New England Soccer Today

Pride and Playoffs

Will Benny Feilhaber find some success against the Crew defense on Saturday? (Photo: Kari Heistad/CapturedImages.biz)

When the Columbus Crew and New England Revolution face off on Saturday, the two teams will be hoping for victory for entirely different reasons. The Crew will be seeking a crucial three points to stay alive in the playoff hunt, while the Revolution will simply be looking to build towards 2013 and grab their first win since July 8.

Columbus (9-8-6, 33 points) is coming off a crucial 2-1 midweek home win over Toronto FC that sees the club seven points out of a Eastern Conference playoff spot with a game in hand on fifth place D.C. United. The Crew also have two games in hand on both the Houston Dynamo and Chicago Fire, who sit eight points above them in the standings in third and fourth place, respectively.

The path isn’t easy for the Crew, but with games remaining against both D.C. and Chicago, their destiny is in their own hands. Their playoff chances stand at a respectable 28% with 11 games remaining according to Sports Club Stats. A loss to the Revolution, however, would nearly halve those chances.

New England (6-13-5, 23 points), meanwhile, has lost any realistic postseason hopes and is getting closer to mathematical elimination with just a 0.04% chance remaining. Even a 10-0-0 run to finish the season wouldn’t be enough to guarantee the Revolution a playoff spot without some help from other results along the way.

But, the Revolution could use a win nearly as much as the Crew. While a win for the Crew may have more tangible positives for the club, the Revolution are in desperate need of a victory to provide some hope for the future.

In the midst of a seven game winless run (0-6-1), the Revolution are two games away from tying the club record of nine set in 1999 and matched last season. That will surely be a mark first year head coach Jay Heaps hopes to avoid.

And, the New England desperately needs some positive results to give the club something to build on for 2013. Before the recent slump, the Revolution sat at 6-7-4, were playing attractive attacking soccer and looked to quickly be putting 2011 in the rearview mirror.

Now, the team seems to be regressing. That attacking style has been effectively stymied by opponents. The team is quickly approaching another dubious record, having failed to score in nine games this season, just two less than the club record of 11 set in 2010 and one less than the 10 in last year’s season full of offensive struggles.

While the team has plenty of excuses for their struggles – fouls, penalty calls, mistakes, etc. – they haven’t found any answers. Excuses aren’t going to make this team better this fall or in 2013, only solutions will do that. The coaching staff and players need to find them.

Despite the defensive struggles in last weekend’s 2-1 loss to the Chicago Fire, the Revolution’s main concern has to be the offense.  Designated Player Jerry Bengtson finally getting a full week of training in with the club should help. The Honduran International should be ready to start on Saturday.

What isn’t so clear is who will play around Bengtson and create chances to put his finishing abilities to good use. Saer Sene, his likely partner up top, has scored just two goals in 12 games since May, while playing both up top and on the wings. The French forward’s confidence around goal seems to have taken a hit as his finishing has declined from his early season form.

More questions live in the midfield, where the team’s highest paid player, Benny Feilhaber, found himself benched to start the match against the Fire. The sometimes U.S. International hasn’t always fit seamlessly into the Revolution’s system, but is too talented and too highly paid to be a bench player – much like the team decided with Shalrie Joseph before trading him earlier this month.

With Lee Nguyen (left ankle sprain) questionable, however, any decision on Feilhaber’s future may be put on hold. It’s hard to see Feilhaber on the sideline, when Nguyen, who along with Feilhaber are the team’s two most creative threats in midfield, might be unable to start.

Still, who starts at right midfield is another question. Rookie Kelyn Rowe hasn’t done enough to cement his place in the starting eleven, as shown by Fernando Cardenas’ start against the Fire. Despite scoring on Saturday, Cardenas appears to do his best work off the bench. Finding the answer to the right midfield spot is one of many issues Heaps will be looking to solve in the final ten games.

Regardless of the lineups, Saturday’s match-up looks destined for a tight final score. Seventeen of the Crew’s 23 matches have been decided by a goal or finished in a draw, as have 19 of the Revolution’s 24 matches. The big difference? The Crew are a respectable 6-5-6 in those 17 games, while the Revolution are a dismal 2-12-5.

The two teams played to a scoreless draw on June 16 at Gillette Stadium.

Prediction: Crew 2, Revolution 1

Projected Line-up (R-to-L):  Reis; Alston, McCarthy, Soares, Tierney; Rowe, Simms, Feilhaber, Guy; Sene, Bengtson

3 Comments

  1. rick sewall

    August 24, 2012 at 10:31 am

    If there was promotion-relegation in effect both teams would have a very meaningful game to play. I think the players would prefer this as would the fans, no matter what the outcome. It is hard to play only for pride. The fact that ownership disagrees is discouraging. By the way, there is an old sentiment in soccer intimating that the best possible tactical practice you can have is a technical practice. This may or may not be true with the pros, but I think the Rev staff should at least give it some thought. They’v got to do something to get out of the rut they are in.

  2. Robert

    August 24, 2012 at 12:11 pm

    With the percentages against a playoff run this year, and the team begins to look towards next year, I read that Midfielder Juan Toja is going through the allocation process. Is this a player the Revs will, or should, bring in to the team? I figure why not use that top allocation pick, instead of losing it, with an eye towards next season. It doesn’t appear that Bocanegra is coming any time soon so the team might as well use it. I read that Toja was a popular player when he played for FC Dallas. It may leave the team with a number (wealth?) of midfielders but perhaps the team could deal from strength in the off-season to possibly strengthen other areas. Just a thought.

    • Chris B

      August 24, 2012 at 1:35 pm

      You hit the nail on the head. I know the Revs are already receiving offers for Toja but I think they should take him and see how he fits in with the squad, if he doesn’t fit so well maybe they can trade him in the offseason. The only problem is, if Toja isn’t as good as he was in 2007 and 2008, less teams would want him.

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