New England Soccer Today

Five Questions: #NYCvNE

Photo credit: Kari Heistad/

Photo credit: Kari Heistad/

The Revolution may be winless through their first three, but Saturday’s match at Yankee Stadium could be just the occasion to break the streak.

Yes, David Villa and Andrea Pirlo won’t make it easy. Them and that crazy 3-6-1 formation they currently play in are sure to keep the locals honest throughout the afternoon.

That said, it’s worth remembering that those distinguished gentlemen were also on the pitch the last time the Revolution tasted victory five long months ago. Sans Patrick Vieira’s insane setup, of course.

While the past won’t have any bearing on how Saturday’s match unfolds, it should serve as a confidence boost for a Revolution side that’s very much in need of one following last week’s 3-0 drubbing at Philadelphia.

With the locals looking to get in the win column for the first time since that fateful October afternoon, let’s explore the questions surrounding Saturday’s showdown at the baseball grounds.

1. Who’ll be the no. 10 in Nguyen’s absence? The last time Nguyen wasn’t in the lineup, Heaps slotted Diego Fagundez as the CAM, with Teal Bunbury and Juan Agudelo on the flanks against the LA Galaxy last May. The result: a 2-2 draw, a game that also witnessed another Jermaine Jones hernia injury. But pitted against a slightly more talented midfield (and Jones long gone after joining the Colorado Rapids over-30s), Jay Heaps might be tempted to go with more experience at the CAM spot. If he does, then Daigo Kobayashi figures to be the man of the hour, with Kelyn Rowe likely switching centrally around the hour mark to spell the only player in Revolution history to have his own Manga-inspired fan banner.

2. Will Darrius Barnes make his long-awaited return? If there’s anything to be gathered from this year’s gameday rosters, then Barnes is, at the very least, a strong candidate to start in Je-Vaughn Watson’s place. While the Duke alum and London Woodberry are both capable of manning the spot, Barnes may have the edge when it comes to defensive ability, which is kind of important when you’re facing a squad that’s scored six goals in its first three games. Plus, if Yankee Stadium’s narrow pitch does lend itself to more second balls as Heaps mentioned during training on Wednesday, then Barnes should be primed to fill the spot in left field, er, right field, uh, right back.

3. What must the Revolution do to avoid falling into another early deficit? In a shocking development, Heaps wasn’t terribly pleased with the way last week’s game at Philadelphia transpired, and not just because of the early goals. After watching the tape, it was clear that his squad lacked the urgency to take control of the game from the start, a development which essentially invited the Union to have a couple of cracks at goal – which they capitalized on. This week, urgency from the get-go will be paramount in the Revolution’s ongoing quest for their first set of three points. Oh, and turning that initiative into a lead wouldn’t hurt, either.

4. What can the Revolution do patch up their leaky defense? After the Revolution backline all but invited C.J. Sapong to do his best impression of former Sporting teammate Kei Kamara, one point of emphasis this go round will be a greater commitment to defense from Gershon Koffie, especially in transition. While the entire effort should’ve been better in Philly, a strong performance from Koffie could go a long way this week, especially against a side with wily attackers like David Villa, Tommy McNamara, Kwadwo Poku, and Tony Taylor. Yes, that Tony Taylor.

5. Which of NYCFC’s weaknesses must be exploited? For all quality and talent that City boasts, the fact is they’ve been very ordinary behind the center line through their first three games. Yes, that 4-3 First Kick win at Chicago was impressive, but 2-2 vs. Toronto and 0-1 vs. Orlando City only served as reminders of their vulnerabilities. With starting midfielder Mix Diskerud and fullback Ronald Matarrita both absent due to national team obligations, the Revolution could find a few extra opportunities to find the back of the net, where a less-than-nimble Josh Saunders has already picked out a half-dozen balls this year.

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