Well if the last time these two teams faced off in MLS action is the template, then expect fireworks despite it not being the 4th of July this time around. Seven cards, two of them red, one in the 3rd minute. 6 goals, 26 shots, 15 on goal, 27 fouls is what we saw the last time these two faced off. Recent history isn't very nice for New England when these two face off, since the 2008 season New England hold just a single win over RSL, and since moving to Rio Tinto Stadium the history is even uglier as RSL has scored 14 goals to New England's 3 in the three matches played there.
Still for RSL the bigger issue as they play their 11th match of the season, is will this be the first match of the year where their top choice first XI actually start a match together? Javier Morales has just 4 starts, Nat Borchers and Ned Grabavoy just 5 starts each, Alvaro Saborio and Will Johnson each have just 6 starts. In fact just 3 RSL players have started every match, Nick Rimando, Kyle Beckerman, and Tony Beltran, so could this be the first time all season that we see the predicted top eleven start a match?
Jay Heaps is now the man in charge of the Revolution, and to say that changes are being made is an understatement, as a lot of the players who are featuring for this edition of the Rev's are new faces. Saer Sene, Jose Moreno, Lee Nguyen, Fernando Cardenas, and Kelyn Rowe all have played a huge role early for the Revs. Whenever you are rebuilding a team, you will deal with inconsistency, and the reality is that is exactly what you are getting from the Revolution this year. The problem is that makes them hard to predict, and that can be dangerous as they clearly have some gifted players on their team. Will it be enough for them to change their fortune at Rio Tinto Stadium?
After the jump, the Key Match Up, Wildcards, and more
Key Match Up:
Kyle Beckerman vs. Shalrie Joseph - Not only is this match of the best dreads in MLS, but honestly it is a match up of two of the top midfielders in MLS, both of them have over 250 matches in the league and while Shalrie is the older and bigger of the two, at 33 years old and 6'3", he actually joined MLS later than Kyle. He was drafted in 2002 and joined the Rev's the following year. Kyle is just 30 years old, but he joined the league in 2000 and while he is assigned the main role of being the defensive midfielder, we saw last year with 3 goals and 9 assists that he can make a difference on either side of the ball. This year Kyle already has 3 goals and 1 assist and has played every minute for RSL, Sharlie has the last couple years been forced to be a more offensive minded player for the Revs and in 2009 his 8 goals and 8 assists had him as one of my MVP candidates of the year. So far this year he hasn't found the back of the net but he does have 2 assists so far.
These two always battle on the pitch, and often it becomes both a physical and verbal confrontation, but off the pitch these two are actually friends. With so much at stake for both teams in this match, New England can jump to 4th place in the East, while RSL needs 3 points to try to keep pace with San Jose and in front of the charging Seattle Sounders. Expect a whole lot of attention to be focused on the battle between these two in the midfield.
Fernando Cardenas - Not a big player at just 5'6" but the 24 year old Colombian is already making an impression on his new coach Jay Heaps who said this about him "I was so excited to give him that opportunity because he's earned it. He's worked hard in training and kept his head upand I thought that he did a good job as the game went on that it showed he's probably not 90 minutes fit, but he had a good impact on the game." after the match on Wednesday. With Jose Moreno out for the match, we can expect Fernando to play a big role in what the Rev's want to do against RSL.
Ned Grabavoy - I have little doubt that Ned probably still feels some pain from the dislocated rib he suffered a few weeks ago, but you will find like most RSL players that there is little you can do to keep him off the pitch either in training or in matches. Last weekend we saw Ned go 82 minutes, and he was very accurate with his passing and made a couple of very dangerous runs into the area. Given a couple days off and a couple of good practice session could we see Ned take advantage of both to be a game changer on Saturday, I am going with yes.
David Gantar - It seems as if MLS is using RSL as their training ground for inexperienced officials, and so far that hasn't been going well for RSL as they have found themselves on the wrong end of several controversial calls in recent weeks. Now we get David Gantar, this will be his 9th MLS match, he calls a fairly high 26.4 fouls per match and has an equally high rate of yellow cards at 3.8. He has already issued 4 red cards, but only once has he pointed to the PK spot. I can only hope that we get a match that is called consistently for both sides and that if hard decision have to be made that they are made correctly and not rashly.
My RSL Starting XI:
Nick Rimando, Chris Wingert, Jamison Olave, Nat Borchers, Tony Beltran, Ned Grabavoy, Kyle Beckerman, Javier Morales, Will Johnson, Alvaro Saborio, and Fabian Espindola
This will be the first time we see the preferred starting Xi for RSL and will we see new father Fabian Espindola combine with Alvaro Saborio, who is usually very good against New England to make the Rev's suffer? Sabo has 4 goals and 1 assist in 3 matches against New England, the most of any RSL player. RSL has 10 players on their roster that have scored goals against the Revolution, the counter of that is just 3 Rev's players have ever scored against RSL, and each of them just once. RSL have 8 players who have scored goals so far this year, and 4 of them have multiple goals, New England has just 5 players who have found the back of the net and just Saer Sene has done so multiple times.
The goal is a solid and consistent 90 minute effort, something RSL hasn't been able to do so far this year, can they take advantage of a week of rest, a tired opponent, and show the form that had a lot of people singing their praises early this year? This is a New England side that plays with a lot of energy but a midweek match, elevation, and a hungry RSL team could be more than the Rev's can handle. This means RSL must do what they do best, pass, possess, and create chances, look for around 500 passes, a completion rate of 82% or higher, 55-60% possession and at least 12 shots from RSL.
I think RSL gets off to another early start and gets a goal within the first 30 minutes, the Rev's have given up 5 of their 10 goals allowed in the first 30 minutes, and I think that energy will propel them to a 3-0 win over an improving Revolution team that will have no answer for a RSL team that has a chip on their shoulder.
So what is your prediction for the final score?
OFF MY SOAPBOX