clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

RSL vs. New England: Three Questions with The Bent Musket

The two struggling sides square off tonight on brand new turf.

MLS: New England Revolution at Columbus Crew SC Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports

1. It seems like there's some unrest around Jay Heaps' position at the club. Could he get the axe?

It's always possible but that's not usually how the Krafts operate. Heaps did an amazing job taking over a bad team years ago and returning to the MLS Cup Final. But the team has plateaued/regressed since the 2014 season and there's a number of reasons why and I don't think Heaps is to blame for all of them. The Revs having the smallest roster in MLS and lack of a USL team/affiliation agreement are all places where the Revs organization are falling behind in MLS and that doesn't fall all on Heaps' shoulders.

I also answer this question with the following idea: Who will the Revs bring in as a head coach that's better than Heaps? When he was hired, Jay was a former club player who was doing some broadcasting work but had no true coaching experience. Could the Revs bring in another former player, say longtime MLS assistant Steve Ralston? Sure, but it's a similar situation: a first time head coach who has to retool a non-playoff team even if someone like Ralston has been an assistant for a significant length of time. I'm not sure that experience is that much of an upgrade over Heaps at this point and I don't think the Revs would be getting Sigi Schmid or someone like that to come to Foxboro. At the end of the day in MLS, you have to make the playoffs and the Revs are too talented of a team in my opinion to miss two years in a row.

2. How will your change approach without Juan Agudelo?

Assuming that Agudelo misses the game with an injury along with Teal Bunbury (both are listed as questionable on the Revs injury report) then we might see Kei Kamara partner with Lee Nguyen up top. Kei has missed the last two Revs games on the road, opting to stay home with his wife who just gave birth to the family's second child so even Kei's availability and effectiveness are kind of up in the air.

Two guys who could see their first start of the year could be Femi Hollinger-Janzen, last year's super sub and first round draft pick Brian Wright who has played a game or two in USL with Tulsa but hasn't seen any minutes for the Revs yet. I'm not exactly a fan of the Nguyen at striker idea, but with Diego Fagundez playing as well as anyone on New England right now I'm okay with him getting minutes at the #10 role.

The Revs approach won't really change all that much if they're still playing with a diamond midfield. With limited and/or questionable striker availability, Heaps might deploy the 4-2-3-1 formation that worked so well for the Revs over the years and drop Nguyen back into the midfield and use Scott Caldwell and Xavier Kouassi as holding midfielders. If Kelyn Rowe starts at left back again you'd need someone at right wing as well. It seems like a lot of moving parts so it probably won't happen but minutes for Femi and Wright wouldn't be bad things long-term for New England.

3. I've attended several preseasons in Arizona now, and consistently, I'm impressed by New England. Results don't always seem to come, though. Why is that?

The Revs are usually an organized and well-disciplined team so they very rarely get blown out and usually make opponents work hard to score against them. The two biggest problems over the years as the Revs have regressed are scoring and holding leads. The Revs are usually among the top teams at creating scoring chances but are a below average finishing team. Last year the team hit the woodwork a hundred times, this year it's the defense that's letting them down.

New England are one of the best teams on the counter attack in MLS. They're also one of the worst bunkering teams and if you saw the 3-3 draw in Seattle you'll know why. The Revs stormed out with three goals and then stopped attacking, and by doing so let Seattle back into the game. The Revs scored an early goal in Dallas too, then sat back and watched Maxi Urruti win the game. New England should subscribe to the theory that the best defense is a good offense and attack all the time, especially on the counter when possible. The interesting part is that the defense, aside from the revolving door at left back, has improved greatly with Antonio Delamea and keeper Cody Cropper having good seasons. But the Revs are rarely going to win games late by closing the door on the defensive end...they're going to have to end the game by scoring and winning by multiple goals.

PROJECTED LINEUP: Cropper; Rowe, Angoua, Delamea, Farrell; Kouassi, Caldwell, Fagundez, Nguyen; Kei, Hollinger-Janzen

INJURIES: Teal Bunbury (back), Juan Agudelo (upper body)

PREDICTION: I thought during the last Revs homestand that the Revs needed to get four points from two games on a short week and they got two points from draws against San Jose and DC United. This is a must win against a very depleted RSL side. I think the Revs figure it out, 3-1.