New England Soccer Today

Five Questions: Revolution vs. Timbers

Does New Engand have what it will take to beat the Timbers without Benny Feilhaber on Saturday? (Photo: Joshua Pearson)

After opening the season on the road – where the wins and goals have been impossible to come by thus far – the Revolution returns home on Saturday to face the undefeated Portland Timbers.

Although Portland’s high-powered attack may put the hosts on their heels, New England is hoping that the cozy confines of Gillette Stadium will provide the impetus to get their first win of the season.

Here are five questions to ponder before the Revolution makes its way onto the Gillette Stadium turf for the first time in 2012.

1. Will home field advantage really matter? After Friday’s training session wrapped, skipper Shalrie Joseph said that it’s easier to set the tempo at your home park. It’s one thing to say it – it’s another thing to see it unfold. With an attack as dynamic as Portland’s, the Revolution is almost certain to have their hands full Saturday. But, if the hosts somehow find a way to get the attack firing and keep their defense stout, it’s not outside the realm to believe that the comfort of playing at home could swing a close game in the Revolution’s favor.

2. How will New England’s makeshift backline perform against the likes of Kris Boyd, Khalif Alhassan and Darlington Nagbe? When comparing the projected starting XI’s, the clear advantage appears to be Portland’s. And that may prove to be case once the opening whistle blows. But all hope isn’t lost for the hosts. If the wingbacks stay disciplined and Clyde Simms continues his remarkable work near his own area, the Revolution might do just enough to frustrate their guests near the net.

3. Can the Revolution attack fire on all cylinders without Benny Feilhaber? In one word: Yes. Even though Feilhaber’s skills have nearly brought early redemption for the Revolution, Ryan Guy is an attacking force in his own right. And if he and rookie Kelyn Rowe can find a way to work cohesively – as they did during the preseason – it stands to reason that the Revolution can find a way threaten the Timbers, even without Feilhaber.

4. Which Revolution player will be called upon to deliver? Although Joseph will be called upon to anchor the attack, the weight of keeping the Timbers off the board will be on the veteran goalkeeper Matt Reis. Though Heaps would like his players to ensure there’s cover when advancing, Portland’s enterprising offense is bound to find a few leaks to exploit. It’s not a matter of “if”, but “how often.” And when it does, the Revolution will need Reis to put together a clinic in order to keep the Timbers from dropping in goals.

5. Will Flo Lechner find himself the in the starting XI? The versatile defender was present for training on Friday, but still has one more medical test to pass before he can step onto the pitch. Normally, the safe money would say that Lechner won’t get the start. But, the circumstances are far from normal: three healthy backs and one part-time defender are all that Heaps has at his disposal going into the Portland game. If Lechner hurdles the last medical test prior to game time and is ready to go, don’t be surprised to see him partner up with A.J. Soares inside the back four.

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