New England Soccer Today

Five Questions: #NEvORL

Photo credit: Jeff Bernstein

Photo credit: Jeff Bernstein

At least Baldomero Toledo won’t be around to ruin it this time around.

Two weeks after the league’s wackiest referee left Revolution and Orlando players both fuming at the final whistle, the rematch is set for Saturday at Gillette Stadium. Without Mr. Toledo. Thankfully.

With the Saturday’s Revolution-Lions contest unlikely to be a similar debacle than its predecessor, let’s examine some of the lingering questions ahead of the third game in eight days for the locals.

1. Is the occasionally fit Juan Agudelo in line for the start? He may not be on the injury list, but you can never really tell when the physical forward is fully fit these days. Agudelo’s last start came vs. New York on Apr. 1, and has fought a cranky hamstring ever since. And we all know how easy it is to overcome from those (note: it’s not easy). But with Charlie Davies definitely out and Teal Bunbury probably out, coach Jay Heaps can only hope and pray that Agudelo suddenly discovers that he has a mutant healing power similar to that of Wolverine.

2. Will Donnie Smith get *gasp* a second straight start? Dreams do come true, and it doesn’t matter whether you go by Don, Donnie, or Donald. On Wednesday, the speedy winger/fullback saw his name in the XI for the first time in over two years in Chris Tierney’s spot. With Tierney listed as out on the injury for the second straight game, we may yet see something on Saturday that none of us have ever witnessed in our lives: a second straight MLS start for Smith, who only recorded one start in each of his first two seasons. #History

3. What kind of new and exciting changes from Wednesday’s lineup await? We all know that mid-week games have driven coaches mad since 1860, but it can sure as heck be entertaining for those of us on the outside. Against the Timbers, we saw the aforementioned Smith and Daigo Kobayashi each get their first starts of the season while Davies got a long-awaited nod up top before he was dragged down by injury. Smith figures to be back in the XI unless Jordan McCrary can suddenly emerge from the lower rungs of the depth chart while Agudelo will probably get the start at striker. Meanwhile, Scott Caldwell will more than likely return to his spot next to Gershon Koffie because, well, he’s Scott Caldwell darn it.

4. Can Femi Hollinger-Janzen finally get the assistant referee and official scorer on his side? Based on the fact that FHJ has already had a game-winning assist taken away by an AR and a game-tying goal denied by a clumsy Jermaine Taylor, you would think that pro soccer has it in for the rookie striker. Or so the conspiracy goes. In any event, there’s no denying that Hollinger-Janzen has made quite the impact over the last few weeks. And with the Revolution thin at striker, we may see a longer run than usual for the rookie, who could finally find a way to record his first MLS attacking statistic on Saturday. That is, barring a piece of rogue space debris unexpectedly crashing down on the Gillette Stadium turf to alter the path of a well-hit Hollinger-Janzen effort.

5. Is there such thing as a must-win match in April? Yes, yes there is. With only one win in their first nine, the record will show that the Revolution have never started off this slowly in their 21 seasons. Yes, playing their third game in eight days won’t make things easy. Shoot, nor will the prospect of facing Kaka, Cyle Larin, and an angry Adrian Heath, for that matter. That said, now’s the time to tighten the laces, and finally back up that Gillette Stadium is a fortress talk. As Jose Goncalves, the modern day philosopher king of MLS, pointed out following last year’s 4-1 loss at Red Bull Arena: “This is football. You either win, or you die.” There was no caveat about that sentiment not applying to early-season matches.

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