FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – The danger of being one of the more proactive teams in the league is that, when a mistake comes, you leave yourself open to the counter.
It's a lesson Jay Heaps and the New England Revolution have had to learn quickly and well this season. They put it to good use against Chicago on June 2, taking a 2-0 win from one of MLS' best counterattacking sides. And they'll need to do it again on Saturday against Columbus (7:30 pm ET, watch LIVE online) at Gillette Stadium.
The Crew don't stretch the field vertically quite like the Fire do, but they've proved a handful over the past six weeks as they've climbed into the Eastern Conference playoff picture.
“I felt like Chicago had done something similar to what Columbus is doing," Heaps told MLSsoccer.com about the need for his side to limit its miscues. "You sit in, you wait for your time and you take advantage.”
Those tactics will require the Revs to exhibit significant care as they attempt to press forward and secure the upper hand in the match. One mistake could open the door for the Crew to snatch a go-ahead goal – something they've done on the road recently at Seattle and San Jose, two of the better teams in the league.
“You have to make sure that you don't give anything away,” Heaps said. “You have to make sure your game is set up so that guys are in a position – if there is a lost ball or a giveaway – where there is support and cover. On our side, we have to focus on what we do well: we have to take advantage of balls forward, possession, trying to get in behind teams and putting the team that is on the road under pressure.”
Columbus' recent results – five matches unbeaten and six matches conceding one or fewer goals – suggest those initiatives may prove somewhat difficult to implement on Saturday night. Heaps said his team will heed those lessons as they prepare for this critical home match.
“Columbus is a very good road team,” Heaps said. “They went into Seattle and beat Seattle. When you've get a group like this, they're confident they can win on the road. They've played a lot of different lineups. They're difficult to defend because they take advantage of your mistakes. When they get a chance, they punish you.”
Heaps will hope to have defensive midfielder Clyde Simms (left ankle tendonitis) available for the match after he was upgraded to questionable when the club released its injury list on Friday afternoon.