Archive | Game Previews

Has DC United learned from Paris Saint Germain?

Posted on 03 August 2012 by Steve Long

When a team has long lulls in competitive play it becomes difficult to assess and predict, even for the coach. No matter how tightly constructed to simulate game conditions, practices never quite reach the full intensity level of a match with points on the line.

The problem is described as a lack of match fitness and is usually observed in preseason games for teams and in a player’s return to play from injury. Over the last few weeks, visits from top European teams which are in their own preseason presented interesting opportunities for the MLS teams which faced them in more equal contests than normal.

For DC United, their match against Paris Saint Germain was especially helpful. A formidable opponent forces a team to play with good habits centered on proper positioning, tight marking, and quicker play. Although both teams in such exhibitions are testing ideas and personnel, the quality of the PSG play allowed a good simulation of serious MLS contests.

The Columbus Crew comes into RFK as an improving team with an eye on the playoffs. They should feel good about their win at home against United in which they demonstrated great tenacity and discipline. It is Olsen’s task to assure that United’s occasional mental lapses in that contest are on the players’ minds and that they focus better at home.

For the young coach that is already first nature; he is certain to emphasize the need for aggressive play. He has only a few real choices to make about a starting lineup: who starts up front with Dwayne DeRosario, who starts at right midfield, and who starts in central defense.

If he goes with a full aggressive lineup, he will place Maicon Santos up front, Danny Cruz at right mid, and Brandon McDonald in central defense. There is an alternative, put Cruz on for pugnacity, but mix the attack up with Salihi up front to create and exploit space which might then help Emiliano Dudar’s more sophisticated passing out of the back to open up the Crew defense.

Columbus will focus its efforts on closing down both Chris Pontius and DeRosario. They will not neglect Salihi, but his threat is less palpable and more likely to slip under their radar. Cruz will help in that area as he will be in their faces all over the right wing.

Both McDonald and Santos were off form in Ohio and Olsen allowed Dudar to play the entire 90 minutes against PSG and was rewarded with a reasonably composed team. With Salihi’s talents still recognized by the Albanian National Team, Olsen may decide to use him a bit more often before he leaves after the 12 August match for a few days to play on 15 August.

That date is an international friendly date which will also see Dejan Jakovic and DeRosario playing for Canada. All will return at least somewhat fatigued for United’s 19 August game at RFK against the Philadelphia Union which begins a draining two-games-per-week sequence for DC.

For almost two months, DC United has been in a holding pattern while its Eastern Conference competitors have caught up in games played and left them wondering if their early season flair can be recaptured. If the PSG game has provided the insight and motivation hoped for, it needs to show up soon.

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Galaxy welcome Keane, San Jose

Posted on 20 August 2011 by iyeo

There’s about two months left in the 2011 MLS season, but the Los Angeles Galaxy hope Saturday’s match against the San Jose Earthquakes is the start of something big.

When the Galaxy play the San Jose Earthquakes on Saturday, the Galaxy will unveil its latest and brightest acquisition to date, as celebrated Ireland international Robbie Keane will make his debut for the Galaxy Saturday night at the Home Depot Center.

“Robbie is a fabulous addition to our team,” Galaxy general manager and head coach Bruce Arena said. “We’ve lacked a little bit in the final third of the field (and) Robbie is a player with a proven goal-scoring record .

It’s been a busy week for both Keane and the Galaxy. Keane’s acquisition by the Galaxy had been rumored since last Friday, but the two sides did not officially seal the deal until this past Monday, part of the deal included a hefty transfer fee being paid to Keane’s now former employer, Tottenham Hotspur. Keane then had to wait for a visa, which he received on Wednesday, then immediately arrived in LA on Thursday to a warm reception from Galaxy fans. Keane trained with the team on Friday and was formally introduced to the media shortly after.

“It’s been a hectic 6-7 days for me,” Keane said. “It’s a very exciting opportunity for me, its something that I’m going to relish, something that I’m really looking forward to and bringing something different to the team and score a lot of goals.”

Keane is expected to boost the Galaxy’s offense, which has been absent at times even as Los Angeles has amassed itself to the top of the league. Keane takes the Galaxy’s third Designated Player spot from Juan Pablo Angel, who was traded to Chivas USA shortly after Keane’s arrival was made official. LA hopes Keane’s presence can surpass that of Angel, who in his five months wearing the Galaxy shirt, had only three goals to justify his occupation of the Galaxy’s third DP spot. Keane on the other hand has scored ______ goals while playing for ____ different clubs and has scored 57 goals playing for Ireland. Keane insists playing in MLS will have no bearing on his future with the Irish national team as it attempts to qualify for the European championships next summer.

“The most important thing to do is do what you do best, and that is to play well and score goals,” Keane said.

Keane joins a Galaxy side that is among the best in MLS. Los Angeles has a record of 13-3-9 points 48 points. Landon Donovan leads the team in scoring with 11 goals, one behind another international superstar, New York Red Bulls forward Thierry Henry, in the race for the golden boot. The goals after that though have been very sparse, as striker Chad Barrett is second with just four goals this year. Most of the Galaxy’s goals have been supplied by the right foot of Beckham, whose 10 assists places him one behind the Houston Dynamo’s Brad Davis for the league lead.

Oh, did we mention the Galaxy are playing the San Jose Earthquakes. One year removed from getting to within a win of the MLS Cup final, the Quakes are now fighting just to stay in the hunt for the playoffs. It is unknown whether or not Keane will start the match, though Arena and Keane speculated that Keane will play some significant time on Saturday.

