New England Soccer Today

Five Questions: Revolution at Red Bulls

Revolution players and coaches pose with the Boston city flag after the city was devastated in the wake of Monday's terrorist attacks at the Boston Marathon. (Photo: New England Revolution)

Revolution players and coaches pose with the Boston city flag after the city was devastated in the wake of Monday’s terrorist attacks at the Boston Marathon. (Photo: New England Revolution)

It’s impossible to talk about Saturday’s game without mentioning the horrific events that occurred this week, and how those events impacted our lives, especially for those in and around Boston.

By now, most of the details are firmly embedded in our minds.  The bombings. The casualties. The scores of injuries. The manhunt. The city-wide lock down. The capture. All of these things have shaken us to our core, and have challenged the way we think about the world.

We’re shaken because we don’t understand how this all could’ve happened. We don’t know why the two suspected terrorists chose to detonate two bombs at one of the most prolific sporting events in the country with the intent to hurt and murder. We don’t know why innocent people were killed or maimed. We don’t know why an MIT officer was slain. Why a MBTA officer was shot. Why the suspects had a modest arsenal of bombs and ammunition. We don’t know much, which is why, right now, this whole situation is still so tough to grasp.

We’ll learn more as the days, weeks and months go by.  Of course, we’re relieved that the two suspects aren’t in any position to inflict more pain and suffering. We celebrated when Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was captured on Friday night, and deservedly so. It was a cathartic moment for a region that desperately needed it. But we should also celebrate what we learned after one of the most trying weeks in quite some time.

–  We know that Revolution goalkeeper Matt Reis is a hero. Not a sports hero, but a true life-saving hero. After the first explosion, Reis, who attended the race to cheer on his wife, Nicole, rushed toward the epicenter to search for his father-in-law. As he told CNN’s Piers Morgan, he treated his father-in-law on the scene by using his shirt as a tourniquet to stop the bleeding. When others ran away, Reis remained to assist, even in the face of fear.

– We know that the local, state and federal authorities dedicated themselves in the midst of a painstaking investigation. Tragically, Sean Collier paid the ultimate price for that dedication. It was a trying time in every sense. But in a day and age where it’s easy to give into turf wars and inter-department rivalries, it appears that law enforcement at every level all worked in tandem to bring the manhunt  to a resolution on Friday night.

– We know that, in a day and age where people are writing off newspapers, local papers – the Boston Globe, especially – reminded us why it’s important to have a strong, and doggedly-determined press. No one entity got it all right – we’re all human, after all – but a tremendous credit should go to the reporters who provided and informed the public with integrity, fairness and compassion.

English poet Edward Henry once said that “affliction is the good man’s shining time.” That statement was proved many times over during the past week, and the above provided excellent examples.

May we never forget what happened, and may we always remember and pray for those whose lives were lost or irreparably altered.

In the spirit of Saturday’s Revolution-Red Bulls game, as supporters of both clubs unite before the game, we should also fasten and strengthen the ties that bind us all. Not only in soccer, but in life. For if this week reminded us of anything, it’s that life is far too fragile to dwell on that which divides us.

1. Is this the game that the Revolution offense awakens? It better be. The chances of them grinding out another goal-less draw against the Red Bulls is next to zero. Despite some curious early-season power outages, New York can still turn a mistake into paydirt better than most. Their movement off the ball, and their propensity to keep possession is going to test the Revolution defense like no one has this season. With that mind, the Revolution have to brush off the cobwebs off an attack that hasn’t posted a shot on target twice in their last three, especially against a Red Bulls backline that’s given up some weak goals this season.

2. How much will we see of Saer Sene? The return of the French forward last week had to be a sight for sore eyes in Revolutionland. Given the club’s offensive struggles, it seemed as if even Jay Heaps threw his hands up when he sent Sene on in an ugly game – and one played on Seattle’s tricky plastic turf. That said, Sene’s presence didn’t hurt, even though was clearly rusty. The sharpness will return, and it won’t be surprising if Heaps hopes to squeeze 30-40 minutes out of Sene at Red Bull Arena.

3. What can the Revolution do to disrupt the Red Bulls gameplan? For all the talent and skill they have, New York is very much a vulnerable team at the moment. Their mid-week 1-0 loss to Sporting K.C. exemplified that, with finishing problems an also an epidemic down I-95.  Additionally, thanks to Juninho’s silly red card, the Revolution won’t have to worry as much on defensive set pieces.  To keep them off their game, A.J. Soares and Andrew Farrell have to stay in unison when Thierry Henry or Fabian Espindola have the ball in the final third. Kalifa Cisse has to act more like a ballwinner and less like a scarecrow in the middle of the park. Clyde Simms has to clog the passing lanes. And, of course, Bobby Shuttleworth must put together another solid performance like the one seen in Seattle last week.

4. If Juan Toja’s a go, can he finally get on the same page with the midfielders and Bengtson? The past few weeks have witnessed a wild and erratic Toja effectively undermine the Revolution attack. His passes have been late, he’s held the ball too long, and many time, he looks like a player who fell asleep while Heaps went over the gameplan with the players. There is a direct link between the Colombian midfielder’s play and the team’s attacking success: his best game came in their season opening win, and since then, both Toja’s and the team’s sharpness in the final third has been suspect, at best. If the Revolution want to scrap together three points on Saturday, they can’t afford to have the Toja of the last four games make an appearance.

5. Can the Revolution avoid letting their emotions get the best of them? This is the kind of game that could very well expose a mentally-weak team. So far, we’ve seen the Revolution up their games in Chicago, against Sporting K.C., and to a lesser degree, in Seattle. But how they perform in New York,  after an emotionally-draining week in the Boston-metro area and in front of a unified set of Revolution and Red Bulls supporters, will truly test this team’s mental mettle. The players have to stay disciplined, and keep their emotions in check. Of course, an early goal would feel especially poignant. But they can’t be tricked into thinking that they win on emotion or adrenaline alone. Not to sound cold, but they have to approach this game as they would any other. They can let out their emotions after they score, and after they celebrate a win.

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