New England Soccer Today

Five Questions: Revolution vs. Sporting K.C.

Benny Feilhaber, seen here in a game against Sporting Kansas City, returns to Gillette Stadium on Saturday in K.C. blue. (Photo: Kari Heistad/

Benny Feilhaber, seen here in a game against Sporting Kansas City, returns to Gillette Stadium on Saturday in K.C. blue. (Photo: Kari Heistad/

Two years ago, it seemed like a match made in heaven. Only nine months removed from a promising World Cup showing, Benny Feilhaber, arrived in New England, ready to re-launch both his club career and the Revolution’s postseason ambitions.

With Feilhaber in the fold, the Revolution midfield – which featured Shalrie Joseph, Marko Perovic and even Ousmane Dabo (when healthy, which turned out to be never) – looked impressive. Best some had ever seen since in a few years. The postseason, which eluded the Revs the year before, appeared a strong possibility.

But in the end, that’s all we were really left with looking back at Feilhaber’s two seasons in Foxboro: possibility. Perhaps, if Perovic had never torn his ACL, so much of the load wouldn’t have fallen on Feilhaber. Perhaps, if Dabo and Joseph hadn’t broken down so quickly, we would’ve seen the Benny that Bob Bradley regularly recalled for National Team duty. Perhaps, if the Revs had brought in Kalifa Cisse sooner, Feilhaber would’ve been given the freedom to create and collaborate. Perhaps.

We’ll never know. We’ll never know what an effective and dangerous #10 he could have been, and what kind of rewards the Revs could have reaped. This is a shame for a number of reasons, perhaps the number one reason being that we never got enough chances to chant, “B-B-Benny and the Revs.”

It’ll be interesting to hear what The Fort will be chanting when Feilhaber steps onto the pitch in enemy garb on Saturday. No doubt, it’ll be creative. But before we find out, let’s go through our usual slew of weekly questions.

1. Can the Revs take advantage of a weaker Sporting Kansas City? Peter Vermes’ team may be 1-1-1 at the moment, with a humbling loss to Toronto FC clearly an early-season low point. Don’t get it twisted, though: it’s still early, and this is a very good team. Yes, not having Graham Zusi and Matt Besler won’t make things easier for K.C. Desite that, the Revolution are still going to have their hands full dealing with Uri Rosell, Claudio Bieler, Aurelien Collin, Jimmy Nielsen and, yes, even Benny Feilhaber. In order to beat them for the first time in two years, New England is going to need all-world performances from the likes of Lee Nguyen, Kelyn Rowe, Diego Fagundez and Kalifa Cisse. They’re going to need the Matt Reis seen two weeks ago in Chicago. And, yes, they might even need a few calls to go their way. After all, Marko Perovic, Shalrie Joseph and Rajko Lekic are not walking through that door.

2. Which players need to raise their game with Jerry Bengtson abroad? Speaking of Lekic, he’s actually the last Revolution player to score against Sporting K.C. (1-1 draw at KC on Jul. 30, 2011). Think about that for a second. Now think about it some more. Ok, that’s enough thinking about Psycho Rajko. Anyway, the point is, putting one past Nielson is a difficult proposition for the Revolution. That won’t get any easier on Saturday, with Jerry Bengtson in San Pedro Sula and Saer Sene stuck on the sidelines. Earlier this week, Jay Heaps said he wanted to see much more from his midfield on the goalscoring end. In light of that, Nguyen, Rowe, and Juan Toja have to do more than create chances, put shots on frame, or dive near the box. They have to score, and they have to do more of that silly dance they busted out in Chicago.  So let’s see some dancing.

3. How can the Revs improve on their defensive set pieces? Here’s a suggestion: don’t play zone on corners! See: Jack McInernery 76th minute goal, circa last week. There’s just no excuse to give up an easy goal, not with a backline that’s been advertised as “new and improved.” The fact is that the man marking has to be sharper. Jose Goncalves and A.J. Soares cannot allow an attacker to roam free inside the 18. Allowing goals is a fact of life for every soccer team, and even the sharpest defenses are prone to an occasional leak. It happens. But if you’re going to allow goals, at least make it difficult. Have some standards, man.

4. Is the defense capable of withstanding the high pressure Sporting Kansas City employs? To play off Question 3, the Revs are certainly capable of pitching a shutout. A less-talented side blanked them five months ago in Kansas City. OK, so maybe the gametime temperature was Hell. That may have affected everyone’s play. But the back four, along with healthier versions of Kalifa Cisse and Clyde Simms, have what it takes to stonewall Sporting K.C. Sure, they’ll need to win a lot of second balls, choke the passing lanes, kick Feilhaber’s shins, and adopt the brand of judicious fouling K.C. employed against them in Foxboro last year. It’ll be an order taller than Stephen McCarthy, sure. Then again, if the Revs mean business about making Gillette Stadium a fortress, they’ve got to back it up. And who better to back it up against than last year’s conference kings?

5. What kind of crowd will show up for #bethere323? Ever since Tyler Seguin tweeted that pic of himself with the Revs scarf, supporters – not to mention the Revolution’s official website – have gleefully counted down the days until Saturday’s cork-popping on the home slate. Clearly, excitement is in the air. And with good reason. But as much enthusiasm as the first home game for any team brings, the Revs haven’t exactly brought ’em out in recent home openers. Not to lay the blame on anyone, but the numbers are not enouraging: in their last three home openers, they’ve only averaged 12,882, or about 3,000 less than their season averages since 2010. Yes, the ground has barely thawed from a brutal winter. But, just as the billboard on Route 1 reads: This is New England. This is Soccer. What more can you ask for? Here’s hoping for great crowd on Saturday. Cheers!

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