Eastern Conference Final Preview: Red Bulls at Revolution

IMAGE, MATT KREMKAU FOR EMPIRE OF SOCCER

The New York Red Bulls could not convert their chances in the first leg of the Eastern Conference Final.  That has put them in a hole for the second leg at Gillette Stadium against original 96er, the New England Revolution.

A 2-1 victory gave New England a sizable advantage, not just for the result, but for the away goal.  Now, the Red Bulls know what they must do to advance to the MLS Cup for the first time since 2008:

  • Win 2-1 and force an overtime.
  • Win by two or more goals outright.
  • A one-goal win on the back of three or more goals (3-2, 4-3, 5-4, etc.).

Goals will be at a premium, and the Red Bulls will have to find them without Golden Boot winner Bradley Wright-Phillips.  A thoughtless obstruction in the first leg has ruled him out for the vital return.

How will New York compensate?  Do they have a chance?

Here is your preview for the second leg:


 

EASTERN CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIP, LEG 2
NEW YORK RED BULLS VS. NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION

3 pm ET, Saturday, November 29
TV: NBCSN | NBC Sports Live Extra | UDN | TSN2 | RDS2

REFEREE: Baldomero Toledo.
AR1 (bench): Frank Anderson; AR2 (opposite): Ian Anderson;
4th: Silviu Petrescu

SUSPENDED: NY: Roy Miller (through 11/30); Bradley Wright-Phillips (yellow card accumulation; through 11/30)

LEAGUE HEAD-TO-HEAD:
NY 22 wins (2 SO), 105 GF … NE 26 wins (3 SO), 106 goals … Ties 15

2014 HEAD-TO-HEAD: NY 2 wins, 4 GF … NE 0 wins, 1 GF … Ties 0
AT GILLETTE STADIUM:
6/8: NE 0, NY 2 (Alexander 17; Luyindula 76)

MLS CUP PLAYOFFS: NE 4 wins, 9 GF … NY 1 win, 4 GF … 2 ties


New England’s front line vs. the Red Bulls defense:
Charlie Davies vs. Ambroise Oyongo, Jamison Olave, Ibrahim Sekagya, and Richard Eckersley (and Luis Robles).

Defense was not necessarily the problem for the Red Bulls in the first leg.  However, they were left exposed at key moments.  Like New York’s ‘over-the-top’ strategy against the plodding Revolution backline, the Red Bulls also fell victim to the long ball against New England.  Charlie Davies, who had a quiet outing against  the Red Bulls in Harrison, should be buoyed by a slick turf at Gillette, playing to his re-found speed.  Olave and Sekagya represent a pair of veteran legs down the heart of New York’s backline; an area Davies and Bunbury would love to expose.  While an inspired player on offense, Oyongo must not forget his defensive responsibilities.  He was caught well out of place for the Revolution’s second goal — a costly mistake in the playoffs.  Eckersley continues his inspired play at fullback.

Advantage: Red Bulls


New York’s attackers vs. the Revolution defense:
Tim Cahill vs. Chris Tierney, Jose Goncalves, AJ Soares and Andrew Farrell (and Bobby Shuttleworth).

Wright-Phillips and Lloyd Sam did a fair job of exposing the Revolution backline with speedy runs and precision passing.  One half of that formula will not be replicated this Saturday.  Tim Cahill is the likely candidate to start up top.  While his aerial prowess remains amongst the best in the world, speed is not necessarily his strong suit.  That will mean a more calculated approach to the build up and execution at Gillette.  Goncalves vs. Cahill will be the match-up to watch.  A fiery competitor, it will be up to Cahill to keep his play clean and avoid his recent stretch of yellow and red card accumulation.

Advantage: Revolution.


The Midfields:
Thierry Henry, Eric Alexander, Peguy Luyindula, Dax McCarty, and Lloyd Sam v Kelyn Rowe, Scott Caldwell, Lee Nguyen, Jermaine Jones, and Teal Bunbury.

Henry and Jones had several memorable jousts during the first leg of this series.  Expect that to continue in Gillette.  Henry will be a consistent target for Jones and Caldwell, particularly due to the Frenchman’s aversion to turf.  Likewise, Red Bulls players will certainly look to even the score with Jones, who escaped disciplinary action for a rough-and-tumble performance in Harrison.  Physicality will rule the day, forcing Luyindula and Nguyen to keep their composure down the middle of the field.  Likewise, wingers in Sam and Bunbury will be vital to open up the field while the two team’s scrap for possession.  New York  will likely look to keep their defensive shape and counter on the slick Gillette surface, particularly in the first half.  Henry will be the key catalyst for the road side.

Advantage: Revolution.


The Coaches:

Mike Petke is coming off of a rough week.  The loss of Wright-Phillips to yellow card suspension put his leadership into question as he took responsibility for not letting his players know about their status prior to the match.  Still, he has a track record of finding the right solution in dire times for his club.  While quiet about his strategy without their Golden Boot winner, Petke did point to some small adjustments that should keep them competitive at Gillette. For Heaps, he could not have asked for a better outcome at Red Bull Arena.  A high press by the visitors confounded New York on several occasions.  Big defensive stops and blocks from Bobby Shuttleworth provided a massive boost for the club while the offense finished off two of their few chances.  The former Revs defender has since embraced the physicality of the series and spoken about the club’s focus to advance.

Advantage: Revolution.


Intangibles:

Turf.  The Red Bulls have won once in over ten years at Gillette.  Lucky for them, that was a 2-0 victory this very June.  Petke has proven capable of maneuvering his way through the turf at New England, but how Henry will react is another story entirely.  As ludicrous as it may sound to the uninitiated, it is his first appearance on the Gillette turf since arriving to America.  While he will surely be motivated, how effective he can be is another question entirely.  Revenge is another intangible to watch for.  New York must keep their cool after a contentious loss at home.  That includes team boss Mike Petke.   Clear skies and a crisp winter cold will shroud the match, but do little to effect what will be a heated affair on the field. New England are 3-0 all-time in postseason series vs. New York.  A record crowd is expected for the encounter, measuring somewhere in the vicinity of 25-30k fans.  Officiating is always a question.

Advantage: New England


Prediction:

The Beautiful Game will take a rain check this Saturday, with the Red Bulls and Revolution engaging in the type of Survivor Series match that only Vince McMahon would enjoy.  Officiating will be under the spotlight.  Will Toledo allow the free-for-all that Chapman did last week? Once those two points are settled, it will be all about the midfield.  With both teams utilizing the single forward, playmakers like Henry, Luyindula, Nguyen and Bunbury will be vital in opening up the match.  Luyindula was very effective playing balls over the top to a speedy Wright-Phillips.  He will have to tweak that strategy with the lumbering Cahill in the box.  New York’s DPs will be asked to carry the side.  Likewise, destroyers in McCarty and Jones will have their hands full on the turf. Intangibles lie heavily in the corner of the Revolution, and uncertainty follows New York’s key producers.  That formula will see the Red Bulls ousted from the postseason.

Revolution 2-1 New York