FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- A week after holding tight to the slimmest of leads for nearly 90 minutes, the Revolution defense faces an even greater test on Saturday against a high-octane attack in Los Angeles.
Playing the defending champions in their own backyard is never an enviable task. But it’s the manner in which the likes of Landon Donovan, David Beckham and the rest of the Galaxy attack pick apart its opponents that has caught the attention of Revolution head coach Jay Heaps.
“They know how to break, and they know how to break with numbers and they break with pace,” Heaps said. “It’s when we give the ball away is when they’re most dangerous.”
Heaps should know. It wasn’t that long ago that the 35-year-old head coach himself faced the same Donovan, Beckham and Edson Buddle trio that the Revolution is preparing itself to try to stifle on Saturday.
The former defender knows that his team has an enormous challenge ahead of them. Often times, a team can play tight defense against to cancel out a key player or two. But Heaps said that the dynamic Galaxy attack, which has a number of moving parts, renders that approach moot.
“It was very difficult (as a player) because you can’t say ‘alright, you cover that area’,” Heaps said. “You have to make sure you’re looking at (both) men and spacing.”
Making decisions on the fly is something that the Revolution will have to be particularly adept at in order to run with the Galaxy. And to succeed at making real-time adjustments, center back A.J. Soares believes that communication will be the key to combat their enterprising opponents.
“It’s big-time (important),” Soares said. “Because when they’re throwing guys forward, you’re not man marking -- you’re switching on the fly. So I have to tell whoever my (defending) partner is that this guy’s coming or they’re switching or that this guy’s coming.”
Now it’s just a matter of figuring out who will be where. With Stephen McCarthy available after serving his one-game red card suspension and Darrius Barnes returning from injury, Heaps is starting to enjoy the luxury of having a full complement of defenders available to him.
“It’s good to get players back,” Heaps said. “Every week that we can continue to do that, you feel like you can get your strength back and it makes our travel list harder to pick and makes our players that much hungrier to play.”
Having a set of hungry players will be absolutely necessary against a team like the Galaxy. But, Soares believes that the 1-0 win over Portland may serve as the biggest motivational tool for shutting down the L.A. attack.
“We held onto a lead for 90 minutes -- that’s a really tough thing to do,” Soares said. “It doesn’t matter what team you’re playing, holding onto a lead for 90 minutes (is difficult). The effort we put into that game - if you put that in against any team, you’re going to be in the game. It’s the same (approach) going to L.A.”