New England Soccer Today

Five Questions: Revolution at Impact

After sitting out last weekend’s game due to red card suspension, Revolution midfielder Benny Feilhaber (left) will be available to play in Saturday’s season finale. (Photo: Kari Heistad/

With all the talk of the threatening weather set to bear down on New England come Sunday(ish), it’s only fitting that we talk about two very different topics for this year’s season-ending edition of Five Questions.

Meteorology and soccer. Wait. Meteorology and soccer? Bear with me.

In the first 17 games, the sun had poked through the clouds a few times for the Revolution. Despite a treacherous schedule that put them on the road for six of their first nine games, they nevertheless got decent results (6-7-4, 22 points), scored goals (24), and more importantly, restored hope in Foxboro. It was the very essence of Jay Heaps’ introductory press conference. And the seven-day forecast appeared promising for the plucky upstarts.

Then, on or about July 14, the skies started to darken. Thunder rumbled across Norfolk County. Lightning scorched the land. Hail pounded everything in its path.

The storm started with a 1-0 loss at home to Toronto (who’d never beaten the Revolution in Foxboro). Days later, the Impact, the worst-defense in the league, held the Revs to one goal (a circus goal at that), and claimed a 2-1 win. It didn’t get better from there. Well, it went it a little something like this: 2-10-4 (10 points), 14 goals, and one advance ticket to the offseason.

As the second half – and, by default, the regular season – reaches its conclusion Saturday, we can only say this: it was wild ride for those who weathered the full slate. One filled with splashes of sunshine (wins at L.A., vs. Chicago and New York), torrential downpours (the, ahem, 10-game winless streak), and overcast skies (scoreless draws to Columbus and Philadelphia). It proved itself unpredictable. Unpredictable, much like the weather here in New England. And it made some of us who tried to forecast it look pretty darn silly.

Anyway, before we sign off for the winter – which could be cold and snowy, or mild and dry, depending upon which Farmer’s Almanac you purchased – we’ve got five more questions. Five questions to ask before we all rush the supermarkets en masse looking for bread and milk and Bon Bons. Yes, Bon Bons. Let’s do it.

1. Will we see the return of the 4-1-4-1 formation? Last week, Heaps unleashed a tweak to his team’s typical shape. No more banks of four, four and two. Instead, the Revolution went with a lone striker, and a true defensive midfielder to throw enough foam on the Fire to escape with a 1-0 win. In light of that performance, it’d be hard to avoid the temptation to do the same against the Impact. Yes, Sanna Nyassi Marco Di Vaio may not be a Chris Rolfe-level Rev killer. Though, if the Revolution want to bottle Montreal’s attack, last week’s formation would probably be a good start.

2. What will Benny Feilhaber’s role be? After serving his one-game red card suspension last week, the veteran midfielder is primed to make his mark on Saturday’s game. The only question, of course, is where and when he’ll get the opportunity to do so. One one hand, last week’s performance by the midfield unit looked just fine without Feilhaber. On the other hand, Clyde Simms’ status for Saturday is a considerable question, with his strained right quadriceps responsible for sending him back to the injury list this week. If the past is precedent, Simms will likely get the start, and Feilhaber may stay on the bench as insurance. Of course, if Simms can grind it out for a full 90, expect Feilhaber to spell Blair Gavin around the hour mark.

3. How badly does Jay Heaps want to win this game? On paper, this is a completely meaningless game. Two sides with no playoff hopes, no chance to advance in the table, and nothing else but pride to play for. Well, tell that to Heaps. Eleven months ago, Heaps stressed the need to get the Revolution to play proactively and never back down. Think that’ll somehow change on Saturday? And without having to worry about resting players or managing minutes, it wouldn’t be shocking to see the head coach to squeeze every last ounce of effort from his side on Saturday.

4. Does Bobby Shuttleworth need Saturday’s game to cement his spot as starting goalkeeper in 2013? Probably not. Barring a catastrophic injury or a sudden, inexplicable evaporation of his goalkeeping abilities, Shuttleworth will not only be back in 2013, but he’ll be the starter. Yes, Matt Reis is a quality keeper that the club will likely want to keep on board next season. And yes, Shuttleworth still has some refining to do before he can be considered an elite keeper. However, the writing is on the wall: the spot between the sticks belongs to Shuttleworth in 2013.

5. Which players will be wearing a Revolution uniform for the last time? For all the lows the Revolution have endured this season, the fact is that the current roster is unquestionably better than the one in place last year. Additions like Saer Sene, Clyde Simms and Lee Nguyen have all made the local XI unquestionably stronger. At the same time, Heaps and Mike Burns are going to scour the globe in search of the talent needed to bolster the squad even more. What that means: the role players might want to start talking to their agents about the future. Some of those players who might be applauding the Revolution faithful for the final time: Dimitry Imbongo, Sainey Nyassi and Fernando Cardenas.


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