Revs expect physical battle with Rapids

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – New England Revolution head coach Steve Nicol didn’t feel his side was prepared to match the physicality of Chivas USA in last weekend’s 3-0 loss at The Home Depot Center.

He’s confident that won’t be the case on Saturday night when the Revs host the defending MLS Cup champion Colorado Rapids in the front end a brief two-game home-stand at Gillette Stadium.

“Colorado’s a big, strong team which at the very least is going to look to knock you down,” said Nicol. “We better be strong and ready for it.”

Led by the rugged midfield duo of captain Pablo Mastroeni and former Revolution stalwart Jeff Larentowicz, the Rapids have formed a hardnosed style of play which is predicated on overpowering their opponents with size and strength. While Colorado possesses the necessary dose of skill to complement its uncompromising approach, it’s the club’s physicality which seems to underline its success.

“That’s one of their strengths is their physicality and the way they tackle and get into people,” said captain Shalrie Joseph, who partnered Larentowicz in New England’s central midfield from 2006-09. “It’s very important that we come out ready to play because we know it’s going to be a physical battle. We have to match their intensity.”

“They’re a really strong side,” said Chris Tierney, who could fill in for the injured Didier Domi (L quad strain) at left back on Saturday night. “They always compete physically and they have some players who can hurt you up top. To start out we just have to stand up to them physically and win our one-on-one battles.”

New England’s task will begin from the opening whistle, as a strong start will be critical in establishing the tenor and putting the visitors on their heels. Only after the Revs have proven themselves up to the challenge physically will they be able to settle into a rhythm and start playing what Nicol often refers to as “silky soccer.”

“In games like this you talk about earning the right to play,” said Tierney. “That means winning your challenges early in the match and really setting the tone. Then hopefully as the game settles down and the pace slows a bit, we can pass the ball around, get the ball wide, do what we do well offensively and try to score some goals.”

In short, the Revs will be aiming to do what they couldn’t in last weekend’s shutout loss on the West Coast. But while the Revs will be attempting to correct the mistakes which cost them dearly against Chivas USA, they’ll be long past dwelling on the result by the time they kick off Saturday night’s game against the Rapids.

“That’s the good thing about this team,” said Joseph. “We have a great mentality that we leave the last game behind us. Whether we win or lose, we try to look forward to the next one, so we have to leave what happened in LA behind us and try to move forward. We have a huge game against Colorado on Saturday and we have to get three points.”