FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- They may not be a mystery wrapped in a riddle inside an enigma, but it’s safe to say that Toronto FC’s rotating cast of characters poses a unique challenge to the New England Revolution on Sunday.
Although the aforementioned clubs have already met this year (May 25), injuries and trades have reshaped Toronto’s starting lineup since then. With that in mind, this week’s focus for the Revolution has been improving its own form rather than worrying too much about Toronto.
“Knowing what Toronto is going to do, (because) it’s changing week to week, is hard to predict,” Heaps said. “So we have to worry about ourselves and control what we can control -- and that’s how hard we train this week and things that we have to prepare for.”
At first blush, ninth-place Toronto appears to be a team that the fifth-place Revolution should have little problem getting points from. In fact, the Reds were recently mired in a six-game winless streak until they rallied to beat Columbus 2-1 in stoppage time at BMO Field last week.
But that win -- which saw the likes of Jonathan Osorio, Matias Laba and Bobby Convey aid Toronto’s comeback efforts against the Crew -- has given Heaps enough pause for concern ahead of Sunday’s contest.
“One thing you look at with Toronto is that you see some shape coming to form,” Heaps said. “Meaning guys like Laba, Osorio, Convey and (Jeremy) Brockie -- those players are starting to play well together and they’re reading the game well. So whether they’re wide, or left, or inside, they’re (always) interchanging, which is difficult, and we have to be prepared for that.”
Another thing they’ll have to be ready for is a team that comes into Sunday’s game as confident as ever with last week’s late-game triumph still fresh in their minds.
“They got a really good result last week and they’re coming off a high,” Revolution center back Stephen McCarthy said. “So, it’s going to be important to come out strong at the beginning of the game and try to get in their head a little bit.”
Easier said than done, of course. Last week, the Revolution were bull-rushed right from the opening whistle by a surprisingly-efficient D.C. attack, which put enough pressure on the typically-resolute Revolution defense to concede an uncharacteristic early goal.
In light of last week’s early embarrassment, McCarthy said that he and his teammates have to come out “hot” this week, and mentally focused on pressuring their opponent right out of the gate.
“It’s really a mindset,” McCarthy said. “We have a formula to try and play some balls over the top and press them instead of getting pressed. That was the game plan in D.C., and I screwed that up playing some bad long balls, but we know how to play. We know how to do that and I think we’ll try to do that this week.”
Setting the tempo will be crucial to the Revolution. It almost cost them points last week, and with the club back at Gillette Stadium following a three-game road trip, the club can’t live as dangerously as they did in D.C. -- especially against an opponent as unpredictable as Toronto.
“Last time we were at home, we lost to Houston,” Heaps said. “So it’s important for us to go out there and let everyone know that this is our place and let Toronto know that they’ve played against us.”