What Are They All About? New England Revolution Preview
This Wednesday the Chicago Fire lost to the Vancouver White Caps in what has become a typical scenario for the team, a valiant effort that falls just short of producing a positive result. Veljko Paunovic said his team was close to winning the match but that was far from the truth. Chicago was out possessed, out passed, out tackled and out shot on the night. Positive play from youngster Joey Calistri was a bright spot but everything else continued a consistent pattern of inconsistency on the field.
The new 28 match away winless record won’t bother Paunovic that much as he’s inherited a large portion of it but he will expect better from his players as Chicago continues their road tour. Next up is the New England Revolution on Saturday (6:30 CT on CSN) and due to some late wheeling and dealing in the transfer window the Revolution have added former Columbus Crew golden boot runner up Kei Kamara, a constant thorn in Chicago’s side.
If we’re being quite honest the season is already slipping away from the Fire and they are just eight matches in. The time to convert talk into action is now. The Fire cannot return to Toyota Park on match day eleven with just seven points if they are to stay relevant this season. Will they get a much need boost in the standings on Saturday or will New England play the role of spoiler as they frequently have in the past?
New England Form Guide (Last 5 Matches): L-D-D-L-D
Previous match: A 4-2 away loss against LA.
Formation in the last match: 4-2-3-1: Shutleworth; Woodberry, Goncalves, Farrell, Watson; Caldwell, Koffie; Fagundez, Nguyen, Rowe; Agudelo
Strengths: Looking at New England’s form guide might lead you to conclude that the strengths section might be short. However, this Revolution side has failed to live up to expectations and the pieces are there for an awakening at any point. They’ll be hoping things come together on Saturday in what will be the first of a three match home spell.
Comfort at Home: While they may have only won a single match this season it was in the familiar surroundings of Gillette Stadium. Aside from that win the Revolution have drawn their four other home matches, one of which was a highly contested battle against conference hot shots Toronto FC. That may not be the most optimistic “strength” but the point is New England doesn’t lose at home. Given the Fire’s away form you can be sure that the Foxborough outfit will be looking at this match as an opportunity to build momentum.
Grit and Determination: This New England side can dig in and compete in any match; a look at their last match against LA will paint an accurate picture. The Revolution found themselves down after just twelve minutes and an offensive barrage by the Galaxy had them down 3-0 at the half. New England collected themselves and the second half was a whole new match. Within 25 minutes Kelyn Rowe and Juan Agudelo had the deficit down to just one and then Agudelo’s second crossbar in as many matches prevented the equalizer. You cannot really fault New England for giving up the fourth goal given that they were down to ten men with Jose Goncalves off injured and were absolutely gassed from giving their all in the second half. They almost left LA with a point, not an easy task whatsoever.
Come from behind results at Portland and Orlando also strengthens the case for New England’s mental toughness. Aside from the Vancouver match Chicago has shown both mental and physical fatigue late in matches. It could prove problematic for them against the Revolution.
Kei Kamara: Here is the obligatory overview of New England’s new DP signing. Has he been great since his 22 goal tally last year? Not really. Was his attitude the final straw in the trade from Columbus? Maybe. But the thing is Kamara has the skill set to flourish in his new setting. If he gels with a team that is comfortable in distribution and if he can get his head out of the clouds he will be dangerous. He scored four goals against Chicago last year and you know he will be fancying his chances of opening his Revolution account against the Fire. With Kamara and Agudelo both available there might be a tweak to New England’s formation that would see a Chicago’s back line thoroughly tested.
Attack Attack Attack: For the second time this week Chicago will be facing a team that prides itself on its attacking prowess. With outside backs that make overlapping runs to provide service throughout encounters, a midfield trio with quality on the ball, some of the best pass completion rates in the East, a knack for finishing, and an inform striker (Agudelo, not Kamara) New England will be looking to finally put up statistics reflective of their mentality.
