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Revs head north of the border to battle TFC By Jeff Lemieux, Staff Writer & Online Host

The Revolution travels to Canada looking to snap a six-game winless streak and complete a season sweep over Toronto FC | Inside the Fort >> | MatchCenter >>

TORONTO – When the New England Revolution rolled to a 4-1 victory over Toronto FC in the 2010 home opener on April 10, it’s likely no one in Foxborough imagined the club would enter the rematch on May 22 still searching for its next win.

That’s the situation the Revs (2-5-2, 8 pts.) find themselves in, however, as they head north of the border to face a rejuvenated Toronto FC (3-4-1, 10 pts.) while looking to snap a six-game winless streak (0-4-2).

In order to register their first victory in more than one month, the Revs will have to do something they’ve never done before: win at BMO Field in Toronto. In three previous trips to Canada, the Revolution has gone 0-1-2, including a 3-1 loss to TFC almost exactly one year ago to the date (May 23, 2009) of this year’s meeting in Toronto.

The task won’t be any easier this season, as TFC has won all three of its home matches while outscoring opponents by a margin of 8-2 in the process.

“They play with tons of spirit (at home),” said goalkeeper Preston Burpo. “They’ve got the crowd behind them. They’ve got the city behind them. They push it every game up there.”

With that in mind, the Revs will be extra cautious not to concede an early goal and let the crowd take over on Saturday. On the contrary, it would be ideal to get on top in the opening stages and take the influence of the fans out of the game.

“If we can play around it a little bit, take the sting out of it, maybe get one early and quiet the crowd down a little bit, I think that’s the idea going into Saturday,” Burpo said.

Despite the club’s six-game winless run, the Revolution enters Saturday with confidence following last weekend’s scoreless draw with the San Jose Earthquakes. After struggling with defensive lapses in recent weeks, the Revs largely did away with those problems against the Earthquakes, while Burpo came up with a couple of key saves when called upon.

More recently, the Revolution played a midweek friendly against Benfica, dropping a 4-0 decision to the Portuguese champion. New England used the match as an opportunity to evaluate a trio of trialists and gain valuable experience against one of Europe’s top clubs. While Nicol said that it would be impossible to compare the Revs to Benfica at the present time given the circumstances, he acknowledged that there were lessons to be learned from their Portuguese opponents.

“The good thing for us to take out of [the Benfica] game is to see what they do well,” he said. “And no surprise – all the good teams control the ball, pass the ball and move. Those three things that sound very simple, when they’re done well are very hard to play against. If we can look at them and try to understand that if we can do that better than we are at the present time, then we’ll get better.”

While the Revs will have lessons in hand, it doesn’t appear likely that any of the players on the injury list will be available to return against Toronto, so Nicol’s most likely option remains the same 4-5-1 formation he trotted out last weekend. That includes midfielder Pat Phelan filling in as a central defender alongside Cory Gibbs.

For Nicol’s backline, the focus will be on transferring the positives from the San Jose match into another quality performance.

“First of all we need to be solid, and then build from there,” Nicol said. “We don’t want to go there on a cavalry charge or anything like that. We want to go there and start the game well, give nothing away, and from there get ourselves forward and try to get the ball in the back of the net.”

If Nicol decides to stick with the same starting lineup which played against San Jose last weekend, that would mean a spot on the bench for rookie forward Zack Schilawski. The 23-year-old currently leads the Revolution with four goals, the first three of which came in a hectic 11-minute stretch against TFC on April 10. That night under the lights at Gillette Stadium, Schilawski celebrated just the third rookie hat trick in MLS history.

Unlike that match in April, however, this weekend’s game will be played in daylight from start to finish. The Revs and TFC were originally scheduled to kick off at 4 p.m. – which still would’ve been New England’s earliest kickoff of the season – but the game was moved to 1 p.m. to accommodate fans hoping to watch the 2009-10 UEFA Champions League final. Coverage of that match between Italian giant Inter Milan and German power Bayern Munich begins at 2:30 p.m. ET.

With such an early kickoff for the New England–Toronto match, both teams will have to deal with the disruption in their typical pregame routines. As such, neither side is truly at a disadvantage.

“Bottom line is, they’re doing what we’re doing,” said Nicol. “We have to forget all that and make sure that as soon as the whistle goes, whatever time of the day it may be, that we’re ready to go after it.”