New England Soccer Today

Five Questions: #DALvNE

Photo credit: Jeff Bernstein

Photo credit: Jeff Bernstein

Happy Fourth of July! To help ring in the holiday, MLS has once again put the most patriotically-named club on the road. Again.

Yes, the brain surgeons known as the MLS schedule makers have ordered the Revolution away from America’s Birthplace on Independence Day for the 989th time in nearly as many years. True story: the last time the Revolution played host on the Fourth, Gillette Stadium was called CMGi Field (2002).

Not to question infinite wisdom of the faceless individuals who put together the fixture list, but doesn’t it make more sense to keep a team named the Revolution as close to the geographic confines as the actual American Revolution on Jul. 4? Last we checked, Texas wasn’t even a part of America during Paul Revere’s famous ride. Nor was Utah, California or Colorado, all locales the Revolution have played at on the Fourth in recent years.

Yes, we get the idea that the club with the best fireworks show gets the date. For years, Mile High Stadium/Invesco Field (then Dick’s Sporting Goods Park) had one of the league’s top displays. We hear that Rio Tinto Stadium and the StubHub Center also boast an impressive array of rockets red glare, as well.

But c’mon. The Revolution belong where it all started on Independence Day. Why? Because ‘Murica. That’s why.

After an afternoon of grilling burgers and hot dogs, we’ll get to sit down and watch the Revolution duke it out with FC Dallas. But before we do, let’s take a look at the questions surrounding Saturday’s questionably-placed clash.

1. Can London Woodberry hold down the fort with Andrew Farrell absent? He’ll have to in order for the Revolution to get something – anything – from Saturday’s match. While Woodberry might be a center back by trade, he’s spent exactly zero minutes in the heart of the defense during league action. Let’s bold, CAP and italicize that point: ZERO MINUTES. So getting on the same page with Jose Goncalves as well as Kevin Alston might be a teeny tiny bit of an issue. Add to the fact that Fabian Castillo – a.k.a. one of the best attacking talents in MLS – will be sharpening his knife with a mischievous smile against a defense without one of its best starters, and it could get ugly for the guests in a hurry. Mind you, we’re not saying that all hope is lost, or that Woodberry is Texas toast. But unless he gets some serious help from those around him, it could be a painful homecoming for the former FC Dallas Homegrown.

2. Who’ll need to step up? Since Woodberry essentially walks into the Saturday’s match with a Texas-sized target on his back, it’ll be up to the players in front of him to keep Castillo and Mauro Diaz from riding roughshod over the Revolution. Andy Dorman should be fresh and ready to go against Dallas after serving a one-game ban. Meanwhile, there’s almost zero concern that Scott Caldwell will be he his usual positionally-sound self against a Dallas selection that’s possession style is eerily similar to a standard game of hot potato. Another thing that works in the guests’ favor: the absences of Blas Perez and Tesho Akindele due to Gold Cup action. Even so, Dorman and Caldwell must be on point from start to finish if the Revolution are going to get a result.

3. What must the Revolution do to improve upon last week’s performance? To borrow a favorite phrase of the aforementioned Dorman: they must be ruthless in the boxes. When the locals get close to goal, they must beat Dan Kennedy, not just give him a healthy amount of action like they did with David Ousted last week. “Okay,” “good” or “above-average” won’t be enough to put the ball in the back of the net. Ruthless. That’s really the only option available to the slip-and-sliding Revolution at this juncture. In the opposite box, it’ll be up to the backline and Bobby Shuttleworth to make Castillo, Perez and Ryan Hollingshead as uncomfortable as possible in the New England 18. The defense must win the ball time and time again when Dallas threatens. They must make Saturday’s match a nightmare for the Dallas attack. They must be – what’s the word? – oh yeah: ruthless.

4. Are the Revolution looking at a repeat of their performance in DC? If you pay attention to the historians, meteorologists, and pessimists, then the answer is a resounding “yes.” The historians will tell you the Revolution haven’t won in Frisco since 2008, a time in which Jay Heaps was still wearing the #6 shirt and Taylor Twellman wasn’t talking about concussion-awareness. The meteorologists will say that the temperatures for Saturday’s match will be just as hot – if not hotter – than the conditions witnessed in the Nation’s Capital two weeks ago. And the pessimists will concur with the historians and be happy to remind us of what happened after the hour mark of that match. The pessimists will also say that the Revolution haven’t done nearly enough over the last 10 games to warrant any belief that they can get a result against the Hoops. Conclusion: all three groups agree that Saturday’s game has all the makings of another Revolution loss. The counter-argument: this is MLS, where anything – and nearly everything – can happen.

5. What’ll be the key to success for the Revolution? First two words: set pieces. The smartest way to get on the board again in sultry conditions is capitalizing on the moments in which you’re afforded a breather. Chris Tierney must remind us why he’s The Best Free Kick Taker in MLS (TM). Goncalves and Teal Bunbury must do well to get on the end of those dead ball opportunities. Two more words: game management. FC Dallas isn’t particularly reputable when it comes to holding the ball, which should lend itself to an easier day at the park for the Revolution. Although playing in triple-digit temperatures isn’t the same as playing at altitude, the Revolution could do worse than taking a page out of their gameplan from their 2-0 win at Colorado. In that match, the locals came out strong, then picked their spots as the game progressed in order get three points from a place where results were hard to come by over the years. Success at Toyota Stadium isn’t impossible. But it will be if the Revolution divert from the gameplan.

What other questions surround the Revolution heading in Saturday’s game against Dallas? Tell us in the comments section!

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