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Red Bulls-Impact Preview

By SANTOSH VENKATARAMAN

STATS Senior Writer

(AP) -- The surging New York Red Bulls and expansion Montreal Impact are playing down what happened the first time they met.

The Impact look like a much-improved club since that matchup and will try to end the visiting Red Bulls' four-game win streak Saturday night.

New York (7-3-1) won 5-2 at home over Montreal (3-5-3) on March 31 in the only game the Impact have conceded more than two goals.

Montreal owns two wins and a draw in its last three games heading into this rematch.

"It's not about revenge, it's about us improving every game," defender Shavar Thomas said. "At that point when we lost 5-2, it was early in the season but we're on the right path now and it's about improving every game and winning."

New York got a hat trick in that game from Thierry Henry, currently out with a strained right hamstring. Henry would have been a major draw to the French-speaking fans in Montreal.

The Red Bulls believe Henry's absence and the change of venue will make this game tougher, also pointing to the fact that the first matchup was tied at halftime.

"It was a quite even game, even if we were winning (by) scoring five goals," coach Hans Backe said. "It will be hard to beat them on the road."

Henry was hurt in the first game of this hot streak, exiting in the 25th minute of a 1-0 victory over New England on April 28. That began a run of three straight 1-0 victories before Sunday's 3-2 comeback win at Philadelphia.

With rookie goalkeeper Ryan Meara playing well and a banged-up defensive unit starting to jell, the Red Bulls are gaining in confidence after taking the Eastern Conference lead.

"These four games, it's been good defending, taking chances and hard, hard work from the team so it's been phenomenal," Backe said.

The Red Bulls acquired defender Heath Pearce and allocation money from Chivas USA on Thursday for disgruntled 19-year-old striker Juan Agudelo, who was unhappy with his playing time. It's not clear if Pearce will play Saturday.

Davy Arnaud had the lone goal for Montreal last Saturday in a 1-1 tie with Los Angeles. The Impact have two wins and two draws in Olympic Stadium, where they will play for the final time Saturday before moving to the new Stade Saputo next month.

"I have seen games from their stadium and there just seems to be an incredible energy and a passion from the stands," said Red Bulls forward Kenny Cooper, who is tied with Henry for second place in MLS with nine goals.

The Impact have given up one goal during their unbeaten run, with Donovan Ricketts picking up his first two shutouts of the year. Ricketts allowed his most goals in three seasons the first time versus the Red Bulls.

"We are a different team than we were when we were in New York and that was an important lesson that we went through in that game," coach Jesse Marsch said.

Updated May 18, 2012

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