The last time the Revolution paid a visit to PPL Park, things, shall we say, didn’t go so well.
Oh, it looked promising. It definitely looked promising early. Building a three-goal halftime leads tends to be a good omen for the final 45.
But there was more. A lot more. And none of it was good for the guests.
Three unanswered goals later, the Union grabbed a comeback 4-4 draw from the Revolution. Draws aren’t often humiliating. But, somehow, the Revolution managed to embarrass themselves that fateful night in Philly.
Fortunately for the Revolution, last year’s in the past. Sunday is the future. And the future always brings questions.
1. Will Jay Heaps employ a defense-first formation in Philly? Last week, the focus was clearly on defending in Kansas City. Whatever you want to call the formation Heaps unleashed – the 4-5-1, the 4-3-3 or even a 4-6-0 – it was employed to keep K.C. off the board long enough to either 1.) steal a goal and get three points or 2.) grind out a road point. Well, it succeeded on the second count. But this week, against a weaker squad, Heaps has a decision to make: go with what worked in K.C. and play for the result, or go back to the traditional 4-4-2 with the win – and nothing less – in mind. No one ever said a manager’s job was easy.
2. Can the Revolution attack re-awaken? There’s no question the last three games have not been kind to the Revolution attack. Scratch that. The last three games have been embarrassing for the offense. One goal in their last three – with two of those games against the worst defenses in the league – pretty much proves that something’s broken in the final third. With that in mind, it’s up to the players to fix it. Not their head coach. The players. And the players have to believe that they can break Philly back four on Sunday. Otherwise, it may be another quiet night in the final third again.
3. Will Saer Sene snap out of his slump? Let’s be honest: the Union probably aren’t the team a struggling striker will re-discover his form against. On paper, it doesn’t look promising at all for the struggling striker. But one of the biggest keys to a striker’s success is service. Granted, Sene’s finishing has been, shall we say, off. Very off. But, if the outside midfielders can whip some crosses into him, and allow him to put his head on a couple of them, it could spell the end of his struggles. If Sene’s eight goals have proven anything, it’s that he’s most effective when he doesn’t have time to contemplate his shot. And the opportunity to one through via the header or volley may do the trick.
4. Which player do the Revolution need to have at the top of his game to get three points? Two words: Shalrie Joseph. For the Revolution to stand any chance of getting three points on Sunday, the skipper has to be at his best. And here’s why: the Union use a game plan similar to the one employed by Toronto and Montreal. The total points taken by the Revolution from the Reds and Impact? Zero. The reason why is simple: the Revolution haven’t found the antidote to breaking down a counterattacking team. Granted, Joseph can’t do it alone. But his presence on the pitch – in the middle of the park, of course – can only help the Revolution figure it out.
5. What is the one thing the Revolution absolutely have to do to strengthen their chances of getting three points on the road? Another two word answer: score first. Score first, like they did against the Galaxy. Score first, like they did in Salt Lake before an overturned red card cut the Revolution’s legs right under them. The best way to set the tone on the road is hit ‘em where it hurts the most: the scoreboard. Not on the possession scale. Not in the passing accuracy battle. Not in the shots on goal department. Not anywhere else, except the board. To turn the tide on their woeful road record, the Revolution have to show they mean business right from the start. And the best way to show that it to put their hosts in an early hole.