“I can tell you one thing; Robbie wants to play about 100 minutes (against San Jose),” Arena said. “We want to be smart, we realize there’s been a lot of travel and we don’t want to position him to be injured.”

The two teams met back on June 24 at Back Shaw Stadium. The meeting featured some very strange circumstances. The Galaxy’s starting keeper, Donovan Ricketts, making his return between the pipes after representing Jamaica in the Gold Cup, left the game with an arm injury on a collision, then backup keeper Josh Saunders was red carded after a confrontation with Steven Lenhart. The Galaxy turned to midfielder Mike Magee to be the last line of defense and amazingly succeeded, making four saves and helping Los Angeles get the shutout and the point.

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Galaxy start CCL Campaign

Posted on 16 August 2011 by iyeo

The bid for the CONCACAF Champions League title begins tonight for the Los Angeles Galaxy.

And there is no better way for things to start off than at home, as the Galaxy start off its CCL campaign at the friendly confines of the Home Depot Center against Honduran power Club Deportivo Motagua.

This will be Los Angeles’ first match since defeating FC Dallas 3-1 back on August 6. The Galaxy are currently first atop both the Western Conference and MLS overall standings. Los Angeles enters CCL play with an MLS record of 13-3-9 and 48 points. Landon Donovan currently leads the team with 11 goals, one behind New York’s Thierry Henry in the race for the Golden Boot. While Donovan has been scoring, David Beckham has been providing the service, as his 10 assists are one behind Brad Davis for the league lead. Los Angeles recently made headlines across the world with the signing of Ireland striker Robbie Keane. The Irish captain was officially signed as a designated player yesterday and is expected to be an upgrade over Juan Pablo Angel, who was shipped to in-stadium rival Chivas USA shortly after Keane’s signing became official. Keane is still awaiting his visa, though he is expected to feature in future CCL action for the Galaxy.

CD Motagua is one of the most decorated clubs in Honduras. The Blue Cycle, one of three nick manes associated with the club, has won 12 Liga Nacional titles as well as a Honduran Super Cup and a Honduran Cup to boast. Motagua currently features Honduran national team striker Jerry Bengtson as well as former MLS players Amado Guevara, Ivan Guerrero and former Galaxy player Guillermo Ramirez, whose goal in extra time of the 2005 MLS Cup Final against the New England Revolution in Dallas’ Pizza Hut Park helped Los Angeles to its second MLS Cup that year.

Though the Galaxy’s group, which also features Mexican club Monarcas Morelia and Costa Rican powerhouse LD Alajuelense, is believed to be the toughest of the four groups, the Galaxy still hope to have a far better showing in the tournament that last year’s appearance. Slotted into the play-in round as a result of its 2009 MLS Cup final loss to Real Salt Lake, the Galaxy drew the Puerto Rico Islanders and surprisingly got bounced rather easily. Puerto Rico routed the Galaxy 4-1 in the first leg at the Home Depot Center and won the second leg at home 2-1 to oust Los Angeles from the tournament. This will be Motagua’s first appearance in the tournament.

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PREVIEW: Revs @ Crew

Posted on 13 August 2011 by Matty Jollie

Revs Face Crew to Continue Playoff Push

The New England Revolution (4-10-9, 21pts) head back out on the road this weekend, this time to the Midwest to take on the streaking (and first place) Columbus Crew (9-7-7, 34pts).  New England is coming off a disappointing, albeit entertaining home loss to Chivas USA last Saturday, while Columbus was beaten by defending champion Colorado.  With the Revolution 8 points back from a playoff spot, every match provides an essential opportunity to climb back into race for the post-season, and it continues with Saturday’s match at Crew Stadium.

GOALKEEPER: It’s the veteran Matt Reis once again for New England, coming off a poor 3 goal performance on Saturday. Reis has been solid, but his season has been marred by a few mistakes in bad spots.  One of the goals for Chivas USA came about when Reis was too late off his line on a cross, leaving an empty net and providing an easy target.  If Reis can remain solid, and avoid the big mistake, New England are always competitive.  In Columbus, there’s no mistaking, the job belongs to Will Hesmer. Strong in the air, a physical presence, the Crew net-minder has been solid all season long and continues to b instrumental in the club’s climb to the top of the Eastern Conference table. ADVANTAGE: Columbus. Hesmer has quickly supplanted himself as one of the best in MLS.

DEFENDERS: New England will be bolstered by the return of AJ Soares on Saturday asfter missing the previous match due to a red card suspension.  Soares was sorely missed against Chivas USA, and will regain his spot in the center of the Revs defense, but who joins him remains to be seen. Kevin Alston continues to fight off a turf-toe injury, Ryan Cochrane has been shaky at best, and left-back has been a revolving door all season. If the Revs are going to have a chance, they need to shore up the holes at the back, and continue to push forward.  Columbus is anchored by one man: Chad Marshall. The tall, strong center back has found a niche in Columbus, and his solid play has also earned him a look with the USMNT.  Marshall has been joined by youngsters Julius James and Sebastian Miranda, who have given a youthful edge to the side throughout the season, fighting their way off the bench and into the starting 11.  ADVANTAGE: Columbus. The Revs continue to struggle to get healthy, although the addition of Soares will help.

MIDFIELDERS: Shalrie Joseph and Benny Feilhaber remain the foundation of the Revs midfield, however the season has yet to offer up consistent partners for them.  Sainey Nyassi has played well at times and at others his play is maddening, rookie Stephen McCarthy has played well in spots, showing his physicality, and there’s always the defensive-minded Pat Phelan to contend for a spot also.  Until New England can find the quality of play from the wings they are looking for, they’ll continue to have difficulty maintaining possession.   Columbus boasts a talented and speedy midfield, built around the incredibly quick (and recent USMNT goal-scorer) Robbie Rogers. Rogers’ pace always finds a way to open up the midfield of opposing teams, and when you add the talents of Emmanuel Ekpo and veteran Eddie Gaven, you’ve got quite a talented and dynamic attack-minded midfield. ADVANTAGE: Push. Columbus doesn’t have anyone with the quality of a Feilhaber or Joseph, and with Gaven on the injury report, the midfield is an even battle.

