New England Soccer Today

Five Questions: Revolution vs. Sporting K.C.

Revolution midfielder Benny Feilhaber will be expected to shoulder more of the load now that Shalrie Joseph is no longer in Foxboro. (Photo: Kari Heistad/CapturedImages.biz)

It’ll be a Saturday unlike any other at Gillette Stadium

Three days after trading away the face of the franchise, the Revolution will step onto the field a large part of their identity. An identity that Shalrie Joseph unquestionably established.

Whether it was leading the club to three straight MLS Cup appearances, carrying them through the lean years, or simply making a pass that kick-started the attack, Joseph set the tone game-in, and game-out for nearly 10 seasons. He set it through his leadership. Through his physical, yet determined approach. Through his ability to read, then change the game. Through his unquenchable desire for success.

And that’s what an opponent had to deal with every time they faced the Revolution. No matter how good or bad the local XI was, he was the one player you couldn’t ignore. Sure, there were times when the focus may have shifted to the likes of Twellman, Ralston or Dempsey. But even in spite of that, Joseph couldn’t be ignored.

So it stands to reason that Saturday will be different. Different indeed.

Shalrie Joseph is gone. And as a result, the Revolution face a future filled with questions.

We’ve got questions, too. Here’s the five we’re pondering before the first game of the post-Shalrie Era.

1. How shaken is this team’s psyche? Four days ago, Shalrie Joseph was considered untouchable. And it’s easy to see why. Eight All-Star nods, four Best XI nominations and, of course, the captain’s armband. All signs that pointed to Joseph being the last player on the roster the front office would move. Well, Wednesday changed all that. And not just for Joseph. It changed for everyone. If the face of the franchise can be moved, then anyone can go, at any given time. Job security? Those two words are a figment of the imagination right now. And we’ll see how it affects them on the field come Saturday.

2. Can the Revolution resume their defensive from seen two weeks ago in K.C.? It all depends. Yes, the ultra-defensive formation Heaps unleashed in K.C. got its intended result. But at home, it’s three points or bust. And because of that, the Revolution have to come out attacking. They have to come out ambitious. And to do so, they cannot stay in the defense-first mindset. They have to play wide open. In light of that, expect the Revolution XI to adopt a “bend but don’t break” approach – especially if A.J. Soares (R hamstring strain) and Kevin Alston (L hamstring soreness) can’t go on Saturday. And that may just work – so long as the attack delivers on its end of the bargain.

3. Now that the armband is officially his, can Clyde Simms prove he can be the leader that the Revolution need? No one can replace a legend. And to ask Simms to do that would be patently unfair. However, it doesn’t mean that the defensive midfielder can’t lead club into the future. His play has certainly exhibited the workmanlike approach every good skipper should have. Perhaps the only question, then, is what kind of leader he’ll be. While Joseph is the portrait of passion and grit, Simms, on the other hand, is that of cool and in control. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. After all, it wasn’t that long ago that another Revolution captain – Steve Ralston – used that approach to perfection.

4. Will Saer Sene continue to keep his distance or will he be bold? The French forward certainly made an impact last week. His 12th minute goal not only gave the Revolution a rare road lead, but also earn him Goal of the Week honors. And that’s a great thing to brag about. But Sene’s inability to finish his chances inside the 18? Not so much. Whether it’s his 12th minute blast, or the series of speculative shots he took thereafter in Philly, it became obvious that Sene preferred the long-distance look. And that’s fine if he’s got the precision. But precision isn’t exactly the first word that comes to mind when it comes to Sene. Fortune favors the bold. And the French striker has to be bold when he approaches the area.

5. Is Benny Feilhaber primed for a big performance? After showing off a few moments of brilliance in Philly, Feilhaber may be ready for a breakthrough against K.C. Why? Two reasons. The first: the midfielder regularly feasts against K.C. On Mar. 17, Feilhaber was one of the most dangerous players on the pitch before Stephen McCarthy’s ejection left the Revolution short-handed. Two weeks ago, it was a beautiful through ball to Ryan Guy that nearly stole the show. Clearly, Feilhaber’s a fan of playing K.C. The second reason: with Joseph gone and Simms at defensive midfield, Feilhaber will likely be slotted in the hole, free from the extra defensive chores he’s had to undertake in the last three weeks. And with that in mind, it appears all signs are pointing to a big day for Benny.

3 Comments

  1. Mat

    August 4, 2012 at 11:06 am

    Certainly hope Benny has a big game.

  2. Chris B

    August 4, 2012 at 11:48 am

    Great point about Ralston!

    I heard Heaps said he’s far away from naming an official captain though out of respect for Shalrie and I understand that but what does it do to the team not to have an “official” captain? Is it just a formality and should we expect it to be Simms?

  3. rick sewall

    August 4, 2012 at 3:39 pm

    Get a captain who is good at discussing matters with the referee and who can maintain a positive team attitude no matter what the problems.

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