History is on the line at Gillette Stadium on Saturday. But, unfortunately for the hosts, it’s not the kind of history they’re terribly anxious to achieve.
Following Wednesday’s fall-from-ahead 3-3 draw against Chivas USA, the Revolution, who go into Saturday’s match 0-7-2 in their last nine, find themselves on the doorstep of breaking the club record for consecutive games without a win.
Right now, the record stands at nine. Nine straight games in which victory eluded them. Whether it was a hard 0-0 draw in Kansas City, a frustrating 1-0 loss to Toronto, or a dramatic 4-3 loss to Columbus, about the only thing the Revolution have been successful in doing is finding new ways to avoid the win column.
And it looks like that trend is going to continue this weekend. OK, so maybe the Union aren’t exactly contenders at the moment. But the cold truth is this: the Revolution have never beaten the Union. Never. Never as in a 0-3-2 record against. Never as in still waiting for it to happen. Never as in nunca. Subtitle: (never).
Then again, Saturday night could be the night. After all, the Revolution are undefeated (2-0-0) all-time when facing the prospect of a 10-game winless streak. You can look it up.
Anyway, onto the questions surrounding Revolution-Union Part Deux.
1. Will the defense show up? Call them textbook errors (a la Jay Heaps) or mental lapses. Or both. This is a free country, after all. Whatever you choose to call it, it’s clear that the defensive mistakes are haunting the Revolution. Big time. One week it’s a pair of set-piece strikes. Four days later, it’s another pair of set pieces and a wonderstrike that dooms them. But the defense may be given a gift this weekend against the Union. Over their last five, Philadelphia’s scored only three goals and appear to be stuck in the same offensive rut the Revolution were in not that long ago. If there’s a game the back line can turn it around, it’s Saturday’s clash.
2. With Saer Sene out, who gets the start up top alongside Jerry Bengtson? Earlier this season, Heaps may have leaned toward Blake Brettschneider. But with the second-year striker struggling to find his form again, it’s not a given that he’ll partner with Bengtson against the Union. In light of that, Heaps has a variety of options at his disposal. He could push up Ryan Guy and partner Benny Feilhaber with Clyde Simms in the middle of the park. Or he could keep Guy in the midfield and slot Feilhaber in the withdrawn forward’s role. But instead of switching assignments, Heaps may be best served by giving Diego Fagundez an opportunity to partner up with Bengtson.
3. Will Benny Feilhaber return to the starting XI? If you were surprised by the decision to bench Feilhaber on Wednesday, well, you weren’t alone. Not only had he come off one of his strongest showings of the season in Columbus, but given his familiarity with Shalrie Joseph, you’d think he’d be a certain start. Yeah, not so much. And by now, it’s becoming more apparent that Feilhaber no longer has a reserved spot in the starting XI anymore. And while that may be a byproduct of his inconsistent form, it’s worth mentioning that Feilhaber put on a strong effort against the Union earlier this summer. There’s no question the Revolution needs their playmaker to rediscover his form. And fast. That said, Saturday may present the perfect opportunity for him to get back on the rails.
4. Can the Revolution avoid the critical lapses? Let’s face it: there’s no such thing as a mistake-free match. It doesn’t exist. Although they’ll have to tighten up in general, they have to be especially disciplined in what Heaps often alludes to as “critical moments” – i.e. the first five minutes, five minutes after scoring, the five minutes before and after halftime, the final five minutes. On Wednesday, the Goats scored not once, but twice during critical moments. Yes, the attack is on fire at the moment. But the Revolution have to find a way to improve their mental strength. They have to immediately recognize the moments in which their opponent is going to apply heavy pressure. They have to do all that, and then adjust accordingly.
5. Is the attack capable of another three-goal performance? It’s going to be awfully hard to do without Sene on the field. But that doesn’t mean it’s completely out of the question. To compensate for the French forward’s absence, Ryan Guy is going to have to step up, much like he did in Columbus. Another player who might be called upon to dial it up a few more notches: Kelyn Rowe. Although he looked a lot more dangerous on Wednesday than he has in weeks, the fact is the Revolution need to see more of that from their first round pick. And if Fagundez gets the start, he’ll have to be pesky as he was in Columbus to threaten the Union back four. In short, it’s going to take a little more from every one else – including Jerry Bengtson – to keep the goals flowing on Saturday.