FORWARDS: After playing nearly 60 minutes in his debut, recently signed DP Milton Caraglio will once again be the focal point up top for New England.  The Revs were dealt a blow when it was reported that Rajko Lekic would miss up to a month with a toe fracture, leaving Caraglio as the first option.  The Argentine showed good physical strength and instincts, but it remains to be seen how good his match fitness will be.  Columbus will most likely be without Jeff Cunningham, which has placed a lot of the burden on relative unknowns like Tommy Heinemann and Andres Mendoza.  The two have turned in average performances, putting more pressure on Rogers’ to create. ADVANTAGE: Push. The loss of Cunningham is big for Columbus, and the matchup of a Heinemann/Mendoza pairing and Caraglio really has no clear cut winner.

PREDICTION: It’s tough to tell with so many injuries on both sides. Columbus boasts one of the largest injury reports in the league at the moment, and it will all come down to who actually takes the pitch for the Crew.  New England sees AJ Soares return, which bolsters the defense, and Milton Caraglio enters his second match with another week of training under his belt, which can only help. The difference in the match is going to be Robbie Rogers.  If the USMNT midfielder can overcome fatigue from the mid-week match with Mexico and put his stamp on the game, Columbus will escape with three points. That being said, New England will continue their decent run of form, and escape Columbus with a hard-fought point.  SCORE: New England 1 – Columbus 1.

 

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PREVIEW: Chivas USA @ New England

Posted on 05 August 2011 by Matty Jollie

Goats Make Cross-Country Trip to Face Revs

The newly-rejuvenated New England Revolution (4-9-9, 21pts) return home on Saturday night after an unbeaten three game road swing to take on Western Conference foe Chivas USA (6-8-8, 26pts).  After draws at Sporting Kansas City and Colorado, in addition to a victory at D.C. United to kick off the trip, the Revolution are beginning to pick up steam, as well as hope to sneak into the 2011 MLS Playoffs. Saturday night marks their first home game since a July 17th loss to Philadelphia Union, and the home turf can only help a side trying to claw their way back into the Eastern Conference picture, where New England has climbed into 7th.

GOALKEEPER:  Has anyone had a more maddening season than Revolution goalkeeper Matt Reis. Arguably in the midst of his finest season, the Revs’ backbone has had a few instances this year that have driven supporter’s mad (that fluke goal against Colorado where the ball bounced over his head and into the net is the first that comes to mind).  A few late challenges and decisions have only been minor specks on an otherwise great season for Reis, most importantly, he’s remained healthy, which has had a huge impact on his form.  Relatively unknown keeper Dan Kennedy is between the pipes for Chivas USA, but if his current run of form continues, Kennedy won’t be unknown for long.  Surrendering only 3 goals in their last three matches, Kennedy and the strong Chivas USA defense have formed a solid bond in the defensive third, which has led to their ascension up the Western Conference table.  Kennedy moves well, communicates well with his defensive back four, and isn’t afraid to throw his size and weight around when needed in a crowded penalty area.  ADVANTAGE: It’s pretty even. Both are healthy, and producing results in the dog days of summer.

DEFENDERS: There’s no denying the Revolution backline is currently a M.A.S.H. unit. Alston has an awful case of turf toe, Coria is out for over a month due to an MCL, Soares is out on a red card suspension, and the Front Office bid “au revoir” to Didier Domi, their only natural left back. So, while they haven’t started holding open tryouts for defenders, New England is incredibly thin at the back, and will have to piece together a back four on Saturday night.  Alston will most likely fight through the pain, and you’ll see  Darrius Barnes and Ryan Cochrane at CB, and left midfielder Chris Tierney will slide to left back, where he has admittedly done a nice job filling in all season.  Chivas USA has been anchored all season by recent USA call-up Heath Pearce at CB, and it’s been reported Pearce will join the US team on Sunday, after the match with New England, so expect to see Pearce in the lineup on Saturday night. How much Pearce will play remains to be seen, but with Jimmy Conrad still doubtful while battling his concussion, Pearce’s leadership and quality will be needed. Another defender to look out for is Ante Jazic, who not only solidifies the back four, but often times will join in on the attack as well (Jazic assisted on two of Justin Braun’s goals against Houston, giving him 5 on the season).  ADVANTAGE: CHIVAS USA. Even at full strength, New England would have a difficult time matching the quality of Chivas. With Pearce staying with the club for the match, there’s a clear advantage.

MIDFIELDERS:  The USA friendly has affected the Revolution as well, but in a good way. Jurgen Klinsmann left Revs’ midfielder Benny Feilhaber off of his first camp roster, keeping the creative attacking midfielder in Foxboro for the match.  Feilhaber will certainly be joined by captain Shalrie Joseph, but who partners with them is a bit of a mystery.  Rookie Stephen McCarthy is most likely out with his dislocated shoulder, so depending on which way coach Steve Nicol wants to go, it could be another defensive minded midfielde like Pat Phelan, or he could opt to go with the speedier Sainey Nyassi as well, with Chris Tierney having to slide back to defense.  Chivas USA is bolstered in midfield by dynamic players, most namely recent internet sensation Michael Lahoud, who’s on the field talents are purely evident in the midfield.  Lahoud is joined by midfield  mainstays Blair Gavin and Jorge Flores, as well as Simon Elliot. This midfield quartet has played together quite a bit over the season, and when you add a proven veteran like Alejandro Moreno coming off the bench late in matches, it’s a midfield that not only has talent, but depth as well. ADVANTAGE: NEW ENGLAND, slightly. Feilhaber and Joseph are clearly the two best players in the midfield on Saturday. However, due to all of the injuries and holes in the roster, New England has had a hard time building chemistry in the middle of the park to create a better possession game. Chivas USA will need to use their superior speed to overwhelm the Revs’ midfield.

