As the Revolution approach their season finale Thursday night at Red Bulls Arena, the team is hoping to be judged more by its two most recent performances than its dismal 2010 season as a whole. A victory would give the Revolution three straight wins to close the season and their sixth consecutive campaign with at least 10 victories.
Last Saturday, the Revolution defeated the Kansas City Wizards 1-0 at Gillette Stadium. The Wizards went into the game needing victories in their final two matches (combined with two straight losses by Colorado) to qualify for the playoffs. The Revolution, however, would not accommodate as a Shalrie Joseph goal spelled the difference.
Two weeks ago, the team captured a 2-1 victory at Houston. Both victories came with second-year goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth in net as starter Matt Reis underwent season-ending ankle surgery with three games remaining.
The Revolution, 9-15-5 and out of the playoff picture for the past month, will face the 14-9-6 Red Bulls, who have 48 points on the season (one more than the Columbus Crew) and are hoping to be crowned Eastern Conference champions.
“It’d be huge [to finish] with three straight wins,” defender Darrius Barnes told Revolutionsoccer.net. “You always want to build off your last game. They say you’re only as good as your last game, so if we can have that mindset going in and try to get a ‘W’ in New York, it would be huge for this team.
“We feel like we’ve played our best ball here down the stretch,” he continued. “So if we just think about that performance-wise, and the product we’ve been able to put on the field these past few games -- if we can keep that up in New York, I think we’ll do well.”
The Red Bulls, who have upped the ante in MLS with the signings of Frenchman Thierry Henry and Mexico captain Rafa Marquez to multimillion-dollar salaries, need a victory on Thursday night to clinch the top seed in the East and guarantee home-field advantage throughout the MLS Cup playoffs.
Central midfielder Pat Phelan told Revolutionsoccer.net that while he’d certainly prefer being in the Red Bulls shoes, he is not approaching the game with envy in mind.
“It’s not necessarily about sticking it to another team,” said Phelan. “Obviously, we’d like to be in their position. It’s more about us playing well and having something to play for. This season’s been a disappointment and to go out with a loss would just kind of cap that off the wrong way. So I think we’re going to go down there and give it our all.”
Phelan and Cory Gibbs will return to the starting lineup after missing last week’s game because of suspensions.
The Revolution possess an impressive 8-0-6 record in the last 14 regular-season meetings with New York dating all the way back to the end of the 2005 season.
While the Revolution have almost nothing to lose, they don’t plan to throw caution to the wind and play tactically irresponsible soccer.
“It’s going to be tough,” said Barnes. “We’re going to have to be smart with the way we pressure them because we don’t want to get played through or played over the top. So we just have to be smart and make sure we’re keeping a good line and getting everybody behind the ball to make things tough for them.
“Also, we have to be able to play and get the ball moving side to side when [we’re in possession], because when you have a team like that which keeps the ball well, you don’t want to be defending the entire game. If we can be smart with the ball, I think we’ll do well.”