New England Soccer Today

Five Questions: Revolution at Real Salt Lake

If the Revolution find themselves searching for a late goal against Salt Lake, Bjorn Runstrom may be called upon to deliver. (Photo: Joshua Pearson)

With precious little time to to rest following Wednesday’s 2-1 win over the Rapids, the Revolution will enter Saturday’s game at Salt Lake with a sizeable chip on their shoulder.

Why? Well, there are a host of reasons. The first: the lack of time to rest already weary legs. The next: the winless record at Rio Tinto Stadium. Another: the four-headed beast of Javier Morales, Kyle Beckerman, Fabian Espindola and Alvaro Saborio. And another: the fact that nearly every neutral-minded observer is predicting a Claret-and-Cobalt victory.

So where does that leave the Revolution? Interestingly, in about the same scenario they were in before their 3-1 over the defending champion L.A. Galaxy: written off and hungry for respect.

But what’s done is done. Let’s take a crack at five questions to consider before Saturday’s showdown in the City of Sandy.

1. How will Jay Heaps manage his eleven given the tired legs and energy-sapping altitude the Revolution will have to endure on Saturday? There’s no doubt that Heaps’ in-game management skills will be put to the test in Salt Lake. Granted, many of the regular have been given partial rest in the team’s last two. But Shalrie Joseph and A.J. Soares have both played back-to-back 90 minute matches, and how their minutes are managed will be interesting to watch. Another thing to watch is who starts – and who finishes – along the edges of the midfield. With Kelyn Rowe presumably fresh for Saturday, and Benny Feilhaber likely needing a rest, the rookie and Fernando Cardenas may be in line for extended minutes. If the Revolution want to match Salt Lake punch for punch, Heaps has keep an close eye on his wingers’ legs – which may grow even heavier at Rio Tinto’s unforgiving altitude.

2. Can the Revolution exploit a Salt Lake squad that, for all intents and purposes, has been curiously vulnerable for the past month? Let’s be honest: Salt Lake, despite its formidable attackers and considerable depth, has only taken one win in its last four. That win? A last-gasp win against winless-Toronto. Yes, that Toronto. So the Revs have every reason to come out as the aggressor. They have Saer Sene to expose a suddenly porous defense. They have Shalrie Joseph to combat whatever Kyle Beckerman dishes out. They have Feilhaber and Rowe ready to pounce. That said, if Salt Lake isn’t prepared, the Revs could very well do what Chivas USA did on Mar. 24: deliver and upsets.

3. What current weakness will the Revolution have to improve upon to squeeze something out of Salt Lake? Two words: set pieces. Of the last five goals the Revs have given up, three have come from the dead ball situations. So when Javier Morales steps back to send a corner or free kick, the Revolution have to stick to their marks. No more missed assignments or mental lapses. Simply put, the Revolution can’t afford to allow an inch to anyone in the mix. Not with Espindola,  Beckerman or even super-sub Jonny Steele all anxious to get on the scoresheet.

4. Who will take the corners? On Wednesday, we saw Chris Tierney unceremoniously relieved of his corner kick chores. In his place: Benny Feilhaber. It’s unknown whether the reassignment of duties is temporary or permanent, but one thing was clear: Feilhaber’s doesn’t whip the best outswinger – or inswinger – from the corner flag. In light of that, Tierney may be back in line to resume his corner kick responsibilities. But also look for Kelyn Rowe to find a few opportunities from the right-sided corners as well.

5. What formation will we see? With Jose Moreno out, it’s entirely possible – if not probable – that Heaps goes with a five-man midfield, especially with the number of threats the Revolution need to neutralize on the other side of the field. But don’t be surprised if a 4-4-1-1 featuring Rowe in the #10 role is the look Heaps goes with when he hands in his lineup. Either way, the success of the Revolution attack will be predicated on the potency of its midfielders – regardless of how many there are once the opening whistle blows.

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