New England Soccer Today

Teams in Transition

Revolution midfielder Clyde Simms faces his former team, D.C. United, for the first time on Saturday. (Photo: Chris Aduama/

Not too long ago, it would’ve been nearly unthinkable to see a MLS postseason without the New England Revolution or D.C. United. Now the Revs and D.C., set to face off at Gillette Stadium on Saturday, have missed out on two and four consecutive playoffs, respectively.

Both squads are hoping to turn things around with former key players now at the helm. Ben Olsen, 34, took over the reins of D.C. in the summer of 2010, while Jay Heaps, 35, become head coach of the Revs this offseason.

Olsen took United from a shocking dead last finish (6-20-4, 22 points) in 2010 to a more respectable six place finish in the East (9-13-12, 39 points) last season, nearly doubling the clubs point total. Now, Olsen will be looking to take the logical next step of getting his club to the playoffs.

It’s been a busy offseason for United with the club bringing in 10 new players. Among the biggest additions are experienced Albanian striker Hamdi Salihi, a Designated Player signing, Brazilian striker Maicon Santos, who leads the team with 3 goals this season, Argentinean defender Emiliano Dudar, and experienced American right back and Amherst, Mass. native, Robbie Russell.

Santos and Salihi aid an attack that was already boosted last summer with the addition of Canadian Dwayne De Rosario, who went on to win the MLS MVP award. Yet while on paper D.C. has one of the top attacks in the league, the club has been shutout in three of five games to start the season.

D.C.’s offense has only lived up to its billing in one match this season, a 4-1 thrashing of FC Dallas two weeks ago. After being shutout in a scoreless draw at home with the Seattle Sounders last weekend, United (1-2-2, 5 points) will be hoping to find their offensive firepower against the Revs on Saturday.

United have the benefit of a relatively fit squad, with Dudar as their only regular starter likely to miss out with an injury and no players carrying suspensions.

New England (2-3-0, 6 points), meanwhile, is looking to recover from one of the worst seasons in club history (5-16-13, 28 points) and a last place finish in 2011. The season could be considered a minor success with a move up the ranks like Olsen’s D.C. had last season, but Heaps and the club are likely hoping to go straight back to the playoffs.

The Revs have had a similarly busy offseason to D.C. with 14 new additions. Among the top new performers are former D.C. United midfielder Clyde Simms, French striker Saër Sène, who leads the club with two goals, midfielder Lee Nguyen, and rookie midfielder Kelyn Rowe.

With so many changes, New England is still searching for consistency. Following a two game losing streak to open the season, the Revs recently went on their first winning streak since 2010, beating the Portland Timbers, 1-0, at home and then upsetting the Los Angeles Galaxy, 3-1 on the road. They were unable to carry that momentum into last Thursday’s 1-0 loss at FC Dallas, however, getting off to a poor start and eventually succumbing to a 95th minute strike by the home side, despite an improved second half performance by the Revs.

Returning home with nine days rest, there will be no excuse for a slow start from the Revs on Saturday. In both wins this season, the Revs had their opponents on the back foot from the opening whistle. That will likely need to be the case again on Saturday if the Revs are to grab an important three points.

Unfortunately for the Revs, injuries have hit the team hard. Benny Feilhaber (L peroneal strain) is questionable for the match, while Flo Lechner (R foot fifth metatarsal fracture) and Jeremiah White (headache) are listed as out. Meanwhile Kevin Alston (L hamstring tightness), Matt Reis (L knee swelling) and Clyde Simms are all expected to play despite carrying minor knocks.

On top of the injuries, the Revs will have to compensate for the absence of midfielder Shalrie Joseph, after the club’s captain was suspended for the match by the MLS Disciplinary Committee for a tackle committed in Dallas last Thursday. That absence means the Revs will lose some of their bite in midfield and Rowe may have to slide into the middle to partner Simms should Feilhaber not start.

New England kicks off against D.C. United at 4 p.m. on Saturday. The game can be seen live on Comcast Sports New England and viewers can join in on New England Soccer Today’s live blog starting at 3:45 p.m.

One Comment

  1. rick sewall

    April 14, 2012 at 12:04 pm

    The more he Revs can avoid losing players because of yellow card accumulation and bad tackling the better chance they have of making the playoffs. I hope the coach harps on this daily, especially not yelling at the refs far too frequently after questionable calls which are simply part of he game. Learn to live with them.

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