New England Soccer Today

Five Questions: Revolution vs. Whitecaps

Chris Tierney will be one of many players the Revolution will counted on to crack the Whitecaps' defense. (Photo: Tony Biscaia/RevsNet)

It’s a transformation that few predicted during the winter.

The Vancover Whitecaps – also known as the worst team to play in MLS in 2011 – have risen from the ashes to the top half of the Western Conference table through its first nine games. Yes, these Whitecaps are good. Six-shutouts-in-their-first-nine-games good, actually.

With a red-hot opponent on their hands, the Revolution know the challenge: beat a team that suffocates its opponents into submission.

Questions? Yep, we’ve got ’em. So…ahem…without further ado…

1. What do the Revolution have need to do to crack the ‘Caps defensive code? There’s no mystery behind Vancouver’s modus operandi this season: keep the opposition off the board. And they’ve done it through the sensational efforts of Jay DeMerit, Martin Bonjour and the ageless Joe Cannon, who must have discovered the fountain of youth during the preseason. They’re all good players worthy of any first-choice fantasy side, but the Vancouver defense isn’t impervious. That in mind, the Revs cannot simply run at the back four and hope for the best. They have to be creative. The runs dynamic. The passes precise. In short, they have to be bold, but not predictable.

2. Can Lee Nguyen make a statement against his old team? The 25-year-old midfielder is an interesting character. Off the field, he is a polite guy that almost carries a hint of shyness when speaking with the media. On the field, he is the complete opposite: he flies at defenders, switches directions on a dime and moves the ball along the edges. In other words, he is a man possessed whilst on the pitch. Although he didn’t throw any verbal darts at his former ‘mates leading up to Saturday, you have to believe that Saturday’s game was circled on Nguyen’s calendar back in March. Now, the time is at hand. There’s no doubt Nguyen will bring it against Vancouver. But it’ll bear watching if he carries an edge about him previously unseen.

3. Can the recently-redeemed Fernando Cardenas continue is torrid form? For a man without a position, the swift-footed Cardenas has made the most of his recent opportunities. A surprise start against Colorado yielded his first MLS goal while it took a sensational save from Nick Rimando to keep him off the sheet last Saturday. Unburdened of the red card awarded to him in Salt Lake, Cardenas could be in line for another start with Kelyn Rowe listed as “doubtful” for Saturday. And if he does find himself in the starting XI, expect the 5-3 firestarter to find holes in Vancouver’s defense.

4. Set pieces will have to improve, but what other item on the agenda do the Revolution have to be particularly sharp on? Two words: the counterattack. Vancouver doesn’t have the same kind of high caliber bullets inside the chambers of the Revolution’s recent opponents. But, boy are they sly. They sit back, they get players behind the ball, and then when the ball squirts free – boom! – sucker punch to the gut. To avoid getting a fist of high-flying attackers (see: Sebastien LeToux, Davide Chiumiento, Camilo Sanvezzi and even Omar Salgado), the local XI cannot afford to be poor in transition. Clyde Simms and Shalrie Joseph have to be on point. Stephen McCarthy and A.J. Soares need to be on the same page. And Kevin Alston and Chris Tierney will be counted upon to shut down the flanks. To beat the ‘Caps, the Revs have to plug the lanes, mark ’em tight and make sure they snuff out the second chances.

5. Which Blake Brettschneider will show up? It’s tough to judge a player’s contributions based upon a pair of games. It’s even tougher when those two games showcase very different players. The first game gave us a glimse of a striker who never seemed comfortable. The second appearance featured a confident forward who put a rocket into the Real Salt Lake net and nearly scored another in the second half. With Jose Moreno listed as “out” for the second straight game, Brettschneider will likely be called upon to deliver. And if last week’s form was any indication, the former Gamecock could give the Revs a much-needed boost in the attacking third.

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