FORWARDS: New England made a huge splash in the headlines earlier in the week when they signed their first ever Designated Player, bringing in Argentinian striker Milton Caraglio from Rosario Central in Argentina.  The move certainly shows the Revolution are clearly trying to bolster their offensive output (New England has signed Danish striker Rajko Lekic, and used their allocation spot to acquire Feilhaber earlier in the year) and when news cam down that not only did Caraglio receive his ITC (basically clearing him to play), Steve Nicol also announced that the new signing will start on Saturday night.  Caraglio will almost certainly partner Lekic up top, giving New England two international strikers for the first time in recent memory. Chivas USA has found gold in youngster Justin Braun, whose recent hat trick against Houston Dynamo announced his arrival with some authority. Braun is a strong forward, garnering more goals with his physical play and hustle than with bursts of quality.  Braun is often joined by Nick LaBrocca, who hasn’t yet hit his stride, but does well to partner Braun with his more dynamic offensive style.  ADVANTAGE: Even. It’s too difficult to get a feel for what Caraglio will bring into the fold in his first match in a Revolution uniform, but if you’re looking for an edge, Braun just barely beats out Lekic heads-up.

PREDICTION: There is nothing more difficult than the cross country road trip to play a match. That being said, with such a makeshift back four, New England is going to struggle at the back, and a clean sheet seems unlikely.  The balance of the match is going to fall on the new strike tandem of Caraglio and Lekic, and with the Dane struggling with a toe injury, and Caraglio with only a few days on American soil, it’s hard to see New England continuing their run of form. CHIVAS 2 – REVS 0.

 

 

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PREVIEW: Revolution @ Seattle Sounders

Posted on 25 June 2011 by Matty Jollie

CenturyLink Field is ALWAYS a tough environment

The New England Revolution (3-7-6, 15pts) travel to newly re-named CenturyLink Field in Seattle on Sunday afternoon to take on the Seattle Sounders (7-4-7, 28pts) for the fifth time in MLS history. Despite their early success in MLS, Seattle has seemingly always had trouble with the Revolution, amassing a 1-3-0 record, splitting the two meetings in Seattle.  New England is heading out west for the fifth time this season after their brief two game homestand last week that saw them earn two points from their matches with Chicago and Toronto FC.  New England has always had trouble with the difficult cross-country trip, and this season has been no different, going 0-2-2 thus far, with the two draws coming at the Los Angeles Galaxy and Vancouver Whitecaps earlier in the year.  Seattle is coming off a wild affair on Thursday night, defeating New York Red Bulls in a six goal thriller, 4-2.  Seattle has once again proven that they are an incredibly tough out at home, losing only twice in nine games at CenturyLink Field thus far in 2011, and if the Revolution are to earn a result on Sunday, it certainly won’t come easy.

 

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GOALKEEPER: You cannot find a better head to head match up at this position than you will experience in this one. Two of the most decorated and veteran goalkeepers face off on Sunday, as Matt Reis mans the net for New England, and he will be staring across the field at one of the most celebrated keepers in American soccer history, Kasey Keller.  Keller’s pedigree is incredibly well documented, playing all over Europe, captaining his German club for an entire season, leading the United States in World Cup play, and of course, his impressive streak of 59 straight MLS matches played as the team’s captain and leader.  Seattle has been solidly defensively, amassing a 1.00 goals against average in their last 7 matches, with most of the credit going to Keller, whose positioning and command of his back four is second to none.  While New England has struggled in the first half of this season, it certainly can’t fall upon the shoulders of ‘keeper Matt Reis. Reis, finally healthy, has found a great run of form of late, leading the Revolution to a 1.19 GAA this season, good for fourth in the Eastern Conference.  Reis has shown great command of his back line, and has always been an imposing force in the box.  Both goalkeepers are playing well coming into Sunday, which will make for a great match. ADVANTAGE: Push. Hard to believe when you’re dealing with Keller, but while the Seattle man may be far more decorated, there may not be a hotter hand in MLS than Matt Reis.

DEFENDERS: Both sides have found their stride defensively of late, and both boat their share of youth and experience. Throughout their struggles this season, the New England Revolution have been solid defensively (the Revs have played 10 matches in which they’ve surrendered 1 goal or fewer), and as the season progresses and young players like A.J. Soares and Franco Coria gain more experience, the defense is only poised to continue to improve.  New England will once again be without Didier Domi, so it will be Darrius Barnes once again assuming the role of left back, a position Barnes has begun to adapt well to, as he has had plenty of opportunity to earn minutes at that position.  Kevin Alston will man the right back spot, and as the Revs’ spark plug continues to remain healthy, his run of form continues to improve.  Seattle is anchored by veteran presence, with former Revolution pick James Riley, as well as Jeff Parke. The two have been the more visible influences on the Seattle back line, often joined by Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, a strong, physical presence in the center of defense. Seattle are giving up just a shade under a goal a game this season, but are always tough at home in front of their great support and atmosphere.  With their full compliment of defenders at their disposal, it will be up to Head Coach Sigi Schmid after a quick turnaround from Thursday night’s match on who will defend the Sounders’ net, but look for mainstays Riley and Parke to be a part of the match.  ADVANTAGE: Seattle. The Rave Green outfit are incredibly tough at home, and with the struggles of New England offensively still ongoing, it’s easy to see the advantage at the back.

