New England Soccer Today

Five Questions: Revolution vs. Red Bulls

Stephen McCarthy and the Revolution are hoping that a stronger first half performance will lead to maximum points against the Red Bulls on Sunday. (Photo: Kari Heistad)

No more last-minute draws. Please.

That’s essentially what Benny Feilhaber was pleading for while speaking to the media after practice on Thursday. And with good reason.

While the thrill of grabbing a point at the death certainly does little to quell the excitement surrounding Jay Heaps And His New Look Revs ™, the harsh reality is this: the Revolution have only earned three points in their last three games.

Ninety-fourth minute equalizer or bust? Not this week. Not with the Red Bulls in town, and most certainly not against a conference foe. It has to be three points. If Gillette Stadium is indeed a fortress for the Revs, then the hosting of handshakes has to end on Sunday.

But enough with the declarative sentences. It’s time for five of the interrogative variety

1. Which A.J. Soares will show up? There’s no doubt that the second-year center back has seen better performances than the ones seen in the last two weeks. He has not been great, to put it mildly. But, say it with me: A.J. Soares is one of the better center backs in the league. A center back of his quality doesn’t become a below average player overnight. So, even though he may not have shown particularly well against Toronto and Seattle, rest assured that the real A.J. Soares will be back – perhaps as soon as Sunday.

2. Can the Revolution avoid the same early game jitters seen in their last encounter with New York? It had to have been a troubling sight – even for the most fervent Revolution supporter. In the first Revolution-Red Bulls encounter of the season on Apr. 28, the Revs opened up, well, kind of scared. To quote Step Brothers: “You know that one scene in The Wizard Of Oz when the flying monkeys pull apart the scarecrow? That’s what it was like.” And that’s how the Revolution had to have felt as Thierry Henry, Kenny Cooper, Joel Lindpere and Dane Richards terrorized the Revolution during the first 25 minutes. If the Revolution stand any chance of getting three points, they have to look at the tape of that game, and see to it that they avoid similar start.

3. Will we see an encore of the last week’s 4-5-1 formation? It was an interesting, if not brilliant, idea to keep Benny Feilhaber central while keeping Shalrie Joseph and Clyde Simms in the middle of the park as well. But watching Saer Sene attempt to do his best impression of an MLS right-sided midfielder was, um, also interesting. But with Joseph listed as “doubtful” on Friday’s injury report, it looks like we’ll see a return of the 4-4-2 against the Red Bulls. That is, of course, unless Heaps has something else up his sleeve on Sunday.

4. Can the Revolution beat the Red Bulls without Shalrie Joseph? If Joseph is unable to go, it’ll be a significant blow to hopes of the Revolution. New York has the both the pace and technical abilities to tear an opposing midfield to shreds. In their Apr. 28 match, it was the skill and vision of Joseph that kept the Revolution ship afloat until the end. Yes, Clyde Simms is no slouch. Neither is Benny Feilhaber, for that matter. The Revolution have survived without their skipper. But there’s no doubt the Revolution aren’t at their strongest when Joseph is forced to play the role of spectator.

5. Is a stronger first half possible against New York? On Thursday, Stephen McCarthy spoke at length about the need to come out of the gate sharp. In the last two weeks, the Revolution have allowed four first-half goals. Clearly, the starts have to get better. But against the Red Bulls, that may be easier said than done. Granted, New York has only scored one goal in three of their last four. Yet, they’ve also gotten results in 10 of their last 11. Bottom line: the Revolution can’t let the Red Bulls take charge of this game early – or any lengthy period of time, for that matter.

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