The New England Revolution finished off a two-game, 7-3 demolition of the Columbus Crew in the MLS Eastern Conference semifinal, winning the second leg by a 3-1 score at Gillette Stadium, Sunday evening.
Here are three thoughts on what Jay Heaps’ Revs can look forward to in their Eastern Conference final series with the New York Red Bulls:
1. The Decision (featuring Thierry Henry)
We might as well get to it right away. The Red Bulls have always allowed Thierry Henry to sit out regular season games on artificial turf since he came to MLS in 2010. But there’s no way -- barring a 4-5 goal victory by the Red Bulls in the first leg -- that Henry doesn't play at Gillette Stadium in the second leg of the conference final. Henry was able to play on artificial turf at the MLS All-Star Game in Portland, so he’s certainly able to play in a game where the result counts. What’s more, everything is flowing through Henry right now with New York. It’s hard to remember a Red Bull scoring chance of recent vintage that wasn’t produced by No. 14.
2. Lee, meet Dax
Lee Nguyen, of course, is no stranger to Dax McCarty. They’ve tangled in midfield for years. But you have to believe with everything on the line, New York coach Mike Petke is going to tell his pitbull midfielder to make Nguyen’s life as difficult as possible during this series. The danger in shadowing Nguyen is that it will open up more space for Jermaine Jones, who has a pretty good eye for the final pass and has also shown he can score when given time and space to tee up a long distance shot. Also, there’s the re-emergence of Charlie Davies up top.
Still, Nguyen is so hot, having scored in six straight games for the Revs to cap what’s looking like an MVP campaign, that the Red Bulls can simply not let him wander around unattended.
3. The first leg will be huge
This past August, the Red Bulls won in New England for the first time in a decade, but it doesn’t take away from the fact that Gillette Stadium (and Foxboro Stadium before that) has been a tough place for the Red Bulls (and MetroStars) to get results. So, the first leg, at Red Bull Arena, figures to go a long way to deciding who will represent the East in the MLS Cup Final.
Often maligned for lukewarm support of the Revolution, New England soccer fans have a chance to make a huge statement if they can pack Gillette to its 60,000 capacity for the second leg, and that could make it a tough night for the Red Bulls.
Regardless of who emerges, the East will be putting a team in the final that will be looking to win its first MLS Cup, and that makes the New England-New York Eastern Conference final all the more intriguing.