MIDFIELDERS: New England will most likely be welcoming back USMNT midfielder Benny Feilhaber on Sunday afternoon (the newly acquired Feilhaber is listed as Probable on Friday’s injury report) and his addition couldn’t come soon enough. Just Feilhaber’s presence and creativity is sure to bolster a struggling Revs’ offense, and he will look to regain the chemistry that was beginning to emerge with Revolution captain Shalrie Joseph.  Sainey Nyassi had arguably his best match against Chicago on Saturday night, and with Zak Boggs still struggling through injury, Nyassi should get the start at right midfield. Left midfield will be a bit of a question, as Chris Tierney is listed as  doubtful for the match, so it may be newcomer Ryan Guy, whose brief cameo on Saturday night showed great promise from the California native, taking over and getting his first start in MLS play.  Seattle’s midfield has an incredible propensity to just continue to fire on all cylinders throughout each match, with Mauro Rosales and Osvaldo Alonso seemingly having tireless energy.  The two have combined for three goals and three assists, but it’s their midfield partner Brad Evans who leads the team in scoring, with four goals and an assist thus far in 2011. Evans has a knack for finding the goal, and his strong presence in the midfield and blue collar approach always make him a formidable foe in the center of the park.  It’s going to fall upon Shalrie Joseph to create and set a tone early in this match, and allow Benny Feilhaber to flow and create in the final third to help with the struggling Revs’ offense.  ADVANTAGE: Seattle. It’s too early to put too much pressure and expectation on Feilhaber, add to that the Sounders’ ability to create and finish through the midfield and you can see where the advantage will lie.

FORWARDS: The lack of offensive firepower in New England has been well-documented, however, since Revolution head coach Steve Nicol switched to a 4-4-2 (effectively giving striker Rajko Lekic a partner in attack instead of being the lone man up top), New England has seen an improvement in the quality and frequency of its’ chances.  Lekic ended a long goal-less drought against Chicago on Saturday night (the Danish international hadn’t scored since April 23rd), and with the addition of Kenny Mansally up top, New England is looking slightly more dangerous and likely to find an offensive breakthrough.  Seattle’s attack is anchored by a very familiar figure in Freddy Montero, and the Colombian international hasn’t disappointed, firing in three goals and four assists in 2011. Montero is the type of player that always needs to be accounted for on the field, and can spring up in attack at any time, so it will fall upon Matt Reis and company to keep track of him at all times.  With Steve Zakuani out for the season, the other forward slot has been manned by committee, with veteran big man Nate Jaqua sharing the minutes with the likes of Mike Fucito and even Alvaro Fernandez as well.  Jaqua provides a strong presence in the air, something New England has struggled with early in the campaign, but it’s been Fucito with a good run of form of late. Expect a balanced attack from Seattle, and it will be quite difficult for a well-traveled Revolution defense to contain a Sounders side coming off of a four goal output just four days prior.

 

PREDICTION: New England has played well defensively, and it is going to take a massive effort to keep this Seattle team off the scoresheet. The addition of Feilhaber will absolutely help, as will the possible inclusion of Ryan Guy.  Signs of improvement are evident throughout the Revolution team as they continue to fight the injury bug and add new pieces, and a breakthrough is certainly coming, but it won’t be on Sunday afternoon.  SCORE: Seattle 2 – New England 1.

 

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PREVIEW: Fire @ Revolution

Posted on 17 June 2011 by Matty Jollie

Saturday evening marks the third match in eight days for the New England Revolution (3-7-5, 14pts), as they entertain the Chicago Fire (2-4-8, 14pts) to wrap up the Revs’ brief homestand.  New England enters the match on only three days’ rest after battling to a 0-0 draw on Wednesday night with Toronto FC in front of a sparsely populated Gillette Stadium, while Chicago has been flying high of late, defeating Columbus 1-0 on Sunday afternoon, their third successive shutout under new head coach Frank Klopas.  This particular fixture has always been hotly contested, and the history between the two sides is well documented, however with recent results being what they are, both sides are certainly more focused on getting a result, rather than getting caught up in a rivalry. With only five wins between the two clubs, look for an intense, physical matchup on Saturday, as they both look to right the ship in Foxboro.  Let’s take a look at how the match shapes up on the field:

GOALKEEPER: You’ve got to admire the way Revolution keeper Matt Reis has played this season. Constantly battling through injuries, Reis has found his best form as of late, showing signs that his health is close to fully-healed.  Coming off of a shutout of Toronto FC on Wednesday night, look for Matt Reis between the pipes again on Saturday.  Chicago will counter with 22-year old Sean Johnson, who, under new head coach Frank Klopas’ new system, has flourished.  The Atlanta-born Johnson has always possessed the size and length, but until recently lacked the polish necessary to lead a club on a week-in week-out basis, however with three consecutive shutouts and a struggling Revs’ offense, Johnson has got to love his chances for a fourth clean sheet in as many matches. ADVANTAGE: NEW ENGLAND. When Matt Reis is healthy, there are few better, although Johnson is clearly the hotter hand coming into Saturday.

