New England hosts the second leg of the MLS Eastern Conference Finals at Gillette Stadium Saturday (3 p.m., NBCSN) and by virtue of its 2-1 win at Red Bull Arena last Sunday, the Revs can advance to the MLS Cup on Dec. 7 with either a win, draw or 1-0 loss. The Red Bulls clearly have their work cut out for them but it’s tough to overlook a squad led by midfielder Thierry Henry – one of the greatest players of his generation. In their only previous meeting in Foxboro this season way back on June 8, New York won 2-0.
The key for New England is to weather the storm that New York is sure to bring early in the contest. The Red Bulls need multiple goals to advance so they should be employing an extra offensive style of play from the opening whistle. The fact that their star striker Bradley Wright-Phillips is suspended (yellow cards) means that New York will need other guys, namely Henry (10 goals, 14 assists) to step up in his absence. The Red Bulls could also use a clean sheet from goalkeeper Luis Robles.
The Revolution faced a similar situation in the previous round of the playoffs. They opened with a 4-2 win at Columbus and returned home to beat the Crew, 3-1, on Nov. 9 at Gillette to advance to this round. The Red Bulls are a notch above Columbus in terms of talent and depth but that game is an indication that New England has the experience of closing out a good team in the postseason. The Revolution received excellent support from its fan bases, namely the Rebellion and Midnight Riders, at Red Bull Arena so they figure to get a vocal crowd on Saturday.
Regardless of which team comes out on top this Saturday, the Eastern Conference champion knows that they’ll be hitting the road for the MLS Cup against the Western Conference champion. Los Angeles won its first leg 1-0 at home on Sunday and now the Galaxy go to Seattle on Sunday (9, ESPN) to try and knock out the Sounders. The Revolution and Red Bulls are similar in many ways: they both are one of MLS’ original clubs (New York used to be known as New York/New Jersey Metrostars) that began play in 1996 and neither has ever won a Cup. New England lost in the 2002, 2005-2007 finals while New York fell in 2008.