FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Only a few short weeks ago, New England entered the unknown up at Stade Saputo to face Montréal for the first time.
The narrow 2-1 defeat in Quebec on July 18 did not unfold as the Revolution would have preferred, but the setback provided a useful foundation to prepare for Sunday night's meeting at Gillette Stadium (7 pm ET, watch LIVE online), according to Revolution coach Jay Heaps.
“We're starting to play teams for a second time – and a third time with Kansas City – and we're starting to get a familiarity with them,” Heaps told MLSsoccer.com. “I think each team has changed even a little bit since then. It was only a few weeks ago, but what they do – whether it's [Marco] Di Vaio or [Andrew] Wenger up top – is a little bit different. They've added [Alessandro] Nesta, [Nelson] Rivas is out, but [Matteo] Ferrari is back in. Those guys weren't there when we played them last. It's a whole new set of challenges.”
This particular slate of hurdles appear more suited to how the Revolution would prefer to play. Although the Impact currently rank first in the league in fouls committed (321), they also play a fairly expansive brand of soccer that offers plenty of operating room for the opposition.
Most teams – including Sporting Kansas City in its 1-0 victory over the Revs last Saturday – have preferred to stamp their presence on the game to limit New England's effectiveness in possession, but Revolution midfielder Ryan Guy said he thought the Impact's approach would allow for a more open affair.
“I think they play a relatively similar style to us,” Revolution midfielder Guy said. “I think that suits us because it makes the game more of a football vs. football one. I think that's a plus for us because it's about heads up play. The onus is on us to live up to our expectations and our level.”
A run of four defeats in the past five matches suggests the Revs face a significant task to meet that burden on Sunday night. Heaps will hope to name Kevin Alston (questionable with left hamstring soreness) and A.J. Soares (questionable with a right hamstring strain) in his squad to help boost those efforts, but their availability and the tactical approach from the visitors pale in importance to the need to grind out a first victory in six attempts.
“Results now are crucial,” Guy said. “No matter how we get them, we've got to get them. I think we're very willing to grind out ugly wins. It's always nicer to play well and get a win, but we're preparing ourselves purely for three points and nothing else.”
Kyle McCarthy covers the New England Revolution for MLSsoccer.com.