FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Both the New England Revolution and Houston Dynamo will be fully committed to picking up three points when the teams clash on Saturday night at Gillette Stadium.
The difference will be in how each side attempts to accomplish that objective.
“Houston’s style, relative to ours, is pretty different,” said Revolution forward Blake Brettschneider. “(They play) lots of long balls, lots of big, physical play. Whereas with us, we like to try to keep the ball on the ground, try to possess it. We have a lot of very skillful and technical players. It’ll be very contrasting styles of soccer.”
Under head coach Jay Heaps, the Revs have implemented a possession-oriented approach which features a relatively fluid attacking formation. The wingers are given the freedom to pinch inside – and sometimes switch sides completely – with much of the width provided by the outside backs.
Houston, meanwhile, utilizes a more rigid 4-4-2 with much of the play flowing through Brad Davis on the left wing and a physical forward corps featuring the likes of Will Bruin, Brian Ching, Mac Kandji and Cam Weaver. It’s a formula the Dynamo – an MLS Cup finalist last season – has successfully employed for years.
“Houston’s a very organized team,” said Heaps. “They play a solid 4-4-2 with some very good players. They like to disrupt the way things go. They’ve got strong players and good athletes so it’s very difficult. We’ve struggled against teams like that so it’s going to be very important for us to make sure our game plan is set going into this week and we continue to work on things that we have to continue to get better at.”
The Revs encountered a similar test in the season opener against the San Jose Earthquakes and the bruising presence of Steven Lenhart. After suffering a 1-0 loss at Buck Shaw Stadium, Heaps admitted his side resorted to matching the Earthquakes’ direct style, an approach which doesn’t suit the more technical Revolution.
Against Houston, right back Kevin Alston believes the Revs need to match their opponent’s intensity from the opening whistle, but stick to the short passing style which was so successful in last weekend’s convincing 4-1 win over Vancouver Whitecaps FC.
“We have to be physical,” Alston said. “They’re great on set pieces. Brad Davis plays those dangerous balls in, they have a lot of big bodies and that’s how they get a lot of their goals. We need to match that physicality. We need to be intense, but we need to play around them. We need to do what we do best.”