What's at stake?
An MLS rivalry honed by time, familiarity and high stakes, matches featuring New England and D.C. have decided playoff series and conference championships in compelling fashion, running the stylistic gamut from wide-open shootouts to scrappy dogfights. Even early-season meetings like this one can crackle with similar intensity and both teams are keen to recover from season-opening setbacks on the road.
New England edged out the Black-and-Red at Gillette Stadium 2-1 last May, breaking United hearts with an injury-time penalty kick by Steve Ralston after Taylor Twellman made the most of a tussle with Bryan Namoff in the D.C. penalty box. It’s a sign of the times that none of those three veteran protagonists will take part in Saturday’s clash.
Few discussions of Revs-United history fail to touch on the 2004 Eastern Conference final at RFK, a match that ranks among the most memorable games in Major League Soccer’s 15-year existence.
Featuring an array of once and future stars, the pulsating, end-to-end match unfolded in a 3-3 stalemate over 120 minutes of play. An agonizing penalty shootout finally ended the match in United’s favor when Nick Rimando saved Clint Dempsey’s spot kick, propelling D.C. toward a fourth MLS Cup title.
Heroes & Villains
Shalrie Joseph vs. Santino Quaranta: New England’s captain, metronome and pit-bull-in-chief seems likely to shake off a hip problem and play on Saturday, and his ability to shackle Quaranta, presently tasked with an advanced midfield role for D.C., could determine whether United can consistently break down New England’s young back line.
Juan Manuel Peña and Carey Talley vs. Kheli Dube and the Revs wingers: D.C. will probably start their two most recent arrivals in the heart of defense. Though both are smart veterans, their lack of pace could be tested by the New England speedsters, who’ll try to break out on the counterattack.
Stat that makes you go “Hmm …”
Jaime Moreno has taken part in a whopping 37 regular-season matches against New England, notching 14 goals and 11 assists to carve out a worthy tradition of Rev-killing. At the other end, Troy Perkins owns a 0.90 goals-against average in his 10 games against Steve Nicol’s side. United’s youngsters would do well to follow their examples.
He said it
“Since I left a little over a year ago, the team changed a lot. It’s still the same Stevie Nicol system. They like to drop off but pressure well and then try to play and get the ball wide, and get service into the box. With guys like Taylor Twellman and Steve Ralston they built that team and were real successful. But the design is still the same–just different players in there.” —United striker Adam Cristman, who’d clearly relish a runout against his old team.