New York Red Bulls (14-9-6, 48 points, 1st place in the Eastern Conference) vs. the New England Revolution (9-15-5, 32 points, 5th place in the Eastern Conference) at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, N.J.
New England lead the all-time series 25-16-11; the Revs won the teams' last meeting 3-2 on May 29 at Gillette Stadium.
8 p.m. ET, ESPN2, ESPN Deportes
The Revolution sure aren’t playing like a team that has nothing left to play for this season. Despite being out of playoff contention for more than a month, New England have eight points from their last five games, including a 1-0 victory over Kansas City that eliminated the team from the playoffs.
The last time New York and New England met, it was a gritty 3-2 win by the Revs and the Red Bulls will be looking to not only exact a measure of revenge, but also win their first Eastern Conference title since 2000.
New York Red Bulls
Home-field advantage throughout the playoffs is on the line for New York, who are looking to lock-down the conference title with a win. They will have to do so without Thierry Henry, who has been ruled out of the match with a knee injury by head coach Hans Backe. Midfielder Rafa Márquez should be available for the match.
RBNY must not only balance carrying a fresh lineup into the playoffs as they pursue the conference title but also ensure that none of their players are suspended for the postseason. Defenders Carlos Mendes and Mike Petke, plus midfielder Mehdi Ballouchy, all are one yellow card away from a league-mandated suspension. Youngster Juan Agudelo should make his third league appearance Thursday night.
New England Revolution
It could be argued that the Revs are playing their best soccer of the season, with two wins and two draws in their last five games and are a month-and-a-half removed from making the finals of the SuperLiga. Steve Nicol's side is playing loose and their wide play has improved greatly over the past month.
Despite the Revolution’s relatively disappointing season, Marko Perovic has been a revelation for the club, pacing all scorers with six tallies en route to being named the team’s MVP.
This year marks the first time that New England have failed to make the playoffs since Nicol took over the club in 2002. The team also failed to qualify for the US Open Cup, having at least made the round of 16 each year since 2003 including winning the tournament in 2007.
Heroes and Villains
Shalrie Joseph vs. Rafa Márquez: Whoa boy, this could be a dandy. Over the past five years, Joseph has been the preeminent central midfielder in this league. He is New England's general, winning balls and moving into the attack. At times, he has even played forward for Nicol.
But when New York signed former Barcelona midfielder and current Mexican national team captain Márquez, they signed one of the best holding midfielders in the world. Watching these two players, neither of whom shies away from physical play, do battle on Thursday night is worth the price of admission.
Stat that makes you go “Hmm"
The last time New York beat New England was September 17, 2005, with an 86th-minute Youri Djorkaeff goal clinching a 5-4 victory for the MetroStars.