Well it is the 4th of July and for RSL fans that means a chance to watch your team in one of four home matches this month. First up is the New England Revolution, who simply have to be hoping they can avoid getting manhandled like the last two trips they have made to Rio Tinto Stadium, which have seen them lose both matches and be outscored 11 to 0. It is an early TV start today, so the action will kick off at 6:30pm MT and if you can't make it to the match live you can catch it on ESPN2.
The last couple years have seen the New England Revolution going through a rebuilding process and for many people the names on their roster are unfamiliar beyond Matt Reis, Shalrie Joseph, and Kevin Alston, but they did add USMNT player Benny Feilhaber to their midfield, still many of the names aren't ones known to many MLS fans. There are only two players on the Rev's roster who have scored multiple goals this year Joseph leads the team with 4 goals and 1 assist, while Rajko Lekic, the latest attempt to find a forward, has 2 goals so far this year. The latest pickup for the Rev's is Ryan Guy, a 25 year old who can play in the midfield or up top, he was originally drafted by FC Dallas but chose to play in Ireland instead and he now makes his return to MLS. He will be asked to fill in for Marko Perovic and Ilija Stolica both who have been let go by the team in the last week.
Real Salt Lake look like a team that may have emerged from their "funk", it is funny that a team that is 7-3-5 and has the best defense in the league, would be described by anyone as having been in a funk in the first place, but when you raise the bar the way RSL has over the last couple seasons the expectations are very high. After starting the year with 4 straight wins, the team has just two wins in their last 6 matches (2-1-3), but their overall 1.73 points per match average have them trailing only the LA Galaxy and FC Dallas in the category. A gap they could close with a win on Monday, and if Seattle can find a way to keep LA from getting a win. Last weekends 3-1 win over Toronto FC was a relief for many fans as it was just the second time since April 9th (against New England) that RSL had scored multiple goals in a MLS match.
The Key Match Up, Wildcards, and keys to victory after the jump:
Finesse vs Physical -
I think last weekend RSL showed what they can do, they strung together 595 passes with a completion rate of 88%, they dominated the possession of the match by better than a 2 to 1 margin. It was the complete style of play that Jason loves to see from his team, and it created some great opportunities for multiple players to take multiple shots on goal (5 guys had multiple shots) and 7 different players had shots on goal. It was a display of how finesse can rule the day on the pitch.
In watching the Revolution take on the Sounders last weekend, it was clear this is a team that likes to try to dictate the action by physical play, they have the 5th most fouls committed in MLS with 236 (RSL is 2nd to last with 180). The Rev's have had 29 yellow cards issued to them, and had 3 red cards issued, but as we all know in MLS it is often the reaction that gets the cards and New England's opponents have gotten 34 yellows and 6 red cards.
I would offer this word of caution to the Rev's players before they think they can come in and bully RSL, two of the toughest guys in the league play at center back for RSL, and while our guys in the middle may not be the biggest guys I really would think twice before getting on the wrong side of Will Johnson, Kyle Beckerman or Ned Grabavoy because they are simply a lot tougher than you might think. It will be up to the official to ensure this match doesn't break down into something more like wrestling, and hopefully RSL will have the Revolution chasing them but not catching them.
Ryan Guy -
At 25 years old it took more than a little trying for Ryan Guy to find a way back to MLS, he was drafted in 2007 but chose to play in Ireland for the last 4 years and it took a couple trials before he had a chance to spend a week with New England and that was enough to impress Steve Nicol. Nicol said the following about Guy:
"(I saw) pretty much what he brought to the game the other night (on his debut as a sub against Chicago)," Nicol said. "He wants to go forward, he wants to get around, he wants touch the ball, he wants to make chances and he wants to score goals. All of the good things. Also, for his age and for an American kid, he's got a fair bit of experience that a lot of guys don't have. You can see that."
It should be interesting to see how he fits into the team after having a couple matches under his belt.
It is harder each week to find a RSL wildcard as so many guys have stepped up in recent weeks to make others take notice of them. Well last week it was Tonys' time, he has been playing better and better each week in league matches, and while I still think he is underrated by most people it was the unlikely goal against Wilmington that makes him my wildcard for this match. For RSL it is usually the big target defenders like Nat Borchers and Jamison Olave that provide some offensive punch for the team, but we saw it last year that Chris Wingert was able to get his first goal in a MLS match after a long drought. Now will it be Tony's turn? He has been getting more and more involved in the offensive effort, and after getting his first professional goal in the Open Cup last Tuesday, could we see more from him on Independence Day?
Each week we continue to see decisions by MLS officials that baffle everyone and far too often have a direct impact on the outcome of the matches. Yader Reyes will be the man in charge on Monday, he has been in charge of 16 previous matches and calls an average of 26.7 fouls per match and issues an average of 3.8 yellow cards. This is a match that I expect to be very physical on both sides, and I have a bad feeling that Yader will likely be adding to the 4 red cards he has issued in the past, or maybe even pointing to the PK spot for the second time. He will need to establish control early in this match or it could quickly get out of hand.
Keys to Victory:
Limit the New England offense, in looking at 3 of the big matches for New England in recent weeks, they have taken more shots than their opponents(12-9, 20-16, 13-9) , despite often failing to complete a high percentage of their passes (65%, 69%, 73%). For RSL I believe keeping the Rev's in single digits for shots will be one of the biggest keys to getting a win. To do that RSL will need to do what they have done in each of their last 3 league matches, control possession of the ball. I would love to see a repeat of 69% possession they had against Toronto FC last weekend, but I believe a more realistic number will be 58-62%, this should happen if RSL can do what they do best, complete quick, short passes to move the ball and stretch defenses.
Finally for RSL the goals come when they take shots, last weekend they took 19 shots with 10 of them on goal and it resulted in 3 in the back of the net, in the two matches before that RSL had taken just 11 shots in each match and the end result was 1 goal and two draws. I look for 15 or more shots from RSL and a high percentage of them being on goal, thankfully it looks as if Alvaro Saborio has gotten his goal scoring touch back.
I think this match will be a very physical one, the Rev's have always played that way but the frustration of just 3 wins on the season and guys honestly fighting for their jobs will mean that RSL players will need to remain calm and not react when the officials miss calls. I think if RSL can remain cool and collected on a hot evening that they can pull out the 2-0 or 3-1 win.
OFF MY SOAPBOX