FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – New England Revolution players and coaches must strike a delicate balance as they prepare for Sunday afternoon’s “win and in” regular-season finale against the Columbus Crew.
On one hand the Revs hope to feed off the energy and intensity created by the situation, knowing three points all but guarantees a postseason spot while anything less could mean an abrupt end to the season. Such scenarios have a tendency to bring out the best in special players.
On the other hand a calm focus is required in order to properly execute a game plan and keep the overall team objectives squarely in sight.
“It’s important to be able to balance those two things,” said head coach Jay Heaps. “Because you want to be up; you have to be up for a game like this. In the same breath, we build our game plan so guys can feel secure with what we’re going to do, so that helps with the anxiety of the game.”
Many of the Revolution’s younger players are experiencing their first postseason race, so goalkeeper Matt Reis has been one source of guidance in recent weeks. Reis is no stranger to the playoffs, having reached the postseason on 11 separate occasions while racking up 20 individual playoff appearances.
According to the veteran shot-stopper, the balance is all about staying focused first and foremost, while keeping that intensity locked away until the appropriate time.
“I think you try to keep it bottled in,” Reis said. “In the back of our minds we all know the intensity and what’s on the line here, but you try and go about it just as a normal game. We have our game plan, we’ve got to follow it and we’re going to try and get a result.”
Despite their lack of playoff experience, Reis noted that the Revs are primed for Sunday afternoon’s pressure-packed atmosphere after facing similar must-win scenarios in recent weeks. Victories in Montreal and at home against Columbus the past two weekends came under comparable circumstances, giving the Revs a taste of exactly what they’ll face this weekend at Crew Stadium.
And, hopefully, what they’ll see straight through into the playoffs.