares knows what to expect, but Lozano has never played against either striker. And McCarthy? He’s never had the job of marking either. No question, the task of taking away the Red Bulls’ two headed beast may rest heavily on the Revolution center back pairing. But they’ll also need help from Shalrie Joseph and Clyde Simms  to get the job done.

2. How will the Revolution stay within themselves against a show-stopping attack? If there’s one glaring example of how the Revs are still maturing as a unit, it’s their tendency to get tricked into playing their opponents’ game. On Saturday, they’ll have to resist any temptation of falling into the same pattern against a punishing attack. The last thing New York wants is a controlled and defensive game. Therefore the Revolution have to stay organized. They have to stay disciplined. But most of all, they have to impose their will on the Red Bulls by playing smart, defensive soccer and, on the other end of the field, exploit the holes when they open up.

3. Will we see four or five in the midfield? Faced against dangerous attacks, Jay Heaps hasn’t been shy to utilize a five-man midfield. And with Benny Feilhaber healthy, he may finally get to use it at full-strength since the first 14 minutes of the Sporting K.C. game. Of course, keeping the Red Bull charge contained will be a primary focus should five in the middle be the formation du jour. But don’t think for a second that the attacking parts in the Revolution midfield won’t be out for blood. Feilhaber should exert some serious pressure against the accommodating Red Bulls defense. So will Lee Nguyen, Kelyn Rowe and almost certainly Joseph. In a perfect world, it would be a 3-5-2 that would also featured Saer Sene and Jose Moreno. But a five man unit with the talent the Revs have? There are worse formations to use.

4. Can the Revs overcome their set piece hijinx? In their last two games, the Revolution have given up two critical goals via the set piece. And it’s a fact that the Revs are well aware of. With two weeks worth of training between games, the Revs certainly worked on defensive set pieces. Over and over…and over. The key? According to A.J. Soares, it’s about “turning on the brain.” In other words, it’s about each player knowing, understanding, then executing their assignments. And it’s about beating your man to the ball. The Revs can’t be polite on set pieces. They have to be the aggressor. And if they are, it could set the tone from the run of play as well.

5. Do the Revs have enough firepower to keep up with the Red Bulls? Absolutely. Granted, they may not have a striker of Kenny Cooper’s caliber. Nor does it look like they have a playmaker of Thierry Henry’s talent. But rest assured, the Revs have a host of players who can put the ball into the back of the net. Sene has the speed to burn lax defending while Moreno’s shown an uncanny knack for setting up his teammates as well as scoring inside the 18, albeit in limited action. And while the midfield has the horses to keep the Red Bulls on their back hooves, don’t forget that Diego Fagundez and Kenny Mansally have both proven they can score off the bench.

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