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Friedel has revitalized New England

New England Revolution
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Revs can't afford a dud against Sporting KC

Revolution coach Jay Heaps knows his team cannot stumble against Sporting Kansas City if he wants to keep their playoff hopes alive.
Revolution coach Jay Heaps knows his team cannot stumble against Sporting Kansas City if he wants to keep their playoff hopes alive.

Unlike many other MLS coaches, Jay Heaps has never warmed to the idea of having his players bunkering in and playing mistake-avoidance soccer on the road. Not surprisingly, the Revolution coach wasn't thrilled with the way Sunday's 2-0 loss at Columbus unfolded.

In a match New England needed to win to stay above the red playoff line, Heaps' team came out flat and uninspired. They were outshot 21-9 and allowed the ninth-place Crew SC to connect on a whopping 85 percent of its passes.

With only four games left on the schedule and the Revolution on the outside looking in on the playoff picture, Heaps is looking for a much different performance on Saturday against Sporting Kansas City.

"It's critical at any time during the game to be able to control the pace of the game, home or away," Heaps told the media on Tuesday. "It's an area where I feel like when we're at our best, we do a really good job of that."

Controlling the pace is what spearheaded a recent resurgence prior to Sunday's loss. During a three-game winning streak that included impressive victories over a first-place New York City FC and a stingy Colorado Rapids, the team used quick movements and one-touch passes to keep foes on their heels.

Sunday's defeat showcased a style of play that was hardly fast-paced. Whenever the Revolution probed the attacking area, there was an obvious air of uncertainty. Extra touches were taken and players were pushed wide much too comfortably by Crew SC. To veteran defender Chris Tierney, the key for Saturday will be less braking, and more accelerating.

"We want to keep the ball and have a better control of the game than we did this past weekend," Tierney told the media on Tuesday. "I think usually at home, we're good at being on top in possession and keeping the ball and making the other team defend. We'll try to get back to that."

It won't be easy. With a number of technically-sound players on its roster, Kansas City prides itself on possession and the high-press, both of which can easily punish the kind of performance the Revolution registered in Columbus.

Then again, you'll be hard pressed to find anyone on the Revolution training pitch who's still dwelling on the defeat.

"It's about looking past this past weekend and looking towards the future," Tierney said. "It's going to be very important for us to keep the ball and put them under pressure this weekend. That's what we expect to do."

That task will be made all the more easier if midfielder Kelyn Rowe and center back Jose Goncalves can get back into the mix. Rowe, who scored two goals and added an assist in Montreal two weeks ago, missed Sunday's match due to illness while Goncalves, who was major part of the club's recent defensive turnaround, was out due to an ankle injury.

While the status of Rowe and Goncalves remain uncertain at this juncture, one thing is clear: Time is running out on the Revolution. And if they can't channel the form that allowed them to rip off three straight prior to Sunday's loss, the postseason may proceed without them.

"We talk about it all the time," Heaps said. "You've got to play your game and make the game to your strengths as best you can, and not get disrupted and try to fight through that. Kansas City is a veteran team, so they know how to go on the road, as shown last week, and get three points. A dangerous team to play at home, but at the same time, there's no more time left in the season for us to not play our game."

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