The league leaders head on the road to face the Revolution. New England is an odd squad. One of the preseason favorites in the East, and tied on points for a lead now, their performances are hollow. There is not a feel for what they do well and where they are lacking. Part of that may be because Seattle's own Kelyn Rowe only has two games played due to injury.
Corey from The Bent Musket answers Three Questions about the New England Revolution.
SaH: With players like Fagundez, Bunbury and Bengston the offense should be scoring more goals. What's the struggle from?
tBM: On paper, yes, those players should be racking up goals for the Revs. But it's just not that easy, man! Revolution fans have been let down by Jerry Bengtson since his arrival in Foxborough, so that's nothing new. And Bunbury has found new life with his switch out to the wing. Fagundez, however, seems to be struggling the most of all the players you mentioned here. And, unfortunately, there's no easy answer as to why. The start to Fagundez's 2014 campaign hasn't really been any different than the start to his 2013 campaign. In a nutshell, he finds difficulty in keeping himself involved consistently throughout a given match. But, again, 2013 wasn't much different. It's the flashes of involvement that he does produce that end up being game-changers. Mostly, I think his confidence just isn't there yet. Also, his link-up play with Kelyn Rowe, who has been out injured for several games thus far, should not be under-estimated. The two were most productive last season when they were on the pitch together. I think he's missing the chemistry with his buddy. The goals will come for both him and Teal in time. Jerry, well, I'm not betting on it.
SaH: How well has Farrell filled in for Goncalves?
tBM: Farrell has filled in admirably for the Revs captain. He possesses many of the same qualities as Goncalves and is a great compliment to A.J. Soares, the "safer" part to the center back equation. Farrell, like Goncalves, has incredible finesse and ability on the ball. He can dribble out of a tough situation with composure and this allows the Revs to transition into the attack effectively, which is arguably their strongest area of the game--transition. There's no doubt that he's also the best right back on the Revolution, but his contributions in central defense during Jose's recovery have been significant and once the captain is back, Jay Heaps will have some decision-making to do.
SaH: Is the typical Revs plan to keep games close and just steal a goal and points?
tBM: No, I don't think this is the game plan. It's just how it's been working out for us this season. Truthfully, under Jay Heaps the Revs have strived to be a possession-oriented team that focuses on tidy passing and patient build-up. But more and more I think we're finding that the Revs are more opportunistic than anything else. I'd like to say that the Revs build-up attacks as a cohesive unit and orchestrate a sophisticated, tactical game plan each week. But the reality is that the Revs find a good portion of their success from special moments. The great thing about the squad that the Revolution have put together is that there are more than a few players who are capable of special moments. So, if that's how it works out, well I'm not going to be one to complain.
Kevin Alston will be out for a bit with yet another hamstring injury. Goncalves will almost certainly be out for this one, as well, but Kelyn Rowe might make a triumphant return (we hope). I don't expect Rowe to start, though.
(L-R) Shuttleworth | Tierney - Soares - Farrell - Barnes | Dorman | Fagundez - Nguyen - Kobayashi - Bunbury | Mullins
tBM: Is Seattle's recent hot streak the real deal? Will it sustain all season and will it carry the Sounders to the playoffs yet again? What, if anything, could you forseee going wrong down the road and spoiling the party?
SaH: The attack is multi-pronged enough that no defenses have figured out how to stop it on their own. It can get weaker, remove a Clint Dempsey, but it even when he doesn't score Seattle is averaging 1.67 goals scored (not including own goals). There are three non-Dempseys pacing for 10 or more goals on the year. Things will slow down during the World Cup. Losing at least two players and maybe three for two months is going to hurt. An injury to another starter during that stretch could make Seattle merely average in the attack then. That's part of why banking points and goal differential now matters so much.
tBM: Clint Dempsey is good at soccer, I guess. But, there was a pretty turbulent start for him when he first landed in Seattle last summer. What's been the biggest factor to his MVP-quality success this season? His shift to striker instead of midfielder? His partnership with Martins? Impending World Cup adrenaline?
SaH: He's healthy, fit and used to life in MLS. For all the reports about how "bad" his Fall here was, the non-scoring data points out that he was doing damn fine for a man playing half the time with a separated shoulder (thanks Chara). Though he's now listed as a forward, both he and Oba drop back into the midfield quite a bit. You can see in the last average position map that Neagle and Pappa play as high as Dempsey and Martins. He's going to do amazing things in nearly every game. Sometimes those things will include goals.
tBM: It seems like Seattle is most lethal on the counter-attack. Is that the general game plan for any given game? And what is one weakness that teams have been able to exploit so far in 2013?
SaH: Sounders FC have recently taken to using the counter, because teams are bunkering so much. They have to either go wide and in, or suck the defense out and then quickly transition. Essentially the first 30 minutes or so are a feeling out period to figure out where the spaces are and how to get to them. Then Seattle scores at least twice.
The defense does have a bit of an issue with gap control. Communication is improving so covering for Yedlin's runs or the Alonso/Pineda pivot are not creating the problems of TFC/Portland, but they will show up at times. A team playing against Seattle can not waste those moments.
Significant Absences: Remick (ankle)
Projected Lineup: Frei; Gonzalez, Traore, Marshall, Yedlin; Pineda, Alonso; Neagle, Dempsey, Evans; Martins
Projected Scoreline: 3-1