New England Soccer Today

Five Questions: Revolution vs. Chivas USA

Shalrie Joseph will be back in Foxboro on Wednesday – but as a member of Chivas USA. (Photo: Kari Heistad/

Get ready for all sorts of weird on Wednesday.

Less than a month after he was traded to Chivas USA, former club captain Shalrie Joseph makes his return to Gillette Stadium as a member of the Rojiblancos.

Of course, many of us have already seen him, whether in replay or photographic form, in a Chivas kit, looking very Chivas and all. It’s the stripes, of course. And, yes, it still does seem kind of strange.

But Wednesday’s an entirely different game. Literally.

In what will likely become a certifiable first, an opposing player will draw the loudest cheers from the Revolution supporters. Yes, yay, Kevin Alston at right back. Cue the standard applause. But wait until the words “At midfield, number 18, Shalrie Joseph…” echo off the walls and empty seats. It’s going to be epic.

Following that scene, of course, comes the customary pre-game handshakes. Obviously, Shalrie, being a popular presence here for nearly a decade, is going to get a warm welcome from his former mates. Daps, first bumps, hurried man-hugs. Not as epic, but still interesting.

Then, of course, comes the game. The game in which Shalrie himself probably circled moments after he was traded. Think he hasn’t forgotten the feeling of riding the bench, his role reduced to second-half sub? Expect Ball-Winning and Tackle-Shedding Shalrie to make himself visible on Wednesday.

Lastly, regardless of the final score, expect a scene all too familiar to Patriots fans: the post-game handshake. Over the years, the handshake cam has haunted Bill Belichick whenever he strolls over to reacquaint himself with a friendly face (Romeo Crennel), a former mentor (Bill Parcells) or even a disloyal assistant (Eric Mangini) at midfield. Yeah, you know where this is going.

Will Shalrie embrace Jay Heaps the way Belichick opened his arms to Parcells? Or will he simply look his way, give a quick nod, and jog back to the visitor’s locker room?

It won’t be long before we find out about. But before it all unfolds, we ponder five more questions going into the most interesting Revolution-Chivas USA game ever.

1. Will Jay Heaps unleash the hounds and have his side adopt a high line? Last week, the Revolution lived dangerously when they kept the line high in Columbus. And why not? Clearly, not much else was working as the attack had slowed to a trickle going into the game. So with everyone up (except, of course, Matt Reis…that just would’ve been foolish), the Revolution created chances galore and went up 2-0 midway through the half. It worked. But every rose has its thorns. And the thorns were particularly sharp when the defense fell victim to clumsy fouls (Federico Higuain sends his regards) and poor marking (Jairo Arrieta says “thank you”). That said, there are nine games left in the season. The playoffs are a mourned fantasy. It wouldn’t be the worst idea for Heaps to have his guys push up again – especially without a set piece artist to worry about.

2. Is the attack ready to resume where it left off in Columbus? The answer to that, in a sense, is contingent upon the above. But let’s say Heaps errs on the side of caution this week. Let’s say he doesn’t want to give his defense another reason to allow four goals to fall through. So, Heaps tells the guys to stay back a little deeper. Will the attack lose its juice? Possibly. On the flip side, the Revolution are home. OK, so maybe it’s been nearly two months since they’ve scored at home. But, you have to think they’ll come into this game confident. Sure, the scoreline in Columbus was a mouthful of Sour Patch Kids. And yes, they may have squandered some of their chances. Even so, the Crew game may have been the cure to what has ailed the attack since July. So look for the hosts to come out hungry.

3. Can the defense be trusted? That’s the million dollar question. For the better part of the eight-game slide, the back four actually hasn’t been all that bad (eight goals allowed in the seven games prior to last week). They haven’t been great. But they’ve been decent, save for last week’s goal giveaway promotion. With the Goats in town, this could be the perfect opportunity for the defense to reassert itself. An opportunity to reclaim the “Gillette Stadium is a fortress” tag. To say, “Back Four Clan ain’t nothin’ to mess with.” This is a statement game – not just for the team as a whole. For the backline, this is the opportunity to exercise the demons that haunted them in Columbus help the club do something it hasn’t done in nearly two months: win.

4. Will we see Benny Feilhaber pushed out wide again? Given how he looked on Saturday, it would seem to make sense. All the things posted on his resume came to fruition at Crew Stadium. He found teammates, his form out wide sharpened the attack and, yep, he played with a little bit of edge. Good edge, of course, not the customary “please give me a yellow” edge. At the same time, let’s not forget: Feilhaber started the first chuck of the season out wide, and was, to put it mildly, a shell of his former self. OK, National Team self. So Heaps stationed him in the center, where he almost instantly thrived in a 2-0 win over Chicago. But as his responsibility became more defensive in nature, it was clear he needed a change – a change that worked well last week, and should help the attack on Wednesday. 

5. Who has to step up? Given the flurry of emotions surrounding the mid-week affair, it has to be Clyde Simms. No doubt. Paired up against his former midfield partner, the veteran center half has to be at his strongest. He has to be resilient, stubborn and stingy. But he has to be careful to stay within himself. After all, he’s not Joseph, nor should he try to be. But with Joseph ready to drive a stake into the heart of his former club (figuratively, of course), the call to arms falls on Simms. He has to be the one to set the tempo. To get his teammates on the same page. To stand tall against a Chivas 11 that’s just as thirsty for points as the Revolution. It’ll be a challenge – a challenge that  Simms must ante up his game to meet.

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