FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Initial encounters against conference rivals have not been a strong point for the Revolution this season, but coach Jay Heaps is hoping to reverse that trend on Sunday against the New York Red Bulls.
In first meetings against conference foes, the Revolution are 0-4-1, their lone measure of success coming against the Chicago Fire in a 1-1 draw on April 5. With the Revolution set to meet the Red Bulls for the first of three contests, the challenge is even greater with a number of New York’s starters unavailable.
The Revolution coach said there’s only one way to put together the game plan for Sunday’s clash.
“We prepare for basically their entire team and that way when Sunday comes, we can narrow down what they’re going to do,” Heaps said. “We’ll prepare for all their players, and when the lineup comes out, we’ll prepare for the guys on that list.”
That may sound like seat-of-the-pants game planning in a sense, but Heaps’ approach isn’t unusual. Many clubs keep their travel roster under wraps, leaving the opposing coach to guess who’ll be present and who’ll be left behind.
One player Heaps probably won’t have to worry about, though, is Thierry Henry, who’s eschewed the opportunity to play on the artificial surface at Gillette Stadium. Even though a grass surface was installed for Friday’s friendly between Mexico and Portugal, the Revolution technical staff requested the natural stuff be removed for Sunday’s clash.
Even so, Heaps said there’s still plenty to worry about when it comes to the Red Bullls, regardless of who’s available.
“They have a pretty dangerous attack, and some excellent players," said Heaps. "Bradley Wright-Phillips is leading the league (in goals). (They) have players that, at any time, can change the game, and I think that’s something they’ve shown where, in stretches, they’re without question, the best team in the league.”
ROWE NOT TO BLAME FOR LOSS: Heaps and forward Teal Bunbury were both quick to defend the performance of midfielder Kelyn Rowe in last weekend’s 2-0 loss -- a loss that witnessed the Revolution midfield stuck in disarray during stretches.
After Rowe came on as a substitute in the team’s previous three games, Heaps gave him the start over Daigo Kobayashi, who was nursing a back injury going into the game. But according to the Revolution coach, the roster change wasn't the reason why his team struggled against the last-place Impact.
“It was our shape,” Heaps said. “Clearly, we were a little bit stretched in what we were doing defensively. It wasn’t one guy -- it was the team shape, and we spent a lot of time going over it, and we’re going to correct it.”
While some may have blamed Rowe for the hiccups in the midfield, Bunbury said that the root of the problem had nothing to do with the way his teammate played.
“Kelyn, for me, is just as good of a player as Daigo,” Bunbury said. “Obviously, we had continuity with Daigo in there, but I feel like Kelyn had a great game, as well, so I don’t think that played a part in (the loss).”
TOUGHING IT OUT ON TURF: With Henry expected to skip the opportunity to play on the plastic pitch at Gillette Stadium, Bunbury was asked about his feelings about players who sit out conference contests due to the playing surface.
“Yeah, I really don’t have much to say about that,” Bunbury said. “For different players, I guess, they have different feelings about playing on turf. Obviously, it’s different playing on turf than playing on grass, but I’m excited to be playing.”