Heaps: The last time we previewed a match against New England Jay Heaps was listed as one of the positives. His ability to get the most out of his players is the coach’s best attribute. The longtime Revolution player was handed the coaching reins in 2011 and has managed to turn a group of journeymen, youngsters, and squad players into a team that is a constant in the post season and came just short of winning MLS cup in 2014. His team hasn’t lost two in a row all season and you don’t have to be present for his locker room talks to know why. He will be looking for a high intensity complete performance from his guys and he just might inspire it.
Weaknesses: A quick glance at the standings will show you that New England is the only other team in the league that has only won one match this season. Both teams will be hoping the night leads to their second victory but New England has had some significant struggles this season. Let’s take a look.
Failure to increase the lead: In their midweek PR video midfielder Scott Caldwell gave an interview in which he admitted to frustration stemming from New England’s inability to gain multi goal leads. They have not done so all season and Caldwell commented on the toll it has taken on the team’s mentality. New England will look to remedy this aspect of their game against Chicago, but the Fire will also look at the Revolution’s past few matches and know that if they can stay in the game mentally they can snag a late result.
Well, if we can score more goals than we let in we’ll be ok: New England has allowed twenty goals in eleven matches. No team has allowed more goals this season (Portland has equaled the tally) and Heaps will want to stop the leak quickly. Registering just two clean sheets this season is problematic for the Revolution but looking back at the 3-0, 3-0, 4-2 results against Philly, DC, and LA respectively will be downright infuriating.
Among the goals conceded are a few blooper worthy gaffs that the Revolution won’t enjoy reviewing. They allowed LA’s Robbie Keane two back post tap ins last time around that they’ll want back, Kevin Molino was given enough time and space to grab a soda and come back on his volley in the Orlando match, a goalkeeping error was to blame for Jack Barmby’s goal for Portland, a needlessly conceded free kick and two instances of ball watching did them in against DC, and that’s just in the last four matches. If Chicago can follow through on their attempts to “create more” then the result is there for the taking.
Inconsistent line ups: Another positive note for the Fire will be New England’s lack of consistency. Their performances above may have something to do with the fact that Heaps hasn’t been able to put out a consistent line up over the last five matches. This isn’t due to some Van Gaal like tinkering but rather because of suspensions and injuries. Communication among the back line and an intimate understanding between attack minded players are effected when consistency isn’t present.
The match against Chicago won’t get easier for the Revolution as Steve Neumann, Chris Tierney, and Charlie Davies are listed as injured with strains. Goncalves came off with a rib injury against LA and is questionable for the match while Teal Bunbury and Je-Vaughn Watson are both coming back from minor strains as well. Let’s not forget that if Heaps decides to trot out his shiny new pony there will be a sense of the unknown that may not work out in New England’s favor. Kamara is a striker that thrives off of service from the wings but his new teammates won’t know his tendencies or his likes and dislikes concerning service.
History: Although we mentioned above that New England has not lost two in a row this season, the last time they did lose two in a row was late last year and the Fire were a part of it. Chicago beat New England at Toyota Park before the Revolution went on to lose against Montreal. The last five iterations of this fixture are currently split evenly with two wins, two losses and a draw for each side. Perhaps most relevant to the recent history between these two sides is the fact that Chicago’s last road win came at Gillette Stadium on July 12th, 2014, 29 road matches ago. Perhaps the past will smile kindly on the Fire as they look to end an unwanted streak.
Prediction: On paper this is Chicago’s most winnable match of their three game road trip. However, the Fire have shown that ease on paper does not automatically translate to positive results. With Accam unlikely to feature on turf, Gilberto’s lack of production, Chicago’s travel fatigue and squad rotation the Fire will not break their road streak in this one, New England 2-1 Chicago. Kennedy Igboananike silences doubters with his 5th goal in 9 matches before Lee Nguyen adds a highlight reel free kick and Kamara subs on to put a dagger through the heart of Fire fans.