New England Soccer Today

Five Questions: #NEvTOR

Photo credit: Kari Heistad/

Photo credit: Kari Heistad/

Now that the talking points about honor, shamefulness, panoramic views and Mark Geiger have been exhausted, the Revolution have thankfully turned their attention to actual soccer. Namely, Saturday’s tilt Toronto FC.

Toronto’s annual early-season barnstorming tour makes a stop at Gillette Stadium this weekend, where the Reds will bring the best player in the league, one of the best American players, and – get this – some certifiable recognizable names as well.

Yes, the Reds may have been shut out in each of their last two. And yes, Benoit Cheyrou is banned for this one while Jozy Altidore’s nagging hamstring may limit his effectiveness. But anytime a team has to face the reigning MVP, it’s never an easy day at the office, especially when that team is as defensively vulnerable as the Revolution have shown themselves this season.

So what questions surround the locals heading into Saturday’s showdown against Sebastian Giovinco and his fellow road warriors?

1. Will Gershon Koffie and Je-Vaughn Watson be back in the XI? Pitted against a stacked side like Toronto, you can just about bank on it that both will feature for the Revolution after serving their one-game suspensions. Koffie is the best ball-winner among the central midfield bunch while Watson’s pace and defensive prowess are a must against Giovinco, who likes to drift toward the left flank. Jay Heaps said he had some decisions to make with both coming back from bans. If that’s true, then they’ll probably be the easiest decisions he’ll make all week, aside from picking which black fleece vest to rock on the touchline.

2. Who’ll start up top? After seeing Juan Agudelo get the start last week, it looks very much like Heaps isn’t going to be afraid to platoon the physical forward and Charlie Davies as the season rolls along. Last week, Heaps said the matchup – which he expected to be physical – and the conditions were the reason for starting Agudelo over Davies against the Red Bulls. Granted, the winds are forecast to be calmer on Saturday afternoon, but given how strong the Toronto midfield is with Michael Bradley and Will Johnson both in tow, it wouldn’t be a shock to see the Revolution go route 1 to bypass the middle third, an approach that favors a certain striker who’s strong in the air, wears no. 17, and isn’t named Charlie Davies.

3. What must the Revolution do to keep Giovinco from striking? The simple answer would be to rough him up him whenever possible, a la the “Foul a Felipe” gameplan. But that logic doesn’t follow a guy who’s even more dangerous on set pieces and, oh by the way, hard to bring down. In light of that, the focus will be on smothering Bradley and Johnson, the architects themselves, to keep the Atomic Ant from getting service. And if he does get the ball, which we all know he eventually will? It’ll take a clinic on team defending to ensure that Giovinco doesn’t score his first goal against the Revolution on Saturday. That, and maybe another visit from the turf monster (just kidding!).

4. Can the offense get back in gear? It’d be foolish for the Revolution to rely on another downed defender to find the back of the net for the second straight week. Then again, this is MLS, where just about anything is within the realm (except legit throwback jerseys, apparently). But in the great likelihood that the same exact scenario won’t unfold Saturday afternoon, the Revolution have to be sharper in the final third. That burden falls squarely on the shoulders of Lee Nguyen and Diego Fagundez, as well as Teal Bunbury and Kelyn Rowe. Oh, and whoever starts up top, which given how easily Heaps has pegged different players as the no. 9, could be anyone. Except Jerry Bengtson. We think.

5. Will Bobby Shuttleworth be able to bail out his backline once again? Given how porous the defense has been this season, the locals may have no choice if they want to get a result from the Reds. The Revolution no. 1 has faced a league-high 72 shots to date, some of which he had no business having to deal with thanks to some sketchy marking. While there’s no doubt the back four will have to keep the lines of communication open, even a stout performance from the backline may go to waste unless Shuttleworth can continue to close the door with Giovinco, and perhaps even Altidore, lurking in the final third provided the latter’s hamstrings don’t let him down before the interval.

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