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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