FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – It’s fair to say that the challenge ahead of the Revolution at BMO Field on Saturday is unlike one any they’ve ever faced.
Although the Revolution and Toronto FC have met plenty of times in the past, the fact is this year’s edition of the Reds features a pack of pricey, world-class players. Players that have made them prohibitive favorites to lift the MLS Cup trophy later this year.
“They play well as a unit, which is what all good teams do,” Revolution center back A.J. Soares said. “In addition to that, they have individual players who can hurt you at any time.”
With newcomers Michael Bradley, Jermain Defoe, Gilberto and Julio Cesar in tow, Toronto has certainly put a hurting on opponents early this season.
In their debut match of 2014, Defoe scored twice to lead his squad to a 2-1 win over the Clint Dempsey-led Sounders at CenturyLink Field. The following week, they edged out D.C. United 1-0 in a contest that wasn’t nearly as close as the scoreline indicated.
Though they were humbled at Rio Tinto Stadium a week later, they bounced back against another rising power in the east – the Columbus Crew – with a 2-0 win. With nine points in their first four, it appeared Toronto was well on its way toward fulfilling its championship destiny.
Or not. Despite the early break out of the gate, Toronto’s been dogged by injuries as of late, and enter Saturday’s contest losers of their last two. Bradley, Defoe, Ashtone Moran and Jonathan Osorio have all missed action, leaving Ryan Nelson to rearrange his starting XI more often than he'd like.
“They haven’t had all those players together,” Heaps said. “Their lineup has changed every game, so I think that also could be attributable to some of the struggles they’ve had.”
But even with Defoe and Morgan still listed on the injury report, the Revolution are expecting to face a squad that’s capable of overtaking an opponent at a moment’s notice. And with Bradley back to health and ready to point the Toronto attack toward paydirt, Revolution defender Andrew Farrell hopes his squad can rip a page out of last week’s gameplan against the defending champion Sporting Kansas City.
“It has to be a team effort again,” Farrell said. “All 11 guys have to defend and attack. It’s going to be a hard fought game. They’ve got really talented players. Defoe likes to get in behind, and he’s got the pace (plus) he’s also a world-class finisher. He can finish anything, and you have to contain guys like that."
Making the challenge ahead for the Revolution even steeper: the Reds are coming off a bye week, which gives the battered and bruised a chance to rest up and recover in time for Saturday’s match. A showdown that’ll take place at a venue where the Revolution have never won, mind you.
Though the Revolution’s odds of secure a win don’t look promising on paper, Soares isn’t conceding anything. Yes, Toronto is a better than it’s ever been since it entered the league in 2007. A much better team. But they’re not invincible. And just like any other side the Revolution have played this season, the key to beating Toronto, at least according to Soares, all boils down to the basics.
“As long we’re aware of those individual players, and also aware that it’s their system, in general, which is making them pretty good so far, we should be fine,” Soares said. "They’re a revamped team that we haven’t faced yet, so it’s sort of a new challenge for us. We’re excited, and we’re confident we’ll win.”