FOXBOROUGH — When the Revolution host Real Salt Lake Wednesday night at Gillette Stadium, the immediate concern for New England coach Jay Heaps will be how to defend his opponent’s experienced group of core players.
“It’s going to be a challenge,’’ Heaps said Tuesday. “They’re a good team and they pose a lot of threats. They’re a really good tactical team and they keep the ball well, they attack with numbers, and they have a good balance when one back attacks and the other holds.
“They have a really good balanced formation and their familiarity is key.’’
Heaps would love nothing more than to establish that type of continuity, particularly among his backline defenders. Through seven games, eight different players have filled in roles at left back, right back, and center back positions. The Revolution recorded their first home victory April 27 over Philadelphia, 2-0, a game in which Diego Fagundez and Lee Nguyen each tallied their first goals of the season.
“It was an issue we definitely wanted to address last year, in terms of tightening things up,’’ Heaps said. “We wanted to add players and we added [Andrew] Farrell, we added Jose Goncalves to an already pretty good backline. We felt that with [Chris] Tierney and [Kevin] Alston and Darius Barnes and A.J. [Soares], and [Stephen McCarthy].
“So we wanted to have a lot of depth and fight for spots, so the backline of defense and both keepers [Matt Reis and Bobby Shuttleworth] have been pretty good, but it’s more than just four guys defending. We defend with all 11 guys.’’
Heaps knows defending Real Salt Lake will require all hands on deck.
“Salt Lake’s a really good team and they play well on road and know how to win games on the road,’’ Heaps said. Real Salt Lake is 4-4-2 overall, 1-3-1 on the road. “They’ve got good shape and keep possession of the ball, and play a nice diamond at midfield. They have a couple of new pieces, but the core is the same.
“The main grouping is time-tested. They’ve done a nice job of keeping the core together and adding little pieces here and there. Any time a team has been set for 4-5 years, they understand each other’s little moves.’’
Agudelo on board
The Revolution Tuesday acquired Juan Agudelo from Chivas USA in exchange for allocation money. Agudelo, who also plays forward for the US National team, has 11 goals and six assists in 59 career MLS games. He is expected to join the club later this week . . . Farrell, who missed the scoreless draw at Portland May 2 after suffering a severe left knee contusion against Philadelphia, returned for practice this week. “He’s trained this week and he reacted to a pretty hard challenge,’’ Heaps said. Farrell made seven starts at right back before getting injured. “It was a pretty severe contusion and we’re happy that he’s been able to train this week.’’ Heaps indicated Farrell’s status would be “questionable, but available’’ against Real Salt Lake.
Only three players on the Revolution’s active roster have scored against Real Salt Lake: Sainey Nyassi recorded one goal in seven games; Tierney, who sat out against Portland last week serving a one-game suspension, scored in 2011; and Chad Barnett, who has four goals in 14 games against Real Salt Lake, but hasn’t faced them as a Revolution . . . New England will play again Saturday when it hosts New York. “I think it’s crucial for us to prepare physically for two games this week,’’ Heaps said. “But [Wednesday night’s] focus will be on that game. I think we’ll see how the game unfolds.’’Michael Vega can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.