FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – The pressure is coming on Saturday. Sporting Kansas City plans to apply it. New England knows it. And now the Revolution must find a way to cope with it (4 pm ET, MLS Live).
The first step to dealing with the inevitable harrying starts with anticipating the problem and dealing with it proactively, according to Revolution coach Jay Heaps.
“Your first two or three passes have to be helping your situation, not hurting your situation,” Heaps told MLSsoccer.com. “They like to close that gap pretty quickly. There's no time on the ball. The decisions have to be made before the ball gets there.”
Once the ball arrives, the Revolution must find a way to retain it. Sporting benefits when teams concede possession by playing long to relieve pressure or turning the ball over cheaply at the back. At that stage, the burden increases substantially.
In order to avoid a similar fate, the Revs must find a way to break the pressure and then string together the sequences Heaps mentioned earlier. Sporting will still close down the ball, but tidy work in possession provides an opportunity to push up the field and reduce the problems created by those sorts of tactics.
“We know they're going to try to keep it and wear us out,” Revolution midfielder Lee Nguyen said. “The longer we can keep it away from them, the better.”
Although Heaps and the Revs noted the impact of Sporting's preferred 4-3-3 shape and corresponding pressure on their preparation, they also underscored the fact that they cannot allow the visitors to establish the terms of the affair in the home opener.
The key to success: mitigating Sporting's pressure enough to pave the way for the Revs to push the game in their preferred direction.
“Whether we are at home or on the road, we want to come out and dictate as much as we can,” Heaps said. “You have to respect your opponent. We certainly respect Kansas City. They're a really good team. You have to come out and be prepared for what they do well, but you also have to bring your own nuances to the game and influence the game in a way that allows your strengths to take over certain portions of the match.”