DEFENDERS: When you examine the Revolution’s recent struggles, it often times has not been the deficiency of their back four. Given the injury bug that has plagued the team, the back line has seemingly persevered throughout the 2011 campaign.  Kevin Alston has remained healthy for most of the season which is always a bright spot for New England, and rookie A.J. Soares has clearly become the leader at the center of the Revolution defense.  Even through the recent winless streak, the defense has shown good communication and cohesion, and its’ lack of team speed at the back has seemed to be what has done them in. Didier Domi did not play on Wednesday night, and it would be hard to see him return only a few days later, so look for Darrius Barnes, who has performed admirably, to fill in at left-back once again. After a horrendous start to the new season, Chicago has seemingly shored up its defensive wall recently under their new regime.  Old friend Cory Gibbs will be found at the center of the revamped Fire defense, and through his veteran leadership the Fire have found good form, as well as finally gaining some composure and structure at the back. Gibbs will be joined by other MLS veterans Gonzalo Segares and Jalil Anibaba, who have also played big roles in the defensive renaissance in Chicago. ADVANTAGE: Chicago. You’ve got to play the hot hand, and the Fire haven’t conceded since the end of May.

MIDFIELDERS: In what has been yet another injury riddled season, New England will once again piece together a central midfield, as they will most likely be without the services of Ousmane Dabo and Benny Feilhaber on Saturday night. While Dabo was listed as out on the latest injury report, Revs’ fans can find a little solace in the fact that Feilhaber WAS upgraded to doubtful, but it would be a minor medical miracle to see the USMNT product on the field against Chicago.  Captain Shalrie Joseph will be in the middle of it all once again, and after not seeing the field on Saturday night, one can expect to see rookie Stephen McCarthy back in the midfield after a stale performance from New England on Wednesday.  Wing play has settled down ever so slightly for the Revs’, as Chris Tierney has filled the left midfield role quite nicely, providing better service to the players up top, but it is the right wing that continues to be the thorn in the side of the Revolution. Neither Sainey Nyassi or Zak Boggs have truly distanced themselves from the other this season, and while it has been Boggs receiving the lions’ share of the minutes, one wonders if perhaps head coach Steve Nicol should throw a curve ball somewhere soon and insert the likes of Kenny Mansally in the mix to see if perhaps a different formula would produce a better result.  Chicago has talent aplenty in their midfield, with the speed of Patrick Nyarko and the playmaking abilities of Baggoi Husidic and Dominic Oduro, and continue to improve their run of play under Klopas.  It will certainly come down to how the Revolution bottle up the speed of Nyarko, as has been the case in several matches this season for New England.  In the middle of the park , New England can without a doubt overpower the central midfielders of Chicago, and that particular matchup will be important to the success of the Revs’ on Saturday night. With Nyarko kept quiet, New England can battle through the match in the center of the field, and try to scratch out a result over a slightly more talented Fire midfield. ADVANTAGE: Push. Both teams have strengths and weaknesses that actually complement the other side. It’s going to come down to who imposes their will on the other.

FORWARDS: It’s easily said that New England has struggled offensively, but what is not easily said is why: Rajko Lekic simply doesn’t look the part.  After scoring against Sporting Kansas City, Lekic has almost disappeared, and if it weren’t for the constant temper tantrums thrown and the countless kicks to sideline advertisement boards, he’d be completely invisible.  One can argue the lack of service, one can argue attitude, but there is no arguing the fact that Rajko Lekic has failed to score since April 23rd. A bright spot for the Revs’ offense is that Steve NIcol has seemingly scrapped the stand-alone striker formation, adding Kenny Mansally to the strike tandem with Lekic on Wednesday night.  Lekic needs to be partnered with a possession type strike partner, and the team did look a little better with Zack Schilawski in there with him in the second half, so look for the second year man to get a little more run on Saturday night.  Chicago hasn’t exactly been scorching the nets either, scoring only one goal in their last three league matches, and will look to improve against a New England side that has the tendency to struggle with containing speed.  Th biggest concern with Chicago is quite simply the lack of talent up top.  Diego Chaves has yet to pan out and really stand out from the rest of the pack, and often times, it’s Nyarko who moves up from a midfield spot to give the attack a little bit of a bite.  With the departure of Gaston Puerari to Club Atlas in Mexico, the questions only increase, as now head coach Frank Klopas is left with another hole in his attack. Look for a lesser-known forward to get a look on Saturday night, and if you would like a name to look out for, keep an eye out for 19-year old Orr Barrouch, who has seen some time, and will now almost by default, see more minutes in the Chicago attack. ADVANTAGE: Push. Neither side scores at will. If you really needed an answer, New England would get the edge almost by default with Chicago’s forward depth in flux.  It wouldn’t be a surprise that if any goals were to be scored on Saturday night, they’d come from the midfield.

PREDICTION: Saturday night is one of those matches that could go either way.  Chicago is very hot defensively right now, and New England has struggled to score goals.  While New England is coming off only three days’ rest, Chicago has had all week to prepare.  With injuries still plaguing the Revolution midfield, it’s hard to see the results taking a turn for the better. Patrick Nyarko will find space through his speed and create the lone goal of the match. FIRE 1 – REVOLUTION 0.

 

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PREVIEW: Revs @ FC Dallas

Posted on 02 June 2011 by Hank Alexandre

With Boston and Foxboro buzzing about the US Men’s National Team international friendly against Spain, the Revs are on the road this weekend to face FC Dallas.  Some will remember the 2007 US Open Cup final against FC Dallas in the same venue, Pizza Hut Park; but, this is not the same New England squad that nearly took the domestic double, and this Dallas squad hasn’t lost a game since April.  Dallas is currently in 2nd place in the west, and has scored 6 goals in its last 5 games. The Revs have only scored 2 goals in their last 5, and one of them was a penalty kick.  And while both teams have suffered injuries, Dallas has been able to rise to the challenge, while New England is struggling to find their way.   If the Revs hope to get on the right path, they’ll need to find some help from some unlikely sources.

