FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – A pair of MLS originals will do battle on Sunday afternoon at Red Bull Arena, where the New England Revolution will visit the New York Red Bulls as part of Heineken Rivalry Week.
The Revs (6-11-9, 27 pts.) and Red Bulls (10-9-7, 37 pts.) will meet for the 77th time on Sunday, including matchups in both the MLS Cup Playoffs and the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. New England’s first-ever win as an MLS club was over New York – then the MetroStars – more than 20 years ago on April 20, 1996.
ESPN’s coverage of the Revs and Red Bulls begins at 2:30 p.m. on Sunday afternoon, and Heineken Rivalry Week will continue with the Portland Timbers and Seattle Sounders FC (5 p.m.ET on ESPN), and Orlando City SC against New York City FC (7 p.m. ET on FS1).
Local radio listeners can catch Brad Feldman and Paul Mariner with the English call on 98.5 The Sports Hub, while Portuguese fans can tune into WMVX 1570 AM Nossa Radio USA.
Current Form: Clean sheet against Earthquakes a positive step for Revolution
A midweek, cross-country trip to visit the San Jose Earthquakes was always going to be a tall task for the Revolution, but a resolute defensive performance garnered a well-earned point in a scoreless draw.
The result snapped the Revolution’s four-game losing streak and the clean sheet turned the tides on their recent defensive struggles, but most importantly the performance offered a platform on which New England can build heading into the final eight games of the regular season.
“It’s a platform. It’s something to build on,” said goalkeeper Brad Knighton, who made one save in Wednesday night’s shutout effort. “We’d been conceding a lot of goals recently and for us to put together a team performance like that on Wednesday night was great. But now we need to take that into this weekend against New York.”
Also of note on Wednesday night was the Revolution’s use of a new tactical system, deploying a 4-4-2 setup with a diamond in midfield. Gershon Koffie was strong at the base of the diamond, while Juan Agudelo (and later Teal Bunbury) offered a strike partner for Kei Kamara to work alongside.
“It’s something that we’ve practiced a lot over the course of the year, so it’s not like it’s brand new for us,” said Chris Tierney. “We’ve transitioned to it in-game, so the only difference is that you’re starting the game that way.
“It’s not something we expect to take three or four games until you see it (click); we expect it to work now. The clock’s ticking on our season, so there’s no more building up to our best – we’ve got to be at our best starting this Sunday in New York.”
If Wednesday night’s trip to Avaya Stadium was a test, so, too, will be Sunday’s visit to Red Bull Arena. Jesse Marsch’s side is 8-0-1 in its last nine home games, while the Red Bulls are unbeaten in their last eight overall (3-0-5). New York are 9-3-7 since mid-April, after starting the season 1-6-0.
Leading the charge are Sacha Kljestan and Bradley Wright-Phillips. Kljestan leads the league with 15 assists, while Wright-Phillips is second in the league with 15 goals, including six in the last five games.
“Red Bull is an excellent team and that environment, Red Bull Arena, is a tough place to play,” said Heaps. “We have to be really ready for the physical challenge and the mental challenge, playing another game on the road with a short turnaround. It’s important that we stick together and use the principles from Wednesday night.”
Past Meetings: Fagundez lifted Revs over Red Bulls in only previous meeting this year
Diego Fagundez’s fourth career goal against the Red Bulls was enough to lift the Revolution to a 1-0 win over their rivals in the only previous meeting this season, back on April 1 at Gillette Stadium. It was the Revolution’s third straight win over the Red Bulls in Foxborough, where they’ve enjoyed much success through the years.
New York have had similar success at Red Bull Arena, though, where the Revs are 0-6-1 in seven regular-season visits since the venue opened in 2010. New England’s only triumph at RBA came in 2014, when the Revs claimed a 2-1 win in the first leg of the Eastern Conference Championship series.
That day the Revs had more than 1,200 traveling supporters in the stands, and they’ll have another strong crowd on Sunday as a pack of busses will make their way down I-95.
“You think back to the playoff run we went on a couple years ago and our fans up there in the rafters cheering us on; it’s great support for us and it carries us throughout the game,” said Knighton. “We’re looking forward to having our fans travel down there and hopefully we put on a good performance for them.”
Injury Report: Woodberry and Watson back in the mix; Goncalves likely an option
Heaps was forced to tinker with the backline on Wednesday night in San Jose with London Woodberry suspended and Jose Goncalves (hamstring) sidelined, but both could be available this weekend. Woodberry is once again eligible for selection, while Goncalves trained in full on Friday morning.
“We’re still determining where [Jose] is (physically), but he was able to be on the field today,” Heaps said. “I think both players are options.”
There was also good news for Je-Vaughn Watson, who returned from a brief injury absence on Wednesday night, while Femi Hollinger-Janzen continues to angle for a return after missing significant time with a groin injury.
The Red Bulls will be without outside back Connor Lade (knee) on Sunday, but both Dax McCarty (tibia) and Damien Perrinelle (ankle) are on the verge of returning after missing time in recent weeks.
Final Thoughts: Agudelo excited for another trip “home” to face his former club
“It’s always a day that I mark on my calendar,” Agudelo said of going back to Red Bull Arena, where he debuted as a professional with the Red Bulls in 2010. “I get a little bit emotional because I grew up there. So much family and support is going to be there every time that I always look forward to this one.
“I worked my butt off to try to get some minutes in this game.”