(Editor’s note: The following preview originally appeared on Prost Amerika on June 29, 2012.)
By: Steve Clare, Prost Amerika
New England’s recent form does not provide much of an indication to what Sounders FC will encounter in Foxborough this Saturday.
The last two MLS games have been drawn, a 2-2 result in Toronto and a disappointing goalless effort in their last outing with Columbus. Their last decisive result came before that in a 2-0 home win over Chicago.
They have not played a Western Conference side for six games although this resulted in their best conclusion of the season a 4-1 win over Vancouver.
They have also beaten Colorado Rapids, Los Angeles and Portland while sustaining defeats to FC Dallas, San Jose and Salt Lake.
With 12 points from seven games, their record against the West is far better than the six points from eight games inside their own Eastern Conference, with that Chicago win their sole triumph.
To put it another way, there are four Western Conference victories and one against the sides from the East.
The ’4-1 thing’ crops up again when examining their home record. In seven games, they have won four and lost one.
That said, a 5-1 defeat to keep the conformity is highly unlikely. Despite Sounders FC’s well discussed defences lapses in Portland, the Revs do not seem to have the firepower to exploit frailties with just 20 goals in 20 games.
On the point of those defensive frailties, Sounders were awful for half an hour in Portland. Then a clearly unwell Jeff Parke was removed from the fray and things improved markedly.
A defence with some changes and some similar players kept a clean sheet in San Francisco. That adds up to 150 minutes of clean sheets on the road and under pressure.
In his Revs scouting report, New England Soccer Today’s Brian O’Connell reports that the man to watch may be Benny Feilhaber, someone whose game is extremely well known to his former UCLA team mate Pat Ianni.
Sigi Schmid too seems to have the Revs well scouted:
“I think they’re an improved team from last year. [Saer Sene] has done well for them. He’s a big, strong target. They have a very flexible midfield in terms of Lee Nguyen and Benny Feilhaber and Shalrie [Joseph] and Clyde Simms. Kelyn Rowe, when he’s healthy, mixes in there. They seem to interchange an awful lot. They pop up at different places on the field.
They’ve had a pretty consistent back four. I think [Kevin] Alston, [Chris] Tierney, [A.J.] Soares, and [Stephen] McCarthy have probably started 90 percent of their games as a unit together. So there’s definitely some understanding there among that group, along with Matt Reis.
They’re definitely an improved team over last year and we have to be ready for that game. They key for us is going to be just like it was in the San Jose game, that we don’t take the first goal. That was the emphasis because we’d been doing that. And, that we try and get the first goal because that changes everything.”
Last year Sounders triumphed 2-1 in this fixture with a Fredy Montero double. That is not going to be a possibility this year after Montero’s late red card in Portland earned him a red card and a suspension.
Sigi Schmid came out of Tuesday’s cup tie with a double victory. His side triumphed but he managed to rest some valuable fatigued bodies.
Given Zach Scott’s recent workload, both at right back and centre back, Schmid will surely reinsert Adam Johansson at right back, whose slow recovery has hampered the side.
Jeff Parke is on the east coast but little is known about the diagnosis Schmid’s intentions. He is listed as questionable on the match notes.
Scmid was however very confident that Tuesday’s Open Cup win could spur his team on to greater things in league play unlike previous cup wins:
“The big difference is this win is a lot different than the other two wins. The other ones came against an NASL team and an amateur team that was on a good run. This one came against a team that right now is number one in our league…A team in San Jose that expected to win—obviously was disappointed that they didn’t win in that game—and has rallied from behind in their last two, three games to snatch victory.
For us to go on top, to dig in, bunker in at times, and pull out a victory was a lot bigger than the other two cup wins because we know we beat right now the best team in MLS in a valiant, courageous effort. Hopefully that will provide us some backdrop as we move forward.”
This is honestly a hard game to predict. Sounders have too many quality players to carry on playing moderately to poorly eternally. Mauro Rosales has shown glimpses he is emerging from his so far unexplained form slump.
With Roger Levesque and Sammy Ochoa starting on Tuesday, Eddie Johnson should be refreshed after just 14 minutes play midweek. Ochoa who played the other 76 may also be fresh enough.
Freed from right back duties, Brad Evans could return to the midfield if fresh but this may be one of the harder line ups and formations to predict ahead of time.
Form is against the Sounders. But it was pretty much against Italy too and look how that turned out although it is doubtful Schmid will be invoking that example too often.
At this end, we just have a small hunch that this may be the day that Sounders eke out a result better than their performance, having played slightly better than the results would indicate for the last month.
It’s probably not going to be 4-1 though.