One of the most rewarding aspects of working with Burgundy Wave is the chance to talk to our friends at the various other MLS blogs about their teams and how things are going. This week I spoke with Steve at The Bent Musket about the Colorado Rapids v New England Revolution match and how he thought it would go. Here is the text of that conversation and remember you can see my thoughts by visiting The Bent Musket:
Burgundy Wave: Expectations are high in New England this year after such a terrific 2014 and they have started a bit slowly. Is there a cause for concern or just a slow start?
The Bent Musket: I think it's a little of both. On the one hand, starting 0-2-1 with no goals scored is never a good thing, even if you follow that with a 2-1 win at home. That's still being outscored 2-7 in a four-match stretch. Certain things are definitely concerning - the play of Andrew Farrell and Jose Goncalves when paired together in the center of defense, the struggles of Juan Agudelo to get his touch back and get on the scoresheet, and of course the overall struggle with Diego Fagundez, who has not been able to recapture his 2013 form despite a dominant preseason.
On the other, there are mitigating factors. Lee Nguyen sat the first match through injury. Teal Bunbury was hurt against Seattle in week one and hasn't played since. Plus there's Jermaine Jones, who hasn't made an appearance yet thanks to offseason hernia surgery. Not having those players, or not having them at 100%, is a big deal. No team in the league would look particularly good when missing their marquee player (Jones) and most crucial and dangerous attacker (Nguyen).
Plus, this is nothing new. Under Jay Heaps, the Revs have started slow every season since 2012. You can set your watch to it. They know how to handle it and how to come out of it. That doesn't make it any less frustrating, though.
BW: And with that, the Revolution looked like they broke out last weekend against the Earthquakes at home and picked up their first victory. What was different in that match opposed to the previous three matches?
TBM: There were a couple things that went differently. For one, it was at home. Yes, they drew 0-0 in their home opener the week before, but home cooking is home cooking and that clearly made a difference over the two road losses. Also, you saw a Lee Nguyen who is probably right about at full fitness again. He was able to find pockets of space and direct the attack, and while we'd really like to see him pull the trigger faster when he gets the space to shoot, it was nice to see him able to have his way with San Jose a little bit.
Putting Juan Agudelo and Charlie Davies on the pitch together in that match was also a good move by Jay Heaps. Agudelo likes to say he might be more comfortable on the wing, facing goal, attacking defenders, but his ability to hold up and distribute is too valuable. That said, Charlie plays a pretty good solo striker, not so much with his hold-up play but with his movement. They both wreaked considerable havoc on San Jose's back line, and it's going to be interesting to see how Heaps addresses that with Fagundez behind them and Bunbury re-entering the lineup.
Last, that was a weak San Jose team. They were missing some key players, which certainly benefited the Revs. No Steven Lenhart meant that the back line could focus on shutting down Chris Wondolowski alone, and Farrel and Goncalves responded by posting probably their best outing of the year. If that trend continues, the Revs should be in good shape, but they won't be catching teams struggling with injuries and call-ups every week.
BW: What is the status of Jermaine Jones? When will we see him take the pitch this year?
TBM: Jermaine's been upgraded to Questionable on the injury report, so he should be returning to the lineup pretty soon. It's still so early in the season, there's really no reason to rush him back only to see him suffer some kind of setback. That said, he's chomping at the bit and it's tough to keep a guy like that off the pitch even if it would be smarter to do so. I don't think he makes the bench in Colorado, but next match, you might see him in the 18.
Predicted Starting XI for the Revolution: Shuttleworth; Tierney, Goncalves, Farrell, Barnes; Caldwell, Kobayashi; Agudelo, Nguyen, Rowe; Davies
Predicted Final Score: I'm going to go 1-0 Revs. It's about time they win at DSG.