New England Soccer Today

Five Questions:#NEvTOR

Photo credit: Chris Aduama/

Photo credit: Chris Aduama/

On Saturday, Toronto FC will be in town to face a side that’s started to turn things around thanks to the performances of Lee Nguyen and Diego Fagundez, both of whom have been key to the recent success of the New England Nitro.

“Nitro?” Not quite, of course. But the reality is that the Revolution could’ve launched 20 years ago with an identity that would’ve made them the worst-named pro sports franchise in the region since the Boston Beaneaters.

There isn’t a whole lot we know about what the Nitro identity would’ve looked like. There’s speculation that the uniforms would’ve been neon green, thus making the players look like bottles of Mountain Dew. The logo? Well, it probably wouldn’t have resembled the current paint-brushed take on the ’94 World Cup logo.

Thankfully, the locals ultimately decided to take “Revolution” over “Nitro,” but not without a little help from the DC’s ownership, which originally had dibs on the former. In fact, had it not been for a last-minute decision to go with “United,” well, we’d be watching the Nitro take on Toronto on Saturday, sprinkling our tweets with #NENitro, and hearing chants of “NEW ENGLAND NI-TRO (CLAP CLAP, CLAP CLAP CLAP)!” from an area of the stadium that might have have been called “The Combustion Chamber.”

Anyway, back to reality…and as far the heck away from that nightmare as possible.

With the Revolution set to take on the Reds at Gillette Stadium (which might have still been called cmgi Field had the company been more than just a fad of the early-2000s tech boom), let’s take a look at the questions surrounding the gloriously-not-named-Nitro.

1. Will we see Jermaine Jones on the field? This is probably the most pressing question heading into Saturday’s match. And by “probably,” we mean “definitely.” After all, the Revolution are a different team with Jones in tow. His leadership steadies the side when it finds itself in peril, and adds instant swagger to a side that thrives on it. Of course, whether we witness the Jermaine Jones Effect on Saturday will all depend upon how close he is to returning. Earlier this week, Revolution coach Jay Heaps confirmed that Jones was a full participant in training, and called his status “day-to-day,” which is usually coach-speak for “he’s close.” How close? Well, we’ll find out before the end of the evening.

2. Does Brad Knighton get a third straight start? After getting the nod over a healthy Bobby Shuttleworth last week, and helping the Revolution get a result in the Windy City, Knighton has, at the very least, put himself in position to get another shot between the sticks this week. Whether he actually does may actually boil down to the matchup. Shuttleworth is more vocal than his counterpart, and has a stronger leg. Knighton is bolder off his line, and has performed admirably behind a makeshift backline during the last two weeks. Given that Toronto won’t have Michael Bradley and, possibly, Sebastian Giovinco at their disposal, don’t be surprised if Knighton sees his name in the lineup for the third straight week.

3. Who’ll line up at right back? A storyline somewhat lost during the Revolution’s recent pair of results is that fact that Jeremy Hall has met the challenge handed to him in his last two starts. Two weeks ago, Hall was pressed into action against New York City with starting right back London Woodberry sliding centrally to fill in for the suspended Jose Goncalves. But that assignment wasn’t a one-and-done deal. A week later in Chicago, Hall got the nod over Woodberry, who was left on the bench. This week, though, it could get tricky. With Chris Tierney beset by an ankle injury, Kevin Alston could get the start at left back. If that proves to be the case, then the Revolution will need to get more width from the right back’s spot, and Woodberry would figure to get the start.

4. Can Lee Nguyen make it three in a row? There’s really no reason why he shouldn’t. Toronto’s defense has been terrible as of late, conceding three or more goals in each of their last three road games. The signing of Ahmed Kantari may aid the Reds’ cause, but anytime you insert a new center back, trouble is often knocking at the door. This is especially true when they’re going up against a player who’s not only found his groove, but may find more space to work with if Jones makes his return. Should Nguyen be able to channel the same form that’s made him dangerous over the last two weeks, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him find his third goal in three games before it’s all said and done.

5. Will Donnie Smith make a cameo? If he makes the bench, and Tierney’s out, there’s every reason to think that he stands a decent chance. The third-year midfielder/left back may have only seen action twice in the last two years (both starts, and don’t you forget it), but hasn’t yet seen the field this season. That may very well change by the end of Saturday’s match. Given Alston’s injury history, and the fact that Toronto could be especially weak on the wings with Ashtone Morgan out, it wouldn’t be outside the realm to see the preseason hero take the field for the first time in 2015.

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