New England Soccer Today

Five Questions: Revolution at Union

Revolution midfielder Alec Purdie may be called upon to plug one of the holes on a back line ravaged by injuries. (Photo: Kari Heistad/

If you’re looking for a game rife with postseason drama, do yourself a favor. Refrain from surfing over to the Saturday’s game at PPL Park. Don’t. Do it. It’s not the game for you.

Playoff implications? Nil. Scoreboard watching? Zilch. Three points or die? Hardly.

No, Saturday’s clash between the ninth-place Revolution and the slightly-better eighth-place Union won’t feel anything like a playoff game. Heck, it would be hard pressed to do a reasonable impression of a classic autumn showdown.

But even though the stakes may not shoot into the stratosphere, there will be drama. Drama as in #drama.

Here’s why: Should he get the start, Bobby Shuttleworth may not be gunning for a crucial, late-season shutout. He is, however, hungry to show his head coach that he deserves the first-string goalkeeping chores in 2013.

Alec Purdie may not be counted upon to make a season-saving challenge. But he’ll be playing with an urgency only a rarely-used rookie knows as he nears the completion of what may be his only season of top-flight soccer.

Dimitry Imbongo could be on the bench when the opening whistle screeches. Yet, that doesn’t mean he isn’t aware of the reality that his chances of surviving the offseason cuts may be quickly waning.

And so on. You want playoff drama? Check out the Impact-Dynamo match. Follow it up with Columbus-K.C. on Sunday. Have at it.

However, if you want to watch the human drama that is playing to prove yourself with the season quickly coming to a close, then Saturday’s game is for you.

What else does the Revolution-Union game have for you? Well, a five-question appetizer, that’s what else.

1. What in the name of Avery John will the backline look like? As if the list of the walking wounded wasn’t long enough last week, the Revolution enter Saturday’s game with one less defender – Stephen McCarthy – at their disposal. Now it’s official: the club has more injured defenders (4) than those of the fit variety (3). In light of that, it’s likely Heaps will have to plug in an Alec Purdie or Michael Roach at right back, keep A.J. Soares and Darrius Barnes central, with Kevin Alston at left back. It could work. It could also be a recipe for disaster. Either way, it’s worth noting that the Revolution are carrying only 26 players on the roster right now. Twenty-six players at a time in which injury lists typically expand. Just sayin’.

2. Does Clyde Simms have enough to put in an hour of work? It seemed a given that Simms wouldn’t go the full 90 last week in Houston. Earlier that week, his condition was so bleak that he was listed as “doubtful” on the Sept. 25 injury report. But somehow, he fought through it, was upgraded to “questionable” later on, ready to give his club at least an hour. That was the plan, at least. We later learned that he was forced to come off because he aggravated his calf knock. This week, he’s listed “questionable” again, but it’s hard to believe he’s ready to give more than the 45 minutes he put in last week. Then again, Heaps may not have a choice. He may need Simms to gut it out as long as possible and hope for the best.

3. Who gets the start between the sticks? It was generally assumed that once Shuttleworth showed up on the starting XI against the Red Bulls two weeks ago that it was the beginning of a five-game, season-ending assignment for the second-choice keeper. Not only that, but Heaps has been quick to praise the recent performances of his fourth-year keeper. But earlier this week, Heaps advised that he hadn’t decided on who’ll get the start at PPL Park. Now this could have been said for motivational purposes. He may have hinted at it to find out who wants it more: Shuttleworth or Matt Reis? Then again, it may actually be a real question in the head coach’s mind. By now, of course, Heaps has made his decision. But it wouldn’t be surprising if, given the current state of the back line, Reis gets the nod this week.

4. How much does Ryan Guy have in the tank? Within the course of an eight-day span, Guy played a total of four games. You read that right. Four games in eight days. And if that wasn’t trying enough, he also had to endure a pair of 22-hour flights to and from the Phillippines. Now, for many players, this would be enough to ask for an extra week off. Not Guy. At least not now. Even though he racked up a wealth of minutes, not to mention frequent flyer miles last week, Guy declared himself ready to go for Saturday’s match. This isn’t exactly surprising, given his work ethic. Even so, it’s worth watching how much he can squeeze from his travel and match worn body. Sure, he may not go the full 90. Then again, if there’s one player who can do it, Guy’s, well, your guy.

5. Is Blair Gavin ready to make his Revolution debut? It’s been a long time coming for the bearded midfielder. Just over two months after he was acquired in the Shalrie Joseph trade, it looks like the current circumstances may give Gavin his first run in a Revolution uniform. Last week, it looked very much like the first round pick would get called upon late. Perhaps he should have, especially in light of the midfield’s struggles at BBVA Compass Stadium. But this week, taking into account Simms’ health, the wear on Guy’s tires, and Juan Toja’s ongoing fitness issues, Heaps may have no choice but to call upon Gavin.


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