New England Soccer Today

Five Questions: Revolution at Dynamo

Revolution forward Diego Fagundez tries to escape Dynamo wingback Corey Ashe in a May 19th clash between the clubs. (Photo: Kari Heistad/

Before we review this week’s questions, let’s review the following issues confronting Jay Heaps before the opening whistle at BBVA Compass Stadium:

1. One of his starting central midfielders is listed as “questionable.”
2. His other starting central midfielder is in the Philippines.
3. Two of his starting wingbacks are listed as “out.”
4. A rookie wingback he’d like to probably use on Saturday is also listed as “out.”
5. His leading scorer is done for the season.
6. So is his second-leading scorer.
7. His high-priced poacher has only two goals in nine games.
8. One of his talented midfielders may not be fully fit.
9. Another talented midfielder hasn’t seen a start in four weeks.
10. He’s going to a place where the home club has never lost.

But aside from all this, things are going just perfect for the first-year head coach.

In any event, one thing Heaps won’t have to worry about on Saturday is effort. After all, if their last two games are any indication, it’s that this team isn’t about to go quietly into the night.

With good reason. It’s fair to say that a number of the remaining players available for the clash are playing for their livelihoods. After riding the bench, featuring in reserve games and wearing the second-team pinnie in practice, Saturday presents a gift-wrapped chance for rookies and role players alike to prove – or in some cases re-prove – themselves in first-team action.

Heaps may have quietly cursed the hand dealt to him this week. Yet, at the same time, will there be a more motivated bunch than the one that makes it onto the pitch on Saturday?

That’s just one question going into the matchup. Here’s five more for your review.

1. Will we get our first glimpse of Blair Gavin in a Revolution uniform? Last week, the player who’ll forever – or at least the foreseeable future – be known as the man traded for Shalrie Joseph went the full 90 in reserve league action. So we know that he’s ready to go. Now comes the hard part: stepping up against one of the toughest midfield in MLS. But, with Feilhaber and Toja both unlikely to make it to minute 90, Gavin may have no choice but to be thrown into the fire on Saturday.

2. Does Fernando Cardenas have enough in his arsenal to stay effective for 90 minutes? By all accounts, the diminutive midfielder is talented enough to play in MLS. He has the pace, he provides width, he as a nose for the goal and isn’t afraid to take an ambitious shot once in awhile. However, in saying that, there are signs that he still needs polish. That he isn’t consistent enough to warrant a full 90. But on Saturday, Cardenas is going to have to put it all together. He has to stay within himself, and avoid the temptation of trying to do it all. Keeping it simple will be the key for Cardenas to stay sharp from start to finish.

3. Could this be Sainey Nyassi’s last stand in a Revolution uniform? During the offseason, Heaps mentioned that the Gambian was one particular player he wanted to see more from. That maybe, just maybe, a tactical switch might unleash the promise and potential the speedy midfielder has carried since coming here five years ago. But injuries, as well as the emergence of players like Cardenas, Kelyn Rowe and Lee Nguyen have all conspired against Nyassi this season. Now that he’s healthy, and Heaps needing all available personnel this weekend, this may be Nyassi’s last chance to prove that he belongs with the squad in 2013.

4. What will we see from a possible Feilhaber-Toja partnership? It may be the most talented second-choice central midfield ever seen in MLS. Sure, Toja has been second-choice during the last two weeks due to fitness, or lack thereof. Then there’s Feilahber, who’s suffered through a season that can be only be termed “frustrating.” Two weeks ago in D.C., we got a glimpse of what the attack would look like with both on the field. It was a partnership that nearly yielded three goals in the final 10 minutes. If both can give at least 60 minutes on Saturday, the Revolution may just find themselves with the lead going into the final half hour of action.

5. Can the Revolution avoid death by set piece? During their first matchup in May, the Revolution succumbed early to one of Brad Davis’ set piece specials, but later tightened up and nearly found a way to win before Luiz Camargo leveled it in the 87th minute. This time around, though, there simply isn’t any room for error. Without their top two goal scorers, the Revolution can’t afford to allow the left foot of Davis to put them into a tough spot. So they’ll have to be smart on where they foul. They have to anticipate Davis’ picture-perfect passes. They have to see to it that no man goes unmarked, and that they cancel out the likes of Bobby Boswell, Je-Vaughn Watson and Adam Moffat in and around the 18. In short, the Revolution have to be nothing less than perfect on defensive set pieces on Saturday.


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