Road games in MLS are tough. Seattle Sounders FC have to travel across three time zones to face the New England Revolution. In 2016 Sigi's side only earned an 0-3-1 record to date, but the Revs are bad. Merely 2-1-4 -7 on the season with both wins at home, New England went from preseason Eastern power to making midseason deals to try to rescue the season. It is familiar territory for the Sounders, who share that distinction. Seattle is without Clint Dempsey and Nelson Haedo Valdez both out preparing for the Copa America Cenetario.
JOEtv is carrying the 4:30 PM Saturday match.
Jake from The Bent Musket answers Three Questions.
SaH: What's the Kei Kamara addition meant for the offense?
tBM: There's two big things that Kamara does for the New England attack: open up space for Lee Nguyen and win aerial duels. Charlie Davies, Teal Bunbury and Juan Agudelo are all really solid forwards, but none of them have Kamara's presence in the air. By winning long balls and maintaining possession for the Revs, Kamara not only takes pressure off the backline when the clear it long, but he also gives Nguyen more room to operate in the midfield.
The Revs now have a clear target man in the center of the field, this means that defenders have to honor Kamara inside the box but also Nguyen. This gives Lee more room to work with between the midfield and defense and that's a bad thing for the rest of the league. Nguyen already thrived on finding the space between the lines and Kamara's only going to give him more of it to work with.
Kamara has also given Juan Agudelo more time at right wing and Juan is also playing some of his best soccer in his second stint with the Revs. New England was always creating chances, but now as a team they've been finishing them and it's only a matter of time before Kei finds the scoresheet himself.
SaH: The Revolution like to keep the ball in the opposing third, how do they do it?
tBM: Patience. Probably too much of it at times, but there's not a team in MLS better at completing passes in the attacking third than the Revs and there are stats somewhere that back this up I'm sure.
At times this is great, as the Revs can generate a lot of consistent pressure on defenses and wear them down. Other times, despite all this possession in the final third New England doesn't generate enough big chances. Occasionally they're too unselfish, waiting for the perfect ball to score the perfect goal but this year it's been more of just hitting shots off the woodwork or straight at opposing keepers.
Tactically, it's Scott Caldwell in particular that recycles the ball from side to side as New England is looking to break down opposing defenses. Lee Nguyen is usually the creative force but don't underestimate Caldwell's presence in the final third.
SaH: If you wanted to beat New England's defense, what would you do?
tBM: Well, you could wait for them to make a mistake and then slot home a shot about five seconds later...that's been very popular this year.
In all seriousness, the Revs are horrendous at defending crosses. Je-Vaughn Watson got torched at the backpost against LA a few weeks ago and set pieces and corners have been issues all year. Jose Goncalves is usually the Revs aerial man in the back but he's been dealing with a rib injury and Watson and Sporting CP loanee Samba have deputized in his absence.
I know Morris, Barrett and Gomez aren't specifically aerial threats, but if the Sounders are able to get service into the box on a regular basis, they could cause enough havoc and chances for the Seattle strikers to put away.
Projected Lineup: Shuttleworth; Tierney, Goncalves+, Farrell, Watson; Kobayashi, Caldwell; Fagundez, Nguyen, Agudelo; Kamara
Gershon Koffie was subbed out against FC Dallas and if he's not out for this game he's certainly doubtful so Daigo Kobayashi gets the start for me but it wouldn't shock me to see apparent utility man Kelyn Rowe get the start there either. Goncalves could miss another game but the Revs really needs this win before the Copa America break.
2-1 New England
★ ★ ★
tBM: Taking a quick look at the Supporter's Shield standings, is the Eastern Conference pants? What are your thoughts on the disparity between the two conferences this year in MLS and why is Seattle below the red line right now?
SaH: The East is Pants. Part of that is because TFC started so long on the road. They should be as good as any team in the West. Another part is Columbus falling apart. Lastly, if New England was matching their expectations they would match Western Playoff teams too. Instead it's a conference dominated by Philly and Negative-Six City.
Seattle's below the red-line because the offense sucks. Clint Dempsey can't score at a reasonable rate this year. Nelson Haedo Valdez can't play at a reasonable rate this year. The best attacking player is Jordan Morris, and he's a rookie. The "other" forwards in this mostly 4-2-1-3 are a bunch of replacement level to average MLS players - Kovar, Gomez, Ivanschitz, Anderson, D.Jones and Craven. That's a lot of youngsters, but not a lot of goals. If the team knew there would be life without Obafemi Martins they should have kept one of Neagle or Barrett. But at least the keeper is great, the defense is good to great and the possession game is incredible.
tBM: Clint Dempsey is with the USMNT for Copa America and Jordan Morris is not. Did Morris get snubbed and who fills in for Deuce this week?
SaH: It's hard to say Morris got snubbed. While he has several calls already, few of those are games that matter. This would have been the first tournament where, if called, he would have been part of the regular group. While Morris will be in that discussion, probably for the rest of the World Cup Qualifying cycle, this is a tad bit early.
Plus, this puts pressure on him. Jordan is the only scorer left on the Sounders. He will have three league games and an Open Cup match to prove that he can carry a pro side. If Jurgen wants to see development, having Morris be the focus of the attack in Seattle while they are playing for their coach and playoff lives will do that. His partners up top will be former Stanford teammate and HGP Aaron Kovar and former USMNT forward Herculez Gomez. It's going to be rough.
tBM: If given a choice, and you can fill in your own scenarios, would you rather leave Kei Kamara or Lee Nguyen open in/near the penalty area?
SaH: I was going to make a Kei Kamara missing the sitter joke, but I think I'm still going with Kamara as long as the ball is at his feet. I expect Nguyen to get open looks from distance and Kei to get a couple headers in the box. What I do not want to see is Lee open in close for a one-time shot, nor do I want to see Kei unmarked with a cross aimed at his head. Both of these scare me.
This is a game where I expect Seattle to give up at least one goal. The Sounders have somewhere between a good and great defense, it's just that New England's attack is good, especially after the Kamara addition. This thought experiment is a good reminder of the variety of ways that the Revs should be able to approach Seattle.
Lineup (4-2-1-3): Stefan Frei; Joevin Jones, Chad Marshall, Brad Evans, Tyrone Mears; Osvaldo Alonso, Erik Friberg; Andreas Ivanschitz; Aaron Kovar, Jordan Morris, Herculez Gomez
Prediction: Sounders 1 - New England 1