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Real Salt Lake at New England Revolution - 3 questions (kinda)

Well the SB Nation hasn't landed anyone to cover the New England Revolution, so we had to wing it a bit this week with the 3 questions post.  I was able to answer some questions (a bit more generic than the typical 3 questions) for New England Soccer Today about the match and in turn they answered my 3 questions:

1) This year the Rev's have often looked more like a MASH lineup of the injured and banged up, I haven't seen a team have to deal with so many injuries as New England has had to deal with this year. How has this impacted the team and the fans expectations on the season?

A) Injuries have certainly played a role in the team's performances and expectations this season. However, there is no excuse for not being prepared for the injuries to Taylor Twellman and Edgaras Jankauskas. Not finding adequate replacements until midway through the season is inexcusable after their past injury problems. Trading away Jeff Larentowicz and Wells Thompson for Cory Gibbs and Preston Burpo seemed a necessary move in the short term to get them some veteran experience on the backline and a great fill-in when Matt Reis was out injured. However, the Revs never found an adequate replacement for Larentowicz and ended up cutting Joseph Niouky just past the midpoint of the season after he failed in that role.

Shalrie Joseph's injuries and suspension hurt the team early, but outside of the forwards, the team's biggest problem has been defensive injuries. Cory Gibbs, Kevin Alston, Darrius Barnes, and Emmanuel Osei have all missed games, making it very rare for the Revs backline to be the same two consecutive games in a row. The Barnes - Osei pairing has been the most consistent when playing at center back, possibly because Gibbs hasn't been paired consistently enough with anyone for them to really build chemistry. What compounds the problem is the lack of defensive depth. Head coach Steve Nicol often has to move players across the backline into different positions because when a player like Alston goes down injured they have no direct replacement on the bench. That has really hurt the team.

Fan's expectations were low at the start of the season due to the loss of Larentowicz and Steve Ralston. The team has continued to lose starters without replacing them with players of the same quality and unsurprisingly this has led to their continued drop in the standings over the past three seasons.

more after the jump:

2) Despite missing the playoffs for the first time in 9 years, New England has faced two of the top 5 teams in their last two matches and battled to 2-2 draws in both of them, after just one result (a win) in their previous 6 matches. What has happened to get the team performing again?

A) The big difference has been the team's high pressure early in games. They've really started their past two games brightly, done better controlling possession, and kept the play in their opponents half instead of playing more defensively like they had been doing this season. However, they have been unable to maintain that intensity for 90 minutes and their lack of depth means their quality drops significantly when subs come on. That is why in both games they blew two goal leads late in the match.

Their offense has been building chemistry since the addition of Ilija Stolica and his combinations up top with Marko Perovic, Shalrie Joseph and occasionally Sainey Nyassi and Kenny Mansally have led to a much improved offense recently.


3) With your playoff hopes out of the picture, what should RSL fans expect from New England as far as lineup and tactics in this match, which could impact RSL's Supporters' Shield run?

A) Steve Nicol has made it clear the team is still going out to win every game. I'd be surprised to see many changes in the line-up that got off to 2-0 leads against FC Dallas and the Columbus Crew. Nicol has a few unproven young players with potential that could use some playing time, but if we see them at all, I would expect it to be off the bench.

They've scored early goals the past two matches and the pressure will be on Salt Lake to avoid conceding in the opening minutes which could give the Revs more confidence going forward.

OK folks there you go, something to get you started this morning, I will be posting my match preview a little later this morning, so keep your eyes open for it.

OFF MY SOAPBOX