Heading into the World Cup break on a high note will be the objective for the New England Revolution (7-4-2, 23 points) in Sunday's conference clash with the New York Red Bulls (3-5-6, 15 points) at Gillette Stadium. Kickoff is set for 5:00 p.m.
Sunday's game will be the last MLS match the Revolution will play before the league-wide three-week break for the World Cup, which kicks off on June 12. New England resumes its regular-season schedule on June 28 when the Philadelphia Union visit Foxborough.
The Revolution enter Sunday's clash licking the wounds from their surprising 2-0 loss to last-place Montreal at Stade Saputo last weekend. The loss snapped a seven-game unbeaten run (5-0-2) in which the club climbed to the top of the Eastern Conference.
Another club looking to put recent disappointments in the rearview is the Red Bulls, who've failed to crack the win column in each of their last four. Although a 1-1 draw against Sporting Kansas City on May 27 at Sporting Park put the skids on a three-game losing streak, it's clear that coach Mike Petke wants to see more from his squad on Sunday.
Here's what to watch for when two longtime rivals meet for the first time this season:
-Will Bradley Wright-Phillips wreak havoc on the Revolution back line? For a team that has relied heavily on the likes of Thierry Henry, Tim Cahill and Dax McCarty in recent years, the sensational play of Bradley Wright-Phillips has been nothing short of a revelation this season. The English International has already bagged 11 goals in his first 13 games, a pace that has him in position to break the club's single-season scoring record set by Juan Pablo Angel, who scored 19 in 2007. Not surprisingly, Revolution coach Jay Heaps expects Wright-Phillips to be one of the Red Bulls' biggest threats on Sunday.
"He reads the game extremely well," Heaps said. "He plays the line well, but also I think on crosses, he knows how and has a sense for where the ball is going. It's one of those innate senses that it's just instinct at that point."
-Can a depleted Red Bull team snap their winless ways at Gillette Stadium? As good as the defending Supporters' Shield winners have been in recent years, one place where the Red Bulls haven't quite put it together is none other than Gillette Stadium. Entering Sunday's contest, New York is 0-11-6 in its last 17 regular-season contests in New England. For those keeping score at home, that's nearly 12 years without a win for the Red Bulls/MetroStars dating back to their last victory in Foxboro, which came on June 29, 2002. Putting an end to that streak on Sunday won't be easy, though. With Dax McCarty ruled out, Tim Cahill away on World Cup duty, and likely no shows from Thierry Henry and Jamison Olave due to the artificial turf, the Red Bulls may very well have to wait another year to get an oh-so elusive win at Gillette Stadium.
-Getting off to a stronger start this time around. Last week, an inspired Impact XI jumped on a lethargic-looking Revolution side that conceded a pair of first-half goals. What's worse: The deficit could've been even deeper after Marco Di Vaio left not one, but two first-half chances on the table. With the lessons learned from last week's loss a reminder of how important it is to break out of the gate strong, Revolution midfielder Lee Nguyen doesn't expect a repeat performance this week.
"We just have to have a good warm-up, and come out ready with the same mentality we brought into the games before Montreal," Lee Nguyen said. "We have to let the ball do the work."
-Revolution looking to stay unbeaten at home. One reason why the Revolution are currently atop the standings is their particularly strong home form this season. Through the first five games at Gillette Stadium, the Revolution are 4-0-1, and didn't concede a home goal until their 2-1 win against D.C. on May 24. With only two players on Tuesday's injury report, plenty of in-house competition for spots and a depleted Red Bulls team on tap for Sunday, the Revolution appear to be in a good position to continue their run of success in front of their supporters before the World Cup break.
-Putting last week's performance out to pasture. It was a scoreline that arched a number of eyebrows across the league last week -- 2-0, Montreal over New England. But the Revolution didn't dwell on their misfortune following their uninspiring performance in Montreal. Instead, they looked at the film, noted the necessary adjustments, and went on to the training pitch intent on putting together a stronger outing on Sunday.
"It's been a good week," Heaps said. "I think we really wanted to get on the field because in the Montreal game, we were a little bit (off), our balance was off, and our shape was a little bit disjointed, so we were exposed for the counterattack, and we don't want that. We want to work on getting back after that."