New England Soccer Today

In Need of Some Fireworks

A good night for the New England Revolution offense these days entails simply avoiding being shutout. The Revs have gone well over two months since scoring multiple goals in a game and have been held scoreless five times during that 10 game stretch.

The Revs need Benny Feilhaber to lead the attack on Monday. (Photo by CHRIS ADUAMA/

On July 4th they travel to face the league’s best defense in Real Salt Lake, a team that has allowed just nine goals in 15 games. On paper, the matchup has disaster written all over it for the Revs.

New England is 0-3 in Salt Lake since 2007, the last season the Revs reached the MLS Cup Final. Even worse, the Revs lost their last two matches at Rio Tinto Stadium by a combined score of 11-0 and there is little reason to hope this game will go much better.

Real was the class of the league in the early part of the season, making history by becoming the first MLS team to reach the CONCACAF Champions League Final and going on a 29 game home unbeaten streak. Seattle ended that run in late May, but Salt Lake hasn’t lost at home since and are currently riding a four game unbeaten streak overall.

And the Revs have faced Real once already this season. At Gillette Stadium, with the Revs riding a four game unbeaten run to open the season, Salt Lake rested the majority of their regular starters and still dominated the Revs from start to finish, coming away with a 2-0 victory. There is little reason to believe the home side will play such a weakened line-up this time.

Of course the Revs also had Marko Perovic, their leading scoring last season, in the line-up that match. Perovic since underwent season ending knee surgery and is no longer a member of the team after the Revs didn’t pick up his contract option on Friday.

It shouldn’t come as much of a shock that Perovic’s last match with the Revs was the last time the team scored multiple goals in a match, a 3-2 victory over Sporting Kansas City on April 23rd, which also proved their largest offensive output of the season. The team has had ten games since to find a way to make-up for his absence in the line-up. They haven’t.

While injuries to other key players haven’t helped matters, the Revs go into Monday’s match-up about as healthy as they have all season. Only Kheli Dube, a rarely used striker this season, is out with whiplash.  Frenchmen Didier Domi and Ousmane Dabo have returned to training, as has rookie Stephen McCarthy. U.S. International Benny Feilhaber should be close to 100% after playing the full 90 minutes last Sunday and getting in another week of training.

And it’s on Feilhaber that most of the offensive onus will fall. The attacking midfielder led a promising Revs offense for 20 minutes against the Seattle Sounders before his impact faded almost completely in the 2-1 loss last weekend

This week, head coach Steve Nicol will need to find a way to better utilize Feilhaber’s creativity. The 26-year-old looked out of sorts when employed as a left midfielder late in the second half and didn’t look completely comfortable when pushed in front of the midfield early in the match either.

Nicol could be best served returning to a 4-4-2 formation, one that saw the Revs go on a modest two game unbeaten streak before Nicol returned to the 4-5-1 last weekend. With Zack Schilawski’s lively performance as a late sub off the bench in Seattle, Nicol could employ him up top with Rajko Lekic.

Doing so would allow Feilhaber to drop back into the center of the midfield with Shalrie Joseph and give the Revs more creative options throughout the field. And the team will need them.

While Salt Lake’s defense has been stifling, their offense is strong as well with 18 goals in 15 matches and often dominates the possession during matches. The Revs defense will have their hands full if they are to keep Salt Lake silent.

But the defense hasn’t been the problem for the Revs lately. New England hasn’t given up more than two goals since April, giving the team a chance at points in every match.

New England will almost certainly need to score more than a solitary goal to come away from Salt Lake with a desperately needed victory. They’ll need their offense to click in a way it hasn’t in months.

And while Salt Lake has fireworks planned for after the match, the Revolution will need to have their own Independence Day fireworks on the field, in the form of goals, if they are to make a statement and salvage their season.

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