1) New England is having a great season so far. To what do you attribute this success?
One really, really awesome month. May was explosive and amazing for the Revs. They scored buckets of goals, the defense was solid, and they ran out to a five-game winning streak and seven-game unbeaten streak (that actually started in April). That run alone accounted for 19 of the Revs' 23 points this season. Staggering, right?
The problem is that in every other performance, the Revs haven't looked at all like the same team. They either can't keep the ball worth anything, or they create chances and absolutely cannot finish (see the last two league games), or they make mind-boggling defensive mistakes and capitulate (as they nearly did twice in the Open Cup). It's just difficult to see which team is going to show up at any given time, and this is the kind of Jekyll and Hyde problem that you don't see with the truly elite teams.
2) How far away is the Revolution from having their own soccer-specific stadium?
Miles. Years. So far I can't give you an accurate prediction. Jonathan Kraft said like five years ago that there would be shovels in the ground in 2011 or something like that. Clearly that hasn't worked out. Recently we've seen discussions turn up in the news regarding the Wonderland dog track in Revere, Fall River, Freetown, and now even Providence and Central Falls in Rhode Island. In that group, only Revere would make any sense, that was so heavily and strangely dependent upon the casino vote in Massachusetts that all the moving parts would make it nearly impossible.
The white whale in this discussion is Somerville. There have been sites discussed in that Boston suburb for nearly a decade now, and all of them would be easily accessible by public transit to the greater Boston population. That would include the significant young urban population, the city-living soccer hipsters, and soccer-crazy immigrants - otherwise known as the MLS 2.0-3.0 Holy Trinity (currently trademarking that myself). I could go for days on this; suffice to say that the Mayor of Somerville likes to talk about being interested, and then likes to talk about not being interested, and nothing gets done. The Revs are looking at as may locations as they can, and clearly there are some ways that they are trying to make Somerville "jealous" by going out on dates with other, pretty candidates (Providence, Fall River, Revere, etc.). In reality, Somerville seems to be The One. And there's been no real indication that it's happening any time soon.
3) Who is the MVP and the runner-up for New England thus far in the season?
MVP is an easy choice. It's Lee Nguyen, and it's not even close. He is the midfield general, the guy who pulls the strings, the one dictating the tempo, and the team's leading scorer. Nguyen should be in the conversation for league MVP, honestly, and he's still got half the season left to go.
Runner-up is a much more difficult decision. A.J. Soares has been having a bit of a renaissance at center-back, though he relapsed against Philly and still isn't quite there. Jose Goncalves has not been the same player, so he's out. Chris Tierney would be an interesting outside choice, as his crosses and deliveries have gotten to be absolutely deadly and he's still an excellent positional defender. Probably, though, it's a toss-up between Patrick Mullins and Diego Fagundez. Diego is Diego - I'm sure he's no unknown quantity to you. Mullins is a rookie who came in right at the start of that great run and immediately went on a scoring tear, putting in four goals in four matches. His hold-up play up top has totally transformed the offense.
Prediction: 2-0 Salt Lake. The offense is sputtering and we're ripe for the taking by a team at home that needs a win.
*The Bent Musket's questions for RSL Soapbox*
1) RSL started out with that long unbeaten run, but towards the end, it became a bit of a run of draws. Now they're winless in the league since May 17th. What changed, or did you see this coming even early on?
RSL fans always expect wins or at least ties, which is a good thing because they have come to expect results both at home and on the road. A few of the RSL staff warned us that RSL would be harmed more than any other MLS club by the World Cup call-ups, but with RSL being such a deep team I think we all expected a bit more. Between the call-ups and the congested schedule, Salt Lake has struggled of late. It will definitely help to have a stretch of home games and the return of Beckerman and Rimando to get some positive momentum again.
2) Kyle Beckerman is coming back from a pretty respectable World Cup performance. How do you think the experience will affect his play, and will we see him on Friday, or do you think he gets a rest?
My best guess is that he will not feature on Friday since he is probably going to be tired from travel and a rigorous World Cup training schedule. When he does return, however, I expect him to be full of confidence and leading this club back to a streak of good results. He has been undervalued for a very long time on the internaitonal scene and I think his great performances will have vindicated what us fans have known for a long time. Kyle Beckerman has continued to improve ever since he came to Salt Lake City and I expect him to be a even a bit better after this experience.
3) Friday is July 4th. Do you really think RSL can contend with a team called the Revolution, from New England, on the anniversary of our nation's independence?
As the Revolution likely have the Founding Fathers on their side, I think RSL will struggle mightily.
4) Give us an under-the-radar player Revs fans should watch out for in this match
I'm not so sure that he is under the radar any more, but Joao Plata is having a fantastic season so far. Before RSL's downturn, there was talk that Plata should be in the MVP conversation. He is by far the most threatening weapon for RSL at the moment.
5) Finally, let's have your projected starting XI and scoreline predicition
Attinella, Wingert, Schuler, Borchers, Beltran, Stertzer, Grabavoy, Gil, Morales, Findley, Plata.
I predict a 2-2 scoreline.