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Red Bulls must overcome Revs' home history
by Ridge Mahoney, November 2nd, 2007 7AM
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TAGS:  mls


New England hosts New York as the Revs go for their sixth straight appearance in the conference final. The omens are stacked - if such a thing is possible - high against the Red Bulls, who played spiritedly yet somewhat disjointedly last Saturday in the Meadowlands and couldn't break through against a determined midfield and defense. The Revs are 6-0-3 (14-5 goal differential) in playoff matches at Gillette Stadium since it opened in 2002, and they reached their first final that same season. New York hasn't won at Gillette in more than five years, a span of 12 regular season and playoff games.

Eastern Conference semifinal, second leg
(Tied, 0-0, on aggregate)
Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET, Fox Soccer Channel, Fox Sports en Espanol

At least one Red Bull isn't fazed by statistics, or omens. "Who cares how many times we haven't won there? We can beat this team," says brash teenager Jozy Altidore. "We have talked about it, and now it's time to go do it on the field."

Coach Bruce Arena criticized Juan Pablo Angel for his perceived lack of mobility in the first leg, but truth be told Angel and forward partner Francis Doe often played independently, and Altidore, who started the match in midfield, also missed connections with his attacking mates.

Perhaps more offensive thrust from Claudio Reyna, or an earlier insertion of Clint Mathis might have helped, but playoff games on turf are often helter-skelter affairs. Red Bull lacked the polish to serve the right ball and never got the good bounce of knockdown or second ball to apply a decisive finish.

Gillette's synthetic surface is the latest version of FieldTurf and reputedly somewhat superior to that in the Meadowlands. More importantly, many of the Revs have been playing on it since the stadium opened and have developed a knack for playing balls suited to the surface and its dimensions.

Steve Ralston, Taylor Twellman, Pat Noonan and Shalrie Joseph are keenly attuned to what works at Gillette, and what can be done against Red Bull New York.

Still, with goal-poacher Angel and raiding midfielder Dane Richards New York is dangerous in any stadium. Its beleaguered back line pitched a relatively easy shutout last week but is liable to crack under the intense pressure it will face this time around, so NYRB will probably need more than a single goal to survive.

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