It is almost game day again as FC Dallas is getting set to take on the New England Revolution. As always we reached out to a fellow SBNation.com blog to see what they have to say about Saturday's game. We welcome Jake Catanese from The Bent Musket for our three questions.
BDS: Last week was quite the week for the Revs as they landed Kei Kamara. Do Revs fans believe he is the missing piece to help push the Revs deep into the playoffs this season?
TBM: I think that's what a lot of fans are hoping for. Two years ago the Revs landed Jermaine Jones via a blind draw and you could see right away the kind of energy a player like that brought to an already solid core of players. The Revs front office has spent a lot of time drafting, acquiring and developing a lot of solid MLS players but to go out and get an MVP caliber player like Kamara is really a "win-now" move in my opinion. The Revs have struggled to finish goals this season, and it's not for lack of trying either. New England has been able to create a lot fo good chances but haven't been able to translate them into goals.
The two big things to watch for now with Kei Kamara up top is how much space Lee Nguyen gets between the opponents' backline and midfield. This is an area where Nguyen thrives and also a place where teams have been able to clog the middle for much of this season. Chris Tierney on the left flank is also a bigger threat now with a true target forward in the area for him to aim at. If Kamara is the final piece the Revs should be able to rack up wins very quickly and move up the East standings. A 2-0 win against the Chicago Fire is a nice start the Kamara era in New England but this is a team that certainly expects to not only be a playoff team but represent the Eastern Conference in MLS Cup.
BDS: The Revs have tied a ton of games so far this season. What is the reason for not winning or even losing a bunch so far this year?
TBM: Part of it has been the Revs shooting themselves in the foot and at other times just blind, dumb luck. So many times this season the Revs have outplayed their opponents for long stretches of the game and held on for ties and other times they've had to claw their way back into games to secure a point. Juan Agudelo in particular seems to have an affinity for hitting the crossbar and/or the post this season, so for the most part it's hard to say the Revs have played badly. There were two games back-to-back against Philly and NYC where New England finished with 10 men but were able to salvage a draw against NYC. Some of the home draws at Gillette have been difficult to take, because the Revs generally played well enough to win, but so often in soccer the best team on the day doesn't get three points. The current three game homestand against Chicago, Dallas and Seattle is huge, and the Revs sure could use at least another win from the next two games before Copa America.
BDS: Defensively the Revs have given up a lot of goals this season, what has caused the defense to regress after being one of the better groups last year?
TBM: Some of this is similar to the offense, it's part unlucky and part bad. In Los Angeles a few weeks ago it was a lot of bad, with the Galaxy doing whatever they wanted on the back post and generating chances at will. I'm also convinced that a few tying goals have gone into the net after being partially blocked by Jose Goncalves, and you can't change those either. When the Revs have given up goals they've done so in bunches, at Houston, at Philly and at LA and aside from the 3-3 draw with the Dynamo, those games have been losses. Je-Vaughn Watson has been really solid all year, despite getting lit up in LA and having to play all across the backline due to injuries. Donne Smith had a heck of a week filling in for Chris Tierney before he picked up his own hamstring issue and left the Revs without a true left back for the past few weeks.
It's hard to say the Revs have regressed defensively, but when the backline in particular is bad, they're really, really bad. It's something can be fixed when everyone is healthy and getting playing time at their normal positions but that might not happen until after Copa America. In the meantime, if Kelyn Rowe is putting in good shifts at fullback, I'm not going to complain. It's a long season and everyone has to survive it.
Lineup Prediction: Shuttleworth; Tierney, Sambinha, Farrell, Watson; Koffie, Caldwell; Fagundez, Nguyen, Agudelo; Kamara
One of the two injