Two original MLS sides renew old rivalries this weekend as the New York Red Bulls ship up to Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts to face the New England Revolution on Saturday. New York claimed a rare victory in the first leg of their regular season encounters against New England at Red Bull Arena on June 10 after Thierry Henry deflected a shot off Revs defender Ryan Cochrane for an own goal and followed it with the game winner.
Wins have been hard to come by for a Red Bulls side that settled for a 2-2 draw against the rebuilding Chicago Fire last weekend at Red Bull Arena. Henry and Joel Lindpere had the first and last words respectively on the score sheet, but defensive miscues and poor communication allowed Ghanian forward Dominic Oduro and Argentinean midfielder Sebastian Grazzini to tally a first-half lead and leave New York chasing a draw rather than a much-needed win.
New England comes into Saturday's match with tired legs and spirits low after a stoppage-time strike by Bobby Boswell stole a draw for the visiting Houston Dynamo at Gillette Stadium on Wednesday. Despite an early Cochrane goal, the Revs played most of the match on the defensive as the Dynamo controlled the run of play for most of the match and tripled New England's shots on goal before Boswell netted the equalizer.
A D.C. United (7-6-10, 31 pts) draw on Thursday leaves New York (6-6-13, 31 pts) in fifth place in the Eastern Conference and with a tenuous grip on a postseason wild card berth. Houston (7-7-11, 32 pts) stands between the Red Bulls and third-place Sporting Kansas City (8-7-9, 33 pts) for an automatic playoff spot, while the Columbus Crew (10-7-7, 37 pts) and Philadelphia Union (8-5-10, 34 pts) face each other this weekend to establish Eastern Conference supremacy.
'Keep Out. New England will kick off against a potent Red Bulls attack this weekend without longtime 'keeper Matt Reis. Reis received a red card in Wednesday's match against the Dynamo during a stoppage-time scrum for what referee Michael Kennedy described as "use of offensive, insulting or abusive language and/or gestures."
Bobby Shuttleworth will replace the suspended Reis on Saturday, but the 24-year-old shot stopper hasn't started a game since April and isn't heading into the match on the heels of one of the best goalkeeping performances of the season like Reis would have been before getting the heave-ho. If New York can continue the offensive momentum it created against Chicago, it could be a long night for the Revs' backup 'keeper.
Key Matchup: Marquez vs. Feilhaber. While Tim Ream and Roy Miller had the unfortunately distinction of being on camera when the Fire exposed their dysfunctional defensive efforts last Saturday, that did not leave Rafael Marquez above scrutiny.
The Mexican center back was just as out of position as the rest of his back line on those plays and others, inciting murmurs from critics that Marquez isn't rising to the expectations thrust upon a pricey designated player and looks uncomfortable since returning from the hamstring injury he endured during the Gold Cup finale.
If Marquez wants to restore his reputation, he can start by keeping the dynamic Benny Feilhaber at bay. The Revs attacking midfielder did not appear in the first leg of their regular season encounters with the Red Bulls due to international duty with the U.S. Men's National Team, but he'll be there on Saturday looking to create chaos in the box and replace the attacking contributions of injured Revs forward Rajko Lekic.
Keeping Feilhaber in check will involve active marking and frequent communication -- the two things Marquez and his back line were accused of failing to do against the Fire last Saturday.
The Big Hurt. Lekic's availability remains in question as he recovers from a fractured big toe on his right foot, but he's not the only one hurting for the Revs. Cochrane left Wednesday's match with what was described as "concussion symptoms" and will likely miss Saturday's match.
Meanwhile, Bouna Coundoul is expected to get the start in net for the Red Bulls in place of the injured Frank Rost. Jan Gunnar Solli will also miss Saturday's match as he recovers from a right quadriceps strain.
87. That's how many shots on goal taken by the Revs this season, which is the worst total in the league. They also score on a paltry 9.6% of their shots and 29.9% of all shots on goal, which ranks them 11th in MLS in both categories. This is not a recipe for attacking soccer.
Lucky Number Seven. New York's win over the Revs in June ended a seven-game winless streak. The Red Bulls now head into this weekend's matchup in Gillette Stadium with another seven-game winless streak in tow not counting the club's Emirates Cup appearances.