FOXBOROUGH — Revolution midfielder Lee Nguyen isn’t dwelling on the score line of last Saturday’s 4-1 defeat in New York.
Nguyen saw positives from the loss that his team will try to carry into Saturday night’s match against the Philadelphia Union at Gillette Stadium.
“I think that’s probably the best we’ve played in the past few games,” Nguyen said. “The possession was great. We got more comfortable as the game went on. We just gave up two soft goals early, and from then on, we’re playing on the back foot.”
The Revolution managed to score early — albeit on an own goal by the Red Bulls’ Brandon Barklage. But Nguyen thought the Revolution played better in the latter stages of the game, after allowing two goals in the first 10 minutes.
Against Philadelphia, said Nguyen, “We want to come out like we did in the second half against New York, and just play our game.”
The Revolution kept last Saturday’s game close at 2-1 through 81 minutes, before Red Bulls striker Thierry Henry nestled home a shot and Jonny Steele put it out of reach at 4-1.
But, like Nguyen, Revolution coach Jay Heaps seemed content with the performance.
“In the second half, I think we really rallied around each other and played some good football,” said Heaps.
“Football that we want to emulate going forward, whether it’s interchanging, or crossing and creating opportunities to score. We just didn’t convert.”
The Union sit fifth in the Eastern Conference (3-2-2, 11 points) and boast the league’s leading scorer in forward Jack McInerney (six goals). McInerney has scored four goals against the Revolution in just six career games.
But Heaps knows that McInerney isn’t the only forward his back line has to keep an eye on.
“Conor [Casey] has also played well for them,” said Heaps. “He’s the prototypical hold-up player. You can’t get it from him when he’s got it at his foot.
“There will be some physical play, but you also have to play [Casey] smartly and not dive in too much. Make sure he’s playing with his back to goal and not turning on you.”
Revolution defender Stephen McCarthy, who started 27 games in 2012, is one of three players in contention to start at center back in place of A.J. Soares, who left the Red Bulls game after just 18 minutes with a strained hamstring.
Defenders Darrius Barnes and rookie Andrew Farrell are also competing for the starting spot.
McCarthy has seen Casey and McInerney play and knows that the Revolution back line has a tough task, regardless of who plays next to Jose Goncalves at center back.
“Shutting McInerney down is key,” said McCarthy. “They’re looking for him, and he makes some good runs in behind [the defense].
“Conor Casey is probably looking to get into some physical battles. We have to try and put him off that physical game. Don’t get into a tussle with him, because you’re not going to win that. You just have to be smarter than him.”
The Revolution sit 6 points behind the Union with a record of 1-3-2 (5 points), and Nguyen knows a win Saturday is important.
“It’s crucial,” said Nguyen. “Especially at home, we need the 3 points. It’s where we want to get most of our wins at, and we want to make it a tough place to come to.”