New England Soccer Today

Five Questions: #NEvORL

Photo credit: Hazel Mae/Prost Amerika

Photo credit: Hazel Mae/Prost Amerika

The day that many soccer fans in the region have anxiously awaited has finally arrived as Kaka – Kaka! – returns to Gillette Stadium for the first time since 2007, when Brazil faced Mexico in front of an astounding 63,000 or so rabid fans. Oh wait, that’s not going to happen ’til Tuesday.

Although Saturday’s Revolution-Orlando City match may lack the star power of its original billing due to the absences of the Brazilian playmaker, Jermaine Jones and, to a smaller degree, rookie sensation Cyle Larin, there’s still plenty to ponder. Plenty, indeed.

So without further ado, let’s get right into the questions that surround the Revolution heading into their first home game against the Lions.

1. Can Daigo Kobayashi step up in Jermaine Jones’ place? On the surface, it seems like a tall order. In fact, the humble Kobayashi has previously admitted that he is no Jermaine Jones. On the other hand, he isn’t exactly an unproven rookie. The Japanese may not venture all over the pitch like Dora the Explorer, but he’s more than capable of connecting the defense to the front men, get physical with a foe, and even hit a decent corner kick in a pinch. Come to think of it, if there is anyone who can provide some peace of mind with Jones out, it’s none other than Kobayashi.

2. How will the temporary grass surface hold up? Sports writers have long made a big deal of minutiae (see: the story that set off the #DeflateGate fiasco). In the soccer sphere, pundits have never bypassed the opportunity to beat the dead equine when it comes to playing surfaces. In light of that, we’ll keep it short: the temporary grass surface the Revolution and Orlando City will play on come Saturday is not the ideal. Of that, there is no question. That said, as bad as the temporary turf looked during Gold Cup action earlier this summer, it seemed to hold up reasonably well according to the players. You know, the guys that actually have to deal with the surface. Yes, all those divots may look bad. But contrary to the prevailing opinion in the press box, we don’t expect it to profoundly affect the play on Saturday. Nor do we envision a nightmare scenario of torn ACLs and ruptured Achilles’ tendons before it’s all said and done.

3. Can the Revolution generate more offense this week? We know they’re capable of it. For much of the season, the locals were among the top five in goals, and featured one of the most dynamic attacks in MLS. Although the front four has undergone changes, the fact is that Lee Nguyen can still strike from distance, especially when he’s in form, which he just so happens to be at the moment. Another player who’s also in form: Diego Fagundez. Another: Kelyn Rowe. An if history is any indication, Charlie Davies should get the chance to find the back of the net at the expense of the Lions again. In case point hasn’t already been made clear: we fully expect the offense to look much livelier than it did last week at PPL Park.

4. Will Jay Heaps make any other changes to the XI? Aside from the obvious replacement for Jones, it doesn’t look likely that we’ll see any other tweaks to the lineup this week. Jeremy Hall continues to impress at right back, while Rowe only strengthened his hold on the winger spot opposite Fagundez, who’s also played especially well since mid-summer. Despite the relative stability, we all know Heaps is an outside-the-box thinker. So while the Kobayashi-for-Jones swap may appear to be the only adjustment needed, all it takes is a strong week of training to open the door for a reserve to return to the lineup. Well, that, or an undisclosed injury to a regular. Not that that ever happens, of course.

5. Is Orlando City ripe for the picking without Kaka and Cyle Larin? The Lions certainly won’t be any stronger this week with their no. 10 away with Brazil, or their leading scorer with Canada. It’s no secret that their offense flows through the former, and that the finished product comes from the latter. Even so, Orlando City still has players capable of giving opposing coaches food for thought. Attack-minded fullback Rafael Ramos is sure to keep Scott Caldwell on his toes, while Cristian Higuita may be able to help the Lions win a few more midfield duels against a Jermaine Jones-less midfield. Oh, and did we mention that Aurelien Collin will be suiting up for this one? The presence of the noted Revolution killer himself makes the outcome of Saturday’s match far from a foregone conclusion.

Leave a Reply