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Final

Defense the focus as Revs welcome dangerous Crew

AJ Soares

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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – The scoreline in Columbus a few weeks ago suggested that the New England Revolution didn't cope with the Crew's potent attack all that well.

But ahead of the third and final meeting of the season between these two teams on Wednesday (8 pm ET, watch LIVE online), Revs head coach Jay Heaps begs to differ.

“I thought we did a good job [defensively] at their place,” Heaps told MLSsoccer.com about the Crew's 4-3 win at Crew Stadium on Aug. 25. “We gave up three shots at their place in the first half and all three were goals. In the second half, I think they showed some of their attacking brilliance with [Federico] Higuaín and [Jairo] Arrieta and [Eddie] Gaven running off of other players.”

Heaps and his players will want to see more of the first 25 minutes they played that day – where goals from Ryan Guy and Jerry Bengtson had spotted New England a 2-0 lead – and less of the final 65 minutes when they take the field Wednesday night at Gillette Stadium.

There’s no room for conceding free kicks in poor areas or permitting too much freedom in the defensive third on this particular evening. Not with the pressure of a 10-game winless streak bearing down on a Revs side keen to reverse their current form.

In order to do so, New England will have to figure out a way to contain Arrieta and Higuaín, both of whom scored a brace in the teams’ last meeting. Though each player brings a different skill-set to the table – Arrieta rides the line in a bid to get in behind the rearguard, while Higuaín slides into gaps to play the killer pass and polish off attacking sequences – both have been crucial to Columbus’ recent run of form.

Since making his first MLS start on July 21, Arrieta has five goals for the Crew, while Higuaín has notched three goals and six assists since making his league debut on August 19.

“I think we have to take away their key guys,” defender A.J. Soares said. “They have [Arrieta and Higuaín] up top that are really gelling right now. We have to take that away, but they have 11 solid guys across the board. You can't focus on one or two guys on their team. It's a hardworking team that can beat you in a lot of different ways. We have to stay turned on, keep looking at the film and see what they do well. We know the team well. We're confident going in that we'll know what their game plan is and that we're going to be able to exploit it.”

All of that knowledge did not yield any points at Crew Stadium, but the Revs are optimistic that they can prompt an upset and shake up the turbulent Eastern Conference playoff race even further on Wednesday night.

“They're a good team,” Revolution defender Chris Tierney said. “They're very dangerous going forward. They obviously have some players that are really heating up. We have to be wary of what they have up top and make sure we defend well, first and foremost. At the same time, we scored some goals there. They leave holes when they commit numbers forward. If we take our chances, we can get three points.”