New England Soccer Today

Five Questions: Revolution vs. Fire

Revolution left back Chris Tierney is expected back in the starting XI after missing the last four games due to injury. (Photo: Kari Heistad/CapturedImages.biz)

Remember all the talk about making Gillette Stadium a fortress?

It was an interesting concept introduced by Jay Heaps earlier this season. The idea: if you want to win some soccer games, your home pitch is probably a good place to start.

At first, the attitude seemed to work. The Revolution went 5-1-3 in their first nine home matches. Just as importantly, they were playing confidently, as if that mantra had been branded into their collective psyche.

Then, something happened: the guests began to fight back.

Counterattacking sides like Columbus, Toronto and Montreal cluttered their defending third, and cut off the passing lanes. They employed a healthy dose of physicality. They cut down playmaker Benny Feilhaber whenever possible. The message: if the Revolution wanted to talk about a fortress, well, they better be ready for a battle.

With the home finale on tap, the Revolution have one more chance to brandish their early season attitude. One more chance to make it miserable for the visitor. To get the crowd behind them. To force the scoreboard in their favor, and close the home portion of the schedule with a memorable parting shot.

Anyway, before anyone takes a shot – parting or otherwise – let’s dig in for the penultimate edition of “Five Questions.”

1. What does Chris Tierney’s return mean to the attack? Tierney’s return should bolster the attack along the left, a section of the pitch the team has struggled to use since Lee Nguyen was shelved for the season. We all know Tierney isn’t as speedy as Kevin Alston, who admirably manned the left back spot in recent weeks. But with one of the best crosses on the club, Tierney can only strengthen the attack from the run of play. And while he may not be the most effective set piece specialist in MLS, he is the best candidate for dead ball situations.

2. Will Jerry Bengtson’s hat trick against Canada help him find the net on Saturday? It’s been a nearly two months since the Honduran striker has scored in a Revolution uniform. Although the an ACL injury forced fellow forward partner Saer Sene to the shelf, the fact is that Bengtson has to do better to find chances. True, there may not be a bevy of them to be found, especially with all the injuries to key pieces of the attack. Two weeks ago, Bengtson banged an easy chance off the post, signaling that his confidence isn’t what it should. We’ll see if Tuesday’s hat trick is enough to restore his goalscoring exploits.

3. What does Jay Heaps have to do to re-awaken the attack? Clearly, whatever the offense has been doing in their last three games isn’t enough. For all the shots they’re collecting, the bottom line is that effort alone isn’t good enough. So with that being the case, it may be time to tinker the formation. A 4-3-3, with Fagundez and Rowe out wide and Bengtson central may not be the worst approach to try. Yes, injuries have limited Heaps’ choices. We know that Heaps hasn’t been able to feature a regular XI since Labor Day. Yet, that should be all the more reason to experiment with the formation.

4. Can the Revolution cut down on the mistakes against a squad that capitalizes on them? Although the Revolution grabbed a 2-0 win the last time the Fire stepped onto the synthetic surface at Gillette Stadium, the fact is that the Fire have only gotten stronger since. Their toppling of the Red Bulls two weeks ago may signal a power shift in the east. Even so, the Fire aren’t embarrassed to continue to live off their opponents’ mistakes. In light of that, the Revolution have to stay mental sharp to avoid the game-changing miscue. They have to provide cover when they attack, and keep their focus when Chicago’s on the ball. And if they don’t? Well, let’s just say the home crowd won’t going home too happy.

5. Will the vocal and emotional Clyde Simms seen against Philly return? Whatever Clyde Simms was eating or drinking prior to the contest in Philadelphia two weeks ago, somebody needs to ensure that he gets some more prior to Saturday’s matchup. For much of the season, the center half has been exhibited the classic, lead-by-example persona. It worked when partnered with Shalrie Joseph, but not so much without him. So when Simms broke out the bad boy look against the Union, it was a welcome change. With so many different parts on the pitch, Simms will need to continue that vocal approach against the Fire.

2 Comments

  1. Chris B

    October 20, 2012 at 11:11 am

    If Tierney plays and Alston goes back to RB then it’s important to see how he performs. We all can agree, I think, that he did well at LB so if he isn’t great at RB tonight then we should consider making him a LB.

    What does Heaps have to do to re-awaken the attack, you ask? At this point he needs to magically heal Saer Sene. Hopefully Jerry starts finding the net consistently though until Sene returns next season.

    Agree completely on Simms. We’ve been craving that vocal leadership from him for awhile. Better late than never I suppose.

  2. Jim

    October 20, 2012 at 6:17 pm

    “The message: if the Revolution wanted to talk about a fortress, well, they better be ready for a battle.” — what a line! Pure gold.

    Question 1 & 2 go hand in hand. If no one can provide Bengston with service he will continue to not produce. He’s a poacher, yet the Revs force him to create his own chances. Hopefully Tierney will help.

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