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Revolution pushing toward the future

FOXBOROUGH -- Though the Major League Soccer playoffs do not start until next month, the Revolution have accelerated preparations. In fact, they are in full playoff mode right now.

The Revolution (30 points) trail Columbus (31) in the race for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, and the result of tonight's game at Gillette Stadium could determine their playoff status.

The Revolution were in a similar position last season, when they made a suprising run to the MLS Cup final, going 8-2-3 down the stretch in finishing as league runner-up.

The Revolution developed an effective defensive mind-set last season, playing with two defensive midfielders. Now, though, they have gone to more offensive tactics with Jose Carlos Cancela and Shalrie Joseph in midfield. But the tenor of their matches remains similar to last season. Defenders are closing hard, there is more dependence on physicality, and referees are struggling to separate gratuitous hostility from incidental contact.

Last season, the Crew and Revolution drew thrice in their last four meetings, the Revolution winning the other on a Jay Heaps goal in Columbus during the playoffs. The Crew and Revolution are 1-1-1 against each other this season and have scored five times each.

"This is basically a playoff game," Heaps said. "We played them to go to the Cup final last year and we have had two good games against them in Columbus this year [a 3-2 win and 1-1 tie].

"This is what starts it for us. This is when we made the playoff run last year."

Heaps's goal against the Crew last season might have been the most important of his career, but he also was ejected from the game after a clash with Freddy Garcia. Heaps's combative attitude helped set the tone for the Revolution.

"It works for us," Heaps said. "We are a competitive team."

And that combativeness is spreading.

"That is because it is so tight, we are all separated by a few points," Heaps said. . . .

Joe-Max Moore, recovering from a right knee sprain, has been training at full speed and could start for the first time since July 27. Moore has not scored since a 2-1 loss to Dallas July 16.

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