New England Soccer Today

Five Questions: #TORvNE

Photo credit: Kari Heistad/

Photo credit: Kari Heistad/

There’ll be no rest for the weary this week with the Revolution set to kick off a three-game, seven-day extravaganza on Sunday against Toronto FC at BMO Field.

With only a trio of points separating the locals from their neighbors to the north, and a national TV audience on hand, the late-season clash is sure to feel like, well, anything but your average match between the conference foes. Because, you know, the Reds are typically out of the race once September rolls around.

Anyway, with a chance to strengthen their postseason push, let’s take a stab at the questions that surround the Revolution heading into Sunday’s match.

1. How long will Jermaine Jones go? If you ask Jones, he’ll tell you 90 minutes, and nothing less. If you ask Jay Heaps, he’ll give you a vague range, like 30 to 60 to 90 minutes. So let’s look at the facts to gain insight. The 33-year-old midfielder recently went a combined 144 minutes within a five-day span for the U.S., and wasn’t exactly a pedestrian in either friendly. Another thing: Jones has yet to play a full 90 since returning from his latest sports hernia surgery. Our prediction: 70 minutes before we see Daigo Kobayashi.

2. What version of Lee Nguyen will we see? We all knew Nguyen was capable of pulling the strings prior to last week’s game against Orlando City. But collecting a club-record three assists was a bit of a surprise, to say the least. With the Reds likely to pose a much greater threat than the Lions of last weekend, and Jones back in the fold, the hosts’ focus won’t fall square of Nguyen’s shoulders on Sunday. To that end, look for no. 24 to remain true to his play-making abilities, while pouncing on a few more opportunities this week to add to his goal total.

3. Can Jay Heaps’ side shut down Sebastian Giovinco once more? There’s no doubt that the Atomic Ant is in a class by himself, which makes what the locals were able to pull off on Aug. 1 feat in and of itself. In 45 minutes of action, the MVP front-runner was kept in check to the point in which he failed to register a single shot. That’s right: not even a sniff. Replicating that performance in Toronto won’t be easy, especially on unfamiliar turf. But one thing working in the Revolution’s favor: Giovinco’s nagging aductor injury, which forced him to miss last week’s match and has made him a question mark for Sunday.

4. Which Revolution duo will need to be active on Sunday? If you guessed Diego Fagundez and Kelyn Rowe, then give yourself a pat on the back. Or cue the applause sound effect on your smartphone. Either way, with Heaps continually asking more from his wingers week-to-week, look for the outside midfielders to put in strong performances at BMO Field. Defensively, both must continue to drop back often, steer the attack, and make dangerous runs 50-60 meters (we’ll be in Canada, after all) up field. It’s a big ask for both, but so far, Fagundez and Rowe have answered it with remarkable displays over the last six games.

5. Will the shutout streak survive? For all the talk about Nguyen’s three assist game, the resurgence of Rowe and Fagundez, Juan Agudelo’s effectiveness of the bench, and yes, even for a hot minute, Jose Goncalves’ far-post volley, let’s not forget about the Revolution’s recent defensive efforts. The locals head into Sunday’s match unscathed over the last 285 minutes, a streak that’s been spread across a little over three games. The last team to bulge the back of the New England net? None other than Sunday’s opponent. With Toronto fielding a much stronger XI than the ones the Revolution have faced as of late, it’ll take a virtually mistake-free performance from top to bottom. All hope isn’t lost, though: the last time the Revolution were in Toronto, they posted a 3-0 shutout win.

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