MLS

Revolution-Red Bulls Preview

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Though they have two of the league's top scorers, the New York Red Bulls are learning that leading MLS in goals can't totally make up for an injury-plagued defense.

The Red Bulls have a host of problems with their entire back line heading into Saturday's home matchup against the well-rested New England Revolution.

No team is scoring more than New York (3-3-1), which has 17 goals with eight by Thierry Henry and seven from Kenny Cooper. The problem is that the Red Bulls have conceded 14 over seven games for the second-worst ratio in the league ahead of only winless Toronto FC.

There are extenuating circumstances as to why the Red Bulls have been so bad defensively. Center back Stephen Keel left Sunday's 4-1 loss at D.C. with a stress fracture that will sideline him for three weeks, and right back Jan Gunnar Solli suffered a calf injury in the defeat.

Left back Roy Miller (knee) and center Wilman Conde (groin) are already out, and veteran midfielder Rafa Marquez isn't an option to move to defense since he's serving a three-game suspension.

Rookie Connor Lade got his first start last week, and he could be joined by other newcomers to the lineup. Tyler Ruthven made his MLS debut last week as he entered for Keel while Brandon Barklage could receive his first start since two years ago for D.C.

The lack of quality defenders has affected the midfield's impact on the game, according to coach Hans Backe.

"I think it's more that we haven't had the balance on midfield, because (the back four) are under pressure all the time if the midfield can't do a better defending job. I think that's probably the key," Backe told the Red Bulls' official website.

New England (2-4-0) has five goals for one of the league's lowest totals, but is relishing the chance to face New York.

"On the other side of it, I think we can definitely exploit the back because we have really good attacking players as well," defender Stephen McCarthy said. "It's probably going to be an exciting game."

The Revolution have not played since their second straight loss, 2-1 at D.C. on April 14. They dropped their first two games under new coach Jay Heaps and won the next two before this current skid.

"I think our confidence is pretty high," defender Kevin Alston said. "We know we can play, we know we've got good players and we've had some good results, some not so good results but we feel we can keep it consistent and put out good results."

The Red Bulls have two wins and a draw in the last three meetings with the Revolution, who enjoyed a 16-game unbeaten run in the series prior to that. The teams combined for seven goals last year as New York posted a win and a draw, and each of the last nine matchups has produced at least two goals.

"Any time we play New York, it's always a battle," Alston said.



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