New England’s A.J. Soares was a bit reckless in his predictions ahead of tonight’s match in Foxborough.
“We’re going to start this game against Toronto like we played the second half (at BMO Field),” Soares confidently said of the 2-2 draw the clubs played to last month. “We’re going to get some early goals and then we’re going to lock them down defensively.”
Replace “early” with “late” and few would argue with New England’s central defender, especially after witnessing Wednesday’s all-Canadian thriller.
Had it not been for Terry Dunfield scoring a dramatic midweek winner, TFC would have continued its tendency to drop points in stoppage time after watching Vancouver’s Darren Mattocks connect for a late equalizer.
Similarly, New England’s Chris Tierney equalized in the 95th minute three weeks ago in Toronto, a goal that assisted in sustaining a run of five unbeaten for the Revs stretching back to the beginning of last month.
“We had a good amount of the ball and used it pretty well in the second half (in Toronto) so we’ll try and carry that momentum over,” Tierney told his club’s website. “Since Paul Mariner has taken over, they’re well-organized and they have guys who can hurt you.”
Both Tierney and head coach Jay Heaps said the key to tonight’s fixture will be cutting out balls played into the box by closing Toronto’s space whenever the Reds are in possession.
In June, a pair of Ashtone Morgan crosses connected with Danny Koevermans and Ryan Johnson to give Toronto a two-goal cushion when the teams last met — something Heaps said his side would look to stop by pressing higher and preventing the Reds from circulating the ball.
“We want to make sure we don’t let them play,” Heaps said. “We want to be on them quickly and we want it to be a tough environment here with the turf and hard surface.”
After spending five seasons with New England as an assistant under former bench boss Steve Nicol, it’s an environment Paul Mariner is familiar with.
The Englishman is wary of the run of form New England is on as it gets set to welcome Shalrie Joseph back into the starting lineup. Add that to a recent acquisition up top and the Revs are easily one of the more dangerous sides in the Eastern Conference when healthy.
“I know New England has added (Jerry) Bengston to their ranks — a very, very talent player,” Mariner said ahead of TFC’s second and final meeting with New England. “Saer Sene (New England’s leading scorer) up front is a very dangerous player ... I’m guessing Shalrie (Joseph) will come back, who I have the highest regard for … The sum of the parts is quite excellent.”
In the midst of a brutal stretch of games, the Reds could receive help up front in the form of Andrew Wiedeman, a 22-year-old forward Toronto received from FC Dallas in exchange for Julian de Guzman late Thursday night.
Mariner told a group of reporters prior to tonight’s match the club plans to use de Guzman’s vacated cap space to bring in multiple difference-makers at the back to stabilize what has statistically been the worst defensive setup in the league for the better part of two season.
“The one thing we need to get is a result,” Mariner said. “We need to get back on a decent platform of being consistent with our performances.”
TFC @ NEW ENGLAND, 7 p.m. EDT, TSN2
Terry Dunfield vs. Benny Feilhaber
Revered by management yet undervalued by supporters, it won’t take long for fans to turn on the man head coach Paul Mariner believes will do the job in Julian de Guzman’s absence. As fans wait with baited breath for the club to trot out its promised defensive additions, Terry Dunfield will be under the microscope tonight as he looks to stake claim to what was once solidly de Guzman’s spot. With Torsten Frings beside him, Dunfield will do his best to muck up the midfield play of Benny Feilhaber and Shalrie Joseph, unquestionably the best midfield tandem in MLS at the moment. On short rest following a herculean performance, in the wake of de Guzman’s departure, a poor showing will see supporters turn on the man management views as de Guzman’s replacement.
COMPETE FOR 90: The Reds have dropped five points this season due to late goals. In all competition, TFC has allowed six stoppage-time goals and 12 goals after the 70-minute mark in 2012. Call it immaturity, nerves or both, Toronto would be in significantly better shape if it could eliminate late daggers.
LIMIT SHALRIE: If Benny Feilhaber and Lee Nguyen aren’t hurting you, Shalrie Joseph will. One of the league’s most composed players around the box, Joseph will look for goal or look to play a clever ball in behind opposing defences. As he’s not one to beat defenders off the dribble, closing Joseph’s space will be key when looking to silence a player with unmatched vision.
The Reds are winless in six trips to New England, posting an 0-4-2 record along the way … New England’s Kelyn Rowe will miss tonight’s match due to accumulation … The Revolution (22 points) sits three points out of the final playoff spot behind Houston in the East, nine points up on Toronto … Both clubs are coming off rivalry wins as New England topped the Red Bulls last week while TFC came from behind to top Vancouver.