Revolution vs. Red Bulls 2013: Know Thy Enemy Part Three

USA TODAY Sports

The playoff road leads through New York. That's not such a good thing.

The New England Revolution continue their rough and difficult road to the playoffs this evening when they travel down I-95 to take on the New York Red Bulls. The Revs couldn't have asked for a worse place to go for a must-win match; though they have the upper hand in the all-time series with the Red Bulls, New England hasn't gotten much of anything done historically in New York. In fact, they haven't won at Red Bull Arena since it opened.

Today's Q&A is with Matt Coyne of Once A Metro, SB Nation's New York Red Bulls blog.

TBM: Three games left the Red Bulls are not only on top in the East, but they have a legitimate shot at the Supporters' Shield. Could this be the year that New York ends its long trophy drought?

MC: Yes.

But I'm not the guy to ask these types of questions. I'm the eternal sports optimist. Most of the rest of the Red Bulls fan base isn't like me.

The key to the Red Bulls locking down the Supporters' Shield is simple: Just win. The Sounders have two games in hand, but have a tough schedule, and one they may have to face without some key players. Real Salt Lake is only a point behind, and have a cushy schedule down the stretch. The Portland Timbers and Sporting Kansas City both have games in hand, but even if you spot them points, neither overtake the Red Bulls.

In a situation like that, the one point lead becomes all important. If the Red Bulls take care of business, they can hoist their first (legitimate) piece of silverware. It's a big ask, but they have tons of confidence right now, so it seems doable.

TBM: On that subject, with only three remaining matches, there are a number of clubs with a game in hand on you both in the Shield race and in the quest for first in the East. Which of the upcoming three matches do you think presents the biggest chance for the Red Bulls to stumble in their quest for dominance?

MC: I suppose they all do, no? The Revs, Houston Dynamo and Chicago Fire are within spitting distance of the playoffs in the East.

If I had to pick one game, it'd be away to Houston, but only because they're on the road.

TBM: Tim Cahill and Thierry Henry are obviously killing it right now. Has there been any other less-known player who you can point to as a true driving force for the Red Bulls?

MC: Jonny Steele and Lloyd Sam play out on the wings, and both are solid players. Sam has only got going recently, but has brought a ton of offensive dynamism to the team. Steele has a lot of ability and a ton of grit.

And both can hit a good cross. Even from midfield, Cahill finds a way to make a secondary or tertiary run into the box, making his forehead available for crosses from the two. That alone makes the team that much more dangerous going forward.

TBM: Mike Petke is a member of the Young Coaches' Without Much Pro Coaching Experience Club along with guys like Jay Heaps, Ben Olsen, and Caleb Porter. Petke seems to be experiencing some pretty serious success this season. What do you think sets him apart from the others on the list, if anything at all? Is it just the quality of the club that's getting it done?

MC: Two things: Passion and skill.

Petke is the MetroBulls all time leader in games, minutes and yellow cards. He's the first to tell you the Red Bulls are his "hometown team" and he's always wanted the gig. The players can tell you that, too; shortly after taking the job, a lot of players talked about his passion for the team. That's a huge change of pace from the Hans Backe era. You can see that he's imbued the team with some of that, too.

The other thing is skill, not on his part, but from his team. I'm not sure any of the aforementioned coaches have as much talent on the roster as Petke does. While that can make things tough, it also makes things way, way easier, so long as everything goes as planned.

TBM: Finally, let's have your projected starting XI and a scoreline prediction.

MC: Robles; Carney, Olave, Holgersson, Kimura; Steele, McCarty, Cahill, Sam; Espindola, Henry

Red Bulls win 2-0.

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