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Preview: Real Salt Lake @ New England

Posted on 08 April 2011 by Matty Jollie

Fresh off a semi-final victory over Saprissa (Costa Rica) in the CONCACAF Champions League, Real Salt Lake comes to Foxboro on Saturday night to take on the Revolution, who are coming off two draws against each of the new expansion sides in MLS. RSL could quite possibly be the most in form team not only in MLS, but CONCACAF itself, as they have already booked a spot in the CCL Final and sit undefeated in MLS play as well. New England, while unbeaten, have done it with a bit of luck, good defense, and quick starts thus far in their MLS campaign. So, with two unbeaten sides, something may have to give on Saturday night, let’s see how it will shake down.

GOALKEEPER – Nick Rimando sits between the sticks for RSL, and possesses quite possibly the safest pair of hands in the league. Rimando is a great backbone to an already stout defense, and provides the Salt Lake side with a great last line of defense. New England is a bit of a question mark in goal, with Matt Reis still struggling with an abductor strain (Reis didn’t make the trip to Vancouver) which means it will most likely be Bobby Shuttleworth in net for the Revs, who has shown he can come up big when needed. ADVANTAGE: Real Salt Lake. Rimando is healthy, and in-form.

DEFENSE – Philadelphia Union color-commentator, and former Revs standout, Taylor Twellman posed a great question via Twitter during the CCL Semi-Final the other night, asking who the best CB tandem in the league was, and most answered with Olave and Borchers. These two strong, physical players are firing on all cylinders and have made this Salt Lake defense very difficult to score against. New England has been a pleasant surprise thus far this season, with an infusion of youth into their back line. First-round pick A.J. Soares (unavailable due to red card) has been a solid addition, as has Franco Coria. However, through injury and suspension, look for familiar face Darrius Barnes to get some minutes, paired with veteran Ryan Cochrane. ADVANTAGE: Real Salt Lake, but it’s closer than you think.

MIDFIELD – The Revolution have found a midfield tandem they are comfortable with, but it still remains a work in progress. Pat Phelan has done a nice job patrolling the defensive midfield with rookie Stephen McCarthy, and Zak Boggs and Sainey Nyassi have injected energy down the flanks. However, the Revs midfielder is all about captain Shalrie Joseph, whose play has ignited the Revs midfield, including his two goals early in the season. If the Revs are going to have a chance against Real Salt Lake, the possession control MUST be better. The Revs have struggled maintaining possession of late, and it’s an area of much needed improvement, which when improved, will also increase the quality of service to the forwards up top. Real Salt Lake has two standout players in the midfield, with Kyle Beckerman and Javier Morales. Beckerman is the team’s midfield general, providing the team with energy and physical play, while Morales is more of the talisman of the RSL midfield, creating chances through set pieces and the run of play. There is certainly a strong quality coming from the RSL midfield, and if the Revs are to come away from this match with some points, it’s going to have to come through containing Morales and winning possession. ADVANTAGE: Real Salt Lake, but again, it’s closer than you think.

FORWARDS – Second year forward Zack Schilawski has done a really nice job as the lone striker in Nicol’s 4-5-1 formation, holding up play well and winning possession, however, the question marks lie in the service Schilawski is provided with. Schilawski (and Stolica, for that matter) aren’t the type of dynamic striker that can create their own opportunities, and need proper service from the flanks and midfield if they are to be successful, and thus far, it’s been lacking. For the Revs to be successful, the service needs to be of better quality. Real Salt Lake has a nice mixture of youth and experience up top, with veterans Andy Williams and Alvaro Saborio pairing with Arturo Alvarez and Fabian Espindola. Saborio is certainly the centerpiece here, and if he’s provided with good support, he can be extremely dangerous. The Real Salt Lake forwards aren’t overly physical, so it’s going to be a matter of containing the speed and skill of their dynamic strikers for the Revs’ defense. ADVANTAGE: Real Salt Lake. The service absolutely has to improve if the Revolution want to score goals.

COACHING – Jason Kreis may be young, but it is extremely difficult to argue with the results he’s put up so far in MLS, and now, even in the CONCACAF Champions’ League. He’s the general of the hottest team in the region, and it seems like every move he has made has turned to gold. Steve Nicol, while still getting results, is impressive in another manner. There’s no question the Revs are nowhere near healthy, but Nicol continues to find ways to get points and move up the table. ADVANTAGE: Push. But if you had to choose, how could Kreis’ achievement as youngest MLS Cup winning coach not sway your decision?

PREDICTION – It is almost impossible to see the Revs even stealing a point here at home. If you watched the Vancouver match, you know the Revolution put up a horrible display up two men for almost 30 minutes, and with another cross-country trip to get back home and play again in 3 days, it doesn’t look good for the home side on Saturday night. SCORE: Real Salt Lake 3 – New England 1.

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