Slumping New England Revolution comes stumbling to Red Bull Arena, hoping to catch the New York Red Bulls off guard. The Bent Musket's Jake Catanese has some answers to our questions about RBNY's latest opponent.
1) New England beat RBNY at home on April 1st. That was before Kei Kamara came on board. How has he energized the team? Who does he have the best connection with on the field?
The Revolution certainly have a better record with Kei Kamara on the field, or at the very least they have more wins with him than without. But the Revolution are still struggling to score goals as a team, and the thought was that with service from guys like Chris Tierney, the Revs would improve offensively. But Kamara's presence, while helpful in the attacking third and especially on set pieces, hasn't yet translated to goals for the team. Everyone is struggling to put chances on target, and at times that probably includes Kei as well, but the Revs do seem to at least take more shots now.
I'm not sure Kei has a "best connection" with anyone and that could explain part of the Revs attacking woes. Ideally, Kamara should be able to open up space for guys like Lee Nguyen to create chances for but it's not happening with regularity. The Revs still send a lot of pretty good crosses into the box that just find no one, and it's frustrating to watch. This is a team with enough talent to make the playoffs but right now, even a 5th or 6th seed seems very far away.
2) Now the tables have turned. RBNY is on the rise and at home. What does New England need to do to slow down RBNY? Who will be their key contributors?
New England needs their defense to step up in a major way. The offense has been struggling but we know the talent is there up front. The back line has been a mess all year for a variety of reasons and coming off a midweek shutout vs. San Jose there's at least something to build on. Jose Goncalves did not make the gameday roster for that midweek game, and you'd have to assume that part of that was to keep him fresh for the Red Bulls over the weekend. If the Revs have any chance they'll need a vintage performance from the 2013 MLS Defender of the Year.
Also, I'd expect to see Scotty Caldwell marking Sacha Kljestan for this game. Caldwell is a pest defensively, and while he's not going to force you off the ball much, he is going to take away a lot of options for attackers. If he can slow down Kljestan getting the ball upfield to guys like Bradley Wright-Phillips and Mike Grella then the Revs will certainly have a chance in this game.
3) Is the departure of Jermaine Jones the sole reason for the Revs' recent struggles? What are other contributing factors?
There are many fans who would like to say: yes, Jones' departure has had a huge impact on this team. Not just on the field, but in the locker room as well, Jones was always going to be at a minimum the emotional leader of the Revs when he was here because of his personality. But the Revs did go out and acquire MLS veterans Gershon Koffie and Je-Vaughn Watson in the short term, Watson could be the club's MVP this year, and DP Xavier Kouassi is on the disabled list after suffering an ACL injury at the end of the European season with FC Sion.
Another problem for the Revs has been injuries. The backline in particular was hit hard in the early part of the season, Kelyn Rowe has been deputized a few times to play right back, including midweek at San Jose. The Revs have a short roster of just 24 players so when 3-4 guys are out injured it makes things very though. Juan Agudelo and Charlie Davies also worked their way back from injuries though Davies was traded to Philly at the deadline. One of the reasons the Revs were hesitant to re-sign Jones were his own injury issues, and his six-game suspension at the start of the year, and Jones has maybe played 10 games for Colorado. Either way, New England should still be a playoff team, and a loss at RBNY this weekend would likely start the "Open Cup Or Bust" campaign for the rest of 2016.
Injuries/Omissions: Jose Goncalves (Questionable, DNP 8/24), Je-Vaughn Watson (Questionable - Started 8/24), Jordan McCrary (OUT), Xavier Kouassi (OUT, Disabled List)
Predicted Starting XI: Brad Knighton; Chris Tierney, Jose Goncalves, Je-Vaughn Watson, Andrew Farrell; Gershon Koffie, Scott Caldwell; Kelyn Rowe, Lee Nguyen, Teal Bunbury; Kei Kamara
Predicted scoreline: The Revs need this one very badly, they'll play well, but it won't be enough for three points. 1-1 draw.