The New York Red Bulls took a big step back in their quest for the Eastern Conference's top spot earlier this week. Things aren't about to get any easier with Thierry Henry suspended and a visit to Gillette Stadium up next.
Mired in a season-worst eight-game winless streak away from home, short-handed New York tries to snap an 18-game road skid against the New England Revolution as the teams conclude their season series Saturday night.
The Red Bulls (14-8-7) entered this week with a 10-0-3 home record before falling 2-0 to East-leading Sporting Kansas City on Wednesday. New York, which gave up both goals in the first 19 minutes, would have moved into first with a win but instead dropped into third.
"Of course I'm surprised," coach Hans Backe told the league's official website. "It's a big game, fighting to be No. 1, so of course that we played so slow and couldn't come out in our attacking game, everyone is disappointed."
New York is one point behind Chicago and five behind Sporting KC.
The Red Bulls, outscored 15-7 while going 0-4-4 in their last eight road matches, could have a hard time gaining ground in the standings given their recent results at New England. Since winning 2-0 when the franchise was the MetroStars on June 29, 2002, in its first game at Gillette Stadium, New York has been outscored 42-19 during an 0-13-5 skid there.
Not having Henry available doesn't figure to help. The Red Bulls captain, whose 13 goals are one off the team lead, was banned one game and fined an undisclosed amount for violent conduct late in Wednesday's contest.
Henry has scored a goal in each of his two career matches versus the Revs.
The Revolution (7-15-7) beat the Red Bulls 2-0 at home in the most recent meeting July 8, getting goals from Lee Nguyen and Jerry Bengtson.
While New England broke a 10-game winless streak by defeating Columbus on Sept. 5, its struggles continued last Saturday when it was eliminated from playoff contention with a 2-1 loss to D.C.
"It's obviously news none of us want to hear or take in, but it's all about moving forward," said midfielder Kelyn Rowe, who opened the scoring with his third goal of the season. "We are definitely going to play for pride. We need to get wins and make sure this club reclaims its glory and we are going to work every game and every day to get there."
The Revolution are hoping to at least carry some momentum into 2013 with a strong showing in their final five games.
"I saw it last year with Chicago. They had an awful season at the beginning and really turned it on towards the end," midfielder Clyde Simms told the team's official website. "Now they're in second place in the East. That's something that hopefully we're looking to do. We want to have some good results going into the offseason, be positive going into the offseason and continue on at the start of preseason."
New York took the first matchup in the season series 1-0 at home April 28 on Henry's goal in the seventh minute.