HARRISON, N.J. – One of Major League Soccer’s oldest rivalries will be renewed this weekend when the New England Revolution travels down I-95 to Red Bull Arena for a nationally-televised showdown with the New York Red Bulls on Friday, June 10.
The Revs (3-6-4, 13 pts.) and Red Bulls (4-2-7, 19 pts.) will get underway at 8:30 p.m. as part of FOX Soccer’s weekly “Soccer Night in America” coverage, with live 30-minute pre- and post-game shows also included in the broadcast. Radio listeners can catch the call on 98.5 The Sports Hub’s HD2 channel.
Current Form: Both sides looking to snap winless skids as 2011 pushes into the summer months
Since opening the month of May with back-to-back clean sheets against the Colorado Rapids (0-0 draw) and Vancouver Whitecaps (1-0 win), the Revs have suffered three consecutive losses by one-goal margins. The most recent setback was a 1-0 loss to defending Western Conference champion FC Dallas last weekend at Pizza Hut Park as the Revolution was shut out for the fourth time in the last six league matches.
“Nobody likes how we’re going right now,” said central defender Ryan Cochrane. “It’s basically (about) getting on the training field, putting a little extra work in and doing everything we can to kind of turn the tide here. It’s nice that we have a shorter week. It’s a quicker turnaround and it’s good to get your mind looking forward instead of back. That’s all you can do at this point.”
New York currently occupies second place in the Eastern Conference standings and is tied with the league-leading LA Galaxy for fewest losses (two) on the season, but the Red Bulls have struggled to close out games in recent weeks en route to a six-game (0-1-5) winless run. Entering this weekend’s action, New York has played to four consecutive draws, including two at Red Bull Arena.
Past Meetings: Revs looking to regain upper hand over Red Bulls
When Dane Richards and Joel Lindpere scored goals either side of halftime to hand the Red Bulls a 2-0 win over the Revolution in the 2010 regular-season finale last October, it snapped a remarkable run which had seen New England hold the upper hand over New York for almost five full seasons.
From September 2005 to May 2010, the Revs went unbeaten (8-0-6) in 14 straight regular-season meetings with the Red Bulls (formerly the MetroStars), including seven games on the road (2-0-5). New England also eliminated New York from the postseason twice (2005 and 2007) during that span.
Having seen their extensive run of success in the series snapped in the most recent meeting, the Revs will be hoping to start a new streak on Friday night at Red Bull Arena.
Injury Report: Midfield duo out for New England; Solli questionable for Red Bulls
The Revs and Red Bulls have two of the shortest injury reports in Major League Soccer, but both sides will still be affected by major absences on Friday night.
Influential midfielders Benny Feilhaber (R ankle sprain) and Marko Perovic (L knee surgery) will both be missing for New England, which hopes to get Feilhaber back in the coming weeks but won’t see Perovic return until 2012 after the Serb’s season was ended when he underwent three surgical procedures on his left knee last week.
The French duo of Ousmane Dabo and Didier Domi provided a boost with their returns to the lineup last weekend in Dallas, although their minutes were limited in part by the stifling Texas heat.
Former Revolution defender Chris Alright is unavailable for New York while recovering from hernia surgery and newcomer Jan Gunnar Solli is questionable with a right hamstring strain.
Key Player: Revolution forward Rajko Lekic
With goals at a premium in recent weeks – a total of just six goals have been scored by both sides in the Revolution’s last five league matches – New England could rely on Danish striker Rajko Lekic to find a way to put the ball in the back of the net on Friday night.
Lekic has one goal in eight appearances since joining the Revolution in April, and head coach Steve Nicol believes improved work in possession will ultimately lead to more chances for the entire team in the attacking third.
“We’ve been trying to concentrate on [possession] a lot this week,” said Nicol. “Not anymore than we normally do, but just trying to emphasize that if we do possess it, then we will create chances.”
Final Thoughts: Shorthanded Red Bulls missing five players to Gold Cup duty
New York was hit hard by 2011 CONCACAF Gold Cup call-ups, losing five players to the tournament which is currently in the midst of its group stage. Juan Agudelo (United States), Dwayne De Rosario (Canada), Rafa Marquez (Mexico), Tim Ream (United States) and Dane Richards (Jamaica) are all currently away on national team duty, while Revolution captain Shalrie Joseph declined a call-up to Grenada and instead remained with his club.
Despite those absences, the Revs are focused on their own performance more so than they’re preparing specifically for their opponent.
“It’s going to be a hard game for us regardless of how they’re playing, who’s playing and who’s not playing,” said Nicol. “We’re not thinking about that whatsoever. We’re more concerned about getting the things that we want to do right. If we do that, then we’ll have a chance whoever we’re playing against.”