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Revolution vs. Red Bulls: Storylines to follow in week 13

Can the Revs stand tall with a patchwork back line? That, and four other headlines to track.

MLS: New England Revolution at New York Red Bulls Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

On Saturday night, the Revolution will set out for its third straight win, something the club hasn’t accomplished since August 2015. To do so, the Revs will have to take down Sacha Kljestan and the New York Red Bulls, who have historically had their way with visitors of Red Bull Arena.

Here are five storylines to follow ahead of the week 13 matchup:

1. Can Antonio Delamea hold down the fort defensively?

With Andrew Farrell and Benjamin Angoua both suspended for Saturday’s match at Red Bull Arena, Delamea must fight to keep his patchwork back line organized. The first-year center back will likely start beside Chris Tierney, Josh Smith and Je-Vaughn Watson; those three defenders have combined for 13 starts this season, just one more than Delamea alone.

And though the Red Bulls haven’t exactly scored goals in bunches this season (the club has scored just 13 times in 13 matches), midfielder Sacha Kljestan (six assists) and forward Bradley Wright-Phillips (five goals) can break down any defense in MLS. Can the Revs keep Jesse Marsch’s side at bay?

2. Will the Red Bulls stay dominant at home?

Since 2010, the Red Bulls have played better than any MLS club at home, compiling a 79-24-20 record. The Revs have done little to stall this trend, as the team has beaten the Red Bulls just once over that span—a 2-1 win in the first leg of the 2014 Eastern Conference Finals.

To make up ground, the Revs will have to start earning more frequent road results; the club has compiled an 0-4-2 road record this season, compared a 4-0-2 home record. Can the Revs finally claim a regular-season win at Red Bull Arena?

3. Can the Revolution finally find a rhythm?

Earlier this week, Matt Doyle described 2017 as a “stop-and-start campaign” for the Revolution. His words ring true: the Revs have put together an inconsistent start to the season, highlighted by short bursts of impressive performances. The club picked up three consecutive results—two wins and a draw—between March 25 and April 8, only to go winless in its next five matches. Then, the Revs earned back-to-back wins against Real Salt Lake and Columbus Crew SC.

These mini-runs have coincided with stellar play from Diego Fagundez, who contributed three goals and an assist during the Revs’ past two wins. Can Diego, and the rest of his club, turn this run into a trend?

4. Will defense define the matchup, as it did in 2016?

Last year, the Revs and Red Bulls combined for two goals in two matches, with each club earning a 1-0 win in its home stadium. In 2015, the two teams combined for eight goals—a 4-1 win by the Red Bulls, and a 2-1 win by the Revolution.

How will Saturday’s meeting shake out? If the early-season trends continue for both sides, the Revs may be in for a long night—RBNY has scored nine of its 13 goals at home, and the Revs have scored just five of its 20 goals on the road. And while stats rarely tell the whole story, the Revs will need a strong showing from its second-choice back line and a cohesive attacking performance from Fagundez & Co. to earn its first road win of 2017.

5. Can the Revolution jump the Red Bulls in the standings?

With 16 points on the season, the Revs sit just one point beneath the red line. Conveniently, the Red Bulls—who have earned 17 points this season—sit just above the red line. A win would enable the Revs to leap frog the Red Bulls in the standings, potentially putting the navy and red into playoff contention for the first time in way too long (a draw won’t get the job done, as RBNY owns the total wins tiebreaker).

The Union (16 points) can shake up this early-season playoff scenario with a win over Real Salt Lake on Saturday.