Here’s the match up:

GOALKEEPERS: Matt Reis and Kevin Hartman have a long history, dating all the way back to their college days at UCLA, where Reis was Hartman’s backup.  Hartman, who at 37 years old, has seemingly resurrected his career in Dallas, where he’s had 6 shutouts this season in 13 starts.  Reis, who has had some injury issues over the last few years, has bounced back well this season, and despite his club record (only two clean sheets), Reis has made 35 saves in 9 starts, whereas Hartman has only made 32 with 4 more starts to his credit.  ADVANTAGE: Push. When it comes down to it, both keepers are veteran top notch keepers in this league, and there is not much to separate the two on paper or on the pitch.

DEFENDERS: New England’s rotation on the back line has taken another turn for the worse with Ryan Cochrane picking up a concussion in last week’s game against Los Angeles, so look for Franco Coria to get the nod alongside rookie AJ Soares.  Franco got the majority of the starts in the beginning of the season, but has since slid down the pecking order.  The Revs will likely have the services of Didier Domi once again, as he is currently off the injured list, and Kevin Alston will resume his position at right back.  Dallas however will be without the services of Jackson, as well as George John.  ADVANTAGE: Push. Dallas has more clean sheets, but with their both halves of their preferred central pairing out of commission, New England may have more of an edge.

MIDFIELDERS:  Thanks to injury, New England’s all star midfield line up of Perovic, Feilhaber, Dabo and Joseph, is now just Joseph.  Aside from Stephen McCarthy, the Revolution’s midfield corp has hardly seen regular playing time.  Chris Tierney however has worked himself into the starting 11 in Perovic’s absence, and with Feilhaber injured, Nicol will probably revert to partnering McCarthy with Pat Phelan, and push Joseph forward.  Dallas will have the luxury of starting the same four midfielders they started last weekend against Houston,  featuring team goal leader Brek Shea and former Revolution midfielder Daniel Hernandez. ADVANTAGE: Dallas – Consistency in the midfield is the one thing the Revolution lack, and Dallas has plenty of it.

FORWARDS: It’s the same old story when it comes to forwards. Dallas has them, New England doesn’t.  Nicol will likely play the 4-5-1, with Rajko Lekic alone in a striker role.  If he decides to go with two strikers, look for Zack Schilawski or Kheli Dube to make an appearance. Dallas will also likely start with a similar formation, with Fabian Castillo in front.  While Castillo hasn’t exactly been lighting the league on fire, he will have better service for the most part when compared to Lekic.  Advantage: Dallas.

COACHES: Schellas Hyndman has been hot over the last few seasons, bringing his team to the MLS Cup Final in 2o1o, and managing a 6 game unbeaten streak.  Meanwhile, Coach Steve Nicol has been struggling to find the missing ingredient to making his team the winning powerhouse it used to be. Advantage: Dallas – Hyndman has horses. Nicol doesn’t.

PREDICTION: Considering both of the teams’ current run of form, you have to give the advantage to Dallas. Revs will lose this Dos a Cero. 2-0.

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Los Angeles Galaxy @ Revs: GAME PREVIEW

Posted on 27 May 2011 by Matty Jollie

Saturday night marks the return fixture between the Los Angeles Galaxy (7-2-5, 26pts) and New England Revolution (3-4-4, 13pts) as the Galaxy head east and travel to Gillette Stadium. The Revolution have found themselves in another rough patch, coming off a league loss out in San Jose last weekend, followed up by a 5-0 drubbing at the hands of Sporting KC in the U.S. Open Cup at mid-week, and will look to build upon the 1-1 draw they secured in L.A. on opening night against the Galaxy. Los Angeles comes into town with the best record in MLS after a mid-week victory over Houston, and continue to perform well in spite of a few absences and injuries and will certainly prove to be a very tough test for a struggling New England side.

 

 

GOALKEEPERS: Los Angeles has one of the best goalkeepers in the league in Donovan Ricketts, whose recently play certainly has lived up to his pedigree. With Ricketts in net, the Galaxy are a very tough side to score on, and with Ricketts’ imposing size and quickness, he can be lights out on any given night.  Matt Reis has begun to show signs of decline in recent weeks, and has found it difficult to stay healthy. Reis doesn’t appear on the injury report this weekend, so expect to see the veteran in net for the Revolution on Saturday night in this important fixture, and if New England is to secure a result at home, Reis must come up big and cannot be caught cheating on set pieces. ADVANTAGE: Galaxy. Ricketts is one of, if not THE best keeper in MLS right now.

 

DEFENDERS: After a solid start to the season, and several solid defensive performances, New England has stumbled a bit but still remain steadfast and stingy at the back. Before giving up two goals to San Jose, the Revs posted two shutouts over Colorado and Vancouver, showing signs that not only are they getting healthy, but they’re beginning to blend together and build good chemistry. Didier Domi is expected back, so the back four should consist of Domi, Soares, Cochrane and Alston, and those four defenders have performed well when together on the field, which should encourage Revs fans going into Saturday night. Los Angeles has not conceded more than one goal in their last five matches, and boast a tough group of veteran defenders led by Todd Dunivant and Sean Franklin. All four defenders are strong at the back and will impose their will at any cost, but if they possess it’s a weakness, it’s on set-pieces, where New England took advantage on opening night. Look for New England to be aggressive and go right at this back four to try and pressure them into a mistake. ADVANTAGE: Push. New England is healthy again and playing at home, evening the score.

