New England Soccer Today

Five Questions: #OCvNE

Photo credit: Chris Aduama/

Photo credit: Chris Aduama/

Nearly 14 years ago, the Revolution played to a 0-0 overtime draw against the Tampa Bay Mutiny at Raymond James Stadium. That’s right: an overtime draw.

It’s fair to say plenty of things have changed since the last time the locals found themselves in Florida. The most obvious is that neither the Mutiny, nor the Miami Fusion, exist anymore (though both monikers have been “resurrected” in different forums).

Perhaps the most compelling change is the future of pro soccer in the U.S. When the final whistle blew on that 0-0 draw on Aug. 26, 2001, some were saying that the league’s final days were on the horizon. It was being kept afloat by a trio wealthy businessmen. Heck, the fact that the Krafts took on ownership of the Earthquakes for two years was a sign of where the league appeared to be headed – and it was not toward 24 teams.

Thankfully, the league survived. Since the last time we saw the locals in Florida, business has boomed in both MLS and American soccer. And as a result, we’re no longer talking about the end of MLS anymore (well, at least most of us aren’t).

On Friday, the Revolution will step onto the pitch at the Citrus Bowl, and they’ll see something that the 2001 iteration could only imagine: throngs of passionate fans. Tifo, tifo, and more tifo. A former Ballon D’or winner. In many respects, 14 years may have well felt like century given how much has changed since Tampa Bay hosted the Revolution for the final time.

With that trip through time complete, let’s look forward to something even more compelling: the future! And by “future,” we mean “Friday,” and more specifically, the Revolution’s initial encounter with Orlando City, of course.

1. Will it be four in a row for Farrell-Jones center back combo? Last week, it looked like we’d see Jose Goncalves back in the XI after his name was removed from the injury list. Then, Saturday arrived, and instead of JoGo, it was JeJo, er Jermaine Jones, in the middle of the defense with Andrew Farrell. Although we saw the skipper come on as a second half substitute, that doesn’t necessarily mean Goncalves is ready to reclaim his starting spot just yet. On Wednesday, he was seen lightly jogging along the sidelines while the rest of the team worked on stretching. Typically, that means an injury isn’t 100 percent healed. If that’s the case here, it looks like we’ll get another dose of the Farrell-Jones duo on Friday.

2. Who’ll need to step it up on Friday? Jay Heaps wasn’t afraid to admit that last week’s match, on the whole, lacked artistry. He called it hard-fought and physical. Passing accuracy percentages dipped into the 60s, and many times, moving the ball with swiftness and precision looked like a chore. Not surprisingly, many players appeared to be shadows of their usual selves, and that was especially true of Chris Tierney. The fullback with the golden left foot was largely quiet, connecting on less than 50 percent of his passes, and generally absent from the attack. Of course, with speed merchant Dane Richards lurking, his duties were more defense-oriented than normal. So in that light, his performance can be forgiven somewhat. But against a technically-sound side like Orlando City, the Revolution are going to need all of their attacking weapons – Tierney especially – to get the result.

3. Will Lee Nguyen return to the XI? Despite being benched last week after sitting out training to protest the terms of his contract, Nguyen wasted no time showcasing his game-changing abilities on Saturday. Five minutes after coming on for Kelyn Rowe, the reigning Revolution goal king set up a nifty pass for Teal Bunbury to send the squad to its fifth win of the season. While no one doubts the talent or skill Nguyen possesses, it’ll be interesting to see where he stands in the eyes of the coaching staff (and, perhaps, the organization). Does a full week of training warrant his inclusion in the XI? Or does he have to do more before he’s back in their good graces? Given the way he performed last week, and the fact that he’s been in training all week, it doesn’t seem smart to keep Nguyen off the XI on the road, and at a hostile environment.

4. How can the Revolution contain Kaka? Let’s just put it out there: the Revolution are not going stop or shut down the Brazilian playmaker. That’s just not going to happen. He is not the kind of guy who you can simply chop down repeatedly to demoralize him. In other words, he is not Felipe. In light of that, the Revolution’s best hope at keeping Kaka from wielding too much influence can be boiled down to two words: team defense. It won’t be up to Farrell, or Jones, or Andy Dorman, or Scott “the Pitbull” Caldwell to spy and stop Kaka alone. Rather, it’ll be their collective approach. In recent weeks, we’ve seen the cohesion strengthen for the Revolution, and the results have followed. But for the first time since David Villa terrorized them in the Bronx during week 2, the Revolution find themselves tasked with stopping a bonafide game-changer. Team defense? The locals will need to bring it in bulk when they step onto the pitch at the Citrus Bowl.

 5. Can the offense keep it up? Given the way it has performed over the last three weeks, there’s no reason to think the attack will be slowing down anytime soon. After tallying up eight goals in their last three, the Revolution will face a defense that’s conceded 10 through its first eight. While that stat isn’t exactly terrible, it’s not great, either. That said, the Revolution have been opportunistic to say the least on its chances in recent weeks. All they need to wreak havoc on a defense is a mental error or a moment of poor marking. That’s it. The only thing that could potential stand in the way: their unfamiliarity with the Citrus Bowl. Yes, the turf is generally the same as it is at Gillette Stadium. But having to learn the intricacies of a new venue could lend itself to some disjointed play, and in turn, slow the attack.

What other questions surround the Revolution heading into Friday’s contest? Let us know in the comments section!


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