New England Soccer Today

Five Questions: Revolution vs. Union

(Photo: Chris Aduama/

(Photo: Chris Aduama/

What is it about the Union?

Since entering the league three years ago, they’ve gone through two different managers, signed and “traded” away a disgruntled star, traded away and then traded for one of the best players, adopted a funny-sounding hashtag, fallen short of the postseason twice and along the way, have been one of the most unpredictable clubs in MLS, both on and off the pitch.

Despite all this, the Revolution still haven’t found a way to beat them.

Whether it’s giving up a late goal not once, but three times in their last four, witnessing a star player implode in the midst of a shellacking, or conceding a three-goal halftime lead, the fact is the Revolution have spent more time shaking their heads in disgust against the Union than, perhaps, any other team in the conference.

It’s difficult to call Saturday’s game against the Union a must-win game for the Revolution, especially this early into the season. There’s still plenty of soccer to play between now and Oct. 22, and a loss or draw doesn’t doom the Revolution to another long winter.

But a win would serve as a beacon in a season that’s starting to grow dark after a bright start. A win would restore the hope that many of the players, coaches and supporters held that this is club isn’t only improved from last season’s edition, but one that is capable of reaching the postseason.

On paper, there’s nothing special about Saturday’s game. Frankly, it’s just another regular season conference clash. But given all that’s transpired both on and off the pitch, a victory could prove to be a game-changer, and could very well signal that the Revolution are not on their way toward becoming the Amanda Bynes of MLS.

Hollywood references and facepalms asides, let’s look at five other questions to ponder going into Saturday’s clash.

1. Besides getting an own goal, what is it going to take to score against the Union? No doubt Jay Heaps has been studying up and trying to find the answer to this query all week. In looking at the team’s last matchup on Mar. 16, it appears that the Revs best opportunity may come from the set piece. The Union aren’t the strongest side defensively, and are prone to fouling near the 18. In a sense, they might as well be asking the Revolution to score from the set piece. It’s about time the Revs answer.

2. What will Juan Toja’s role be? Last week, we saw Toja relegated to the bench after a spell of weird, and often unhinged, soccer from the creative Colombian. Whether it was due his play or injury (he was listed as questionable for the NYRB game) isn’t entirely known. What is known is that Toja looked like a different player when he came on after the hour against the Red Bulls. Instead of scoffing at opportunities and giving the ball away, he remained composed and collected, and helped grease the gears. No doubt he’s capable of this at a moment’s notice, but after last week’s showing, Heaps may be tempted to have the midfielder come off the bench again.

3. What impact will A.J. Soares’ injury have on the backline? After spending the bulk of the preseason getting on the same page as offseason addition Jose Goncalves, the heart of the defense was certainly strong in the first five games. There was cohesion, and as a result, the Revolution racked up four shutouts along the way. But now that Soares is out for Saturday, Stephen McCarthy faces the unenviable task of upholding the defense’s early-season reputation. We saw some interesting moments last weekend where McCarthy looked very much like a player who hadn’t played an MLS minute since last autumn. But with a full week’s worth of training with the first unit, he shouldn’t look as out of place. Count on him to step up big against the Union.

4. How will the Revolution perform in what’s expected to be an emotional home crowd? Saturday’s game marks the club’s first home game since the Boston Marathon bombings, so there’s sure the sentiment seen in NY last week is sure to spill over. After a 4-1 humbling, the Revolution need to find a way to feed off the energy that the crowd will bring and use to their advantage. The Revolution can’t afford to get caught up in the moment, though. They cannot allow early goals to leak through, or another team to put up a four-spot, especially at home. That said, mental toughness, perhaps more than anything else, will be the key this weekend.

5. If Jerry Bengtson falls short on his chances early, should Heaps take him off for Saer Sene? There’s little evidence to suggest that the Honduran isn’t trying to find the back of the net. He’s getting into good spots, and has found the bulk of the team’s best chances. But so far, that’s only yield him one goal so far. With scoring at a premium, especially with the Revs stuck inside a five-game winless streak, it might be time for Heaps to send a message to Bengtson: score or step aside for someone else to. Sene is progressing as the weeks go by, so if there’s still a zero under the Revolution’s side of the scoreboard, it may not be the worst idea to take off Bengtson in favor of Sene.

Editor’s note: With our friend Brian O’Connell about to embark on the married life, the Five Questions and Five Things We Learned features will return shortly after he comes back from his honeymoon on May 10.


  1. Chris B

    April 27, 2013 at 3:22 pm

    Great piece as always Brian.

    I just want to say congratulations on your marriage! Have a great honeymoon!

  2. Paulo Simões

    April 27, 2013 at 4:18 pm

    In regards in #5 I think Sene is ready to start.

  3. Brian O'Connell

    April 28, 2013 at 11:00 pm

    Thanks, Chris!

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