 

MIDFIELDERS: Los Angeles’ midfield contains three of the most recognizable names and faces in MLS: Beckham, Donovan, and Juninho. Easily the best pedigree of any midfield in MLS, chock full of talent and creativity, and the ability to score at will on set pieces make this a very tough group to overcome. New England will have to counter with their stronger, more physical midfield led by Shalrie Joseph, and impose a much more physical style of play to win the midfield battle. Joseph and newcomer Benny Feilhaber have shown signs of chemistry being built, and if there ever were a night to get it all right it would be Saturday. The best way to defeat the Galaxy midfield is to slow the match down and impose a physical style of play to knock them off their strides, and that is exactly what to expect from Steve Nicol’s men in this match. ADVANTAGE: Los Angeles. It’s the best midfield in MLS, and they’ve played together for several seasons.

 

FORWARDS: New England continues to struggle to create chances of quality in the final third, and it’s beginning to take a toll on striker Rajko Lekic. The Danish forward has shown several outbursts of frustration of late, and if this offensive drought is to come to an end, it’s going to come from him. The Revs need to provide better service to their men up front, and until that happens it is going to be quite difficult to see results from this club. Los Angeles will counter with Chad Barret and Juan Pablo Angel, who have created a good rapport together and pose a big threat to defenses all over the league. Barrett is the more physical of the two, with JPA the more finesse styled striker. If New England are going to get a result, they’ve got to shut down this duo on set pieces. With the likes of Beckham and Donovan providing service, it’s going to take a very stout effort from the Revs’ defense to keep them out of the net. ADVANTAGE: Los Angeles.

 

PREDICTION: It sounds like a broken record, but until New England can provide better service to their target strikers and create better quality chances, it’s tough to see them taking points from matches against higher quality opponents. Los Angeles is coming off a mid-week fixture, and flying cross country, but there’s too much quality in their lineup to overlook. SCORE: LOS ANGELES 2 – NEW ENGLAND 0

 

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Preview: Revs at San Jose Earthquakes

Posted on 20 May 2011 by Hank Alexandre

Even though the New England Revolution are squaring off against the San Jose Earthquakes for the first time this season, this is already the Revs’ fourth trip to the west coast.  So far the boys in blues have held their own against the left coast teams, managing a draw against both the Galaxy and the Whitecaps, before finally losing on their last trip against Chivas USA, 3-0.  Since that loss however, the Revs have managed 2 clean sheets and 4 points out of their last possible 6.  San Jose, having struggled for most of the season, finally put together a win against Columbus last weekend, breaking a 6 game winless streak.  With both teams desperately looking to find some semblance of a rhythm heading into this weekends match, it will more than likely be a slugfest when they take to the field.  Here’s how the two match up.

GOALKEEPERS: Two veteran netminders will be between the posts on Saturday night, with over 20 years of MLS experience between them.  San Jose has John Busch, who has played every minute of every game for the Quakes this season.  Busch is not the most physical goal keeper, but he is always well positioned and keeps his back line very well organized.  Despite the fact that San Jose has only kept two clean sheets this season, Busch has only let in a respectable 11 goals to date.  New England’s Matt Reis also has two shutouts to his credit, but in just 7 starts this season, and has only allowed 6 goals.  ADVANTAGE: New England – Despite the lack of offense in the Revolutions last two opponents, Reis’s current form is the chief reason they kept their opponents scoreless.

DEFENDERS: The Revs back line has seen some changes from game to game this season, but the depth has been solid.  Steve Nicol seems to have settled on a central defense with rookie AJ Soares partnering with veteran Ryan Cochrane.  On the right side, Kevin Alston has consistently improved over the last month, while on the left, without the services of Didier Domi, Nicol will more than likely start Darrius Barnes who played fairly well against Shea Salinas of Vancouver last weekend.  San Jose, who will be without Tim Ward (injury) and Brandon McDonald (red card), will have to come up with a brand new formation for the second week in a row.  Look for Jason Hernandez to pair up with Ike Opara in the midfield, and Convey and Leitch to reprise their roles at left and right back. ADVANTAGE: New England – Consistency and depth in the back give the Revs an edge.

MIDFIELDERS: Depending on you interpret the Revolution’s formation, you may see a 4-3-3 or a 4-5-1. Regardless, Steve Nicol’s new central pairing of Feilhaber and Joseph has shown promise over the last 4 games, however with little to show for it.  The Revolution will also once again be without Ousmane Dabo and Marko Perovic, both quality players this team desparately needs.  Instead the Revs will once again rely on Chris Tierney on the left wing, and more than likely 2nd year man Zak Boggs on the the right. Rookie Stephen McCarthy will likely back up Shalrie and Benny in the middle.  The Quakes, however, have attacking power in the midfield with Ryan Johnson, and creative aptitude in Joey Gjertsen.  Without Simon Dawkins however, San Jose has struggled to maintain possession.  ADVANTAGE: Push – Shalrie and Benny are good, but they need to find a way to contribute to the attack.

FORWARDS: By far the Revs’ greatest weakness is in the forward line.  Rajko Lekic has yet to establish himself as the teams solution for the lack of goal scoring.  However, the Revs bench has had little to offer as well.  With Zack Schilawski and Kheli Dube as the only other options for Steve Nicol, Lekic will likely be the lone striker for the Revs.   San Jose will have the services of Steven Lenhart and Chris Wondolowski – need I say more? ADVANTAGE: San Jose.  New England just don’t have the creative element in the final third.

PREDICTION: Despite the offensive mismatch, New England has a strong core which will be able to control the flow of play for the majority of the game.  If the Revs can get an early goal, they will manage the game to a 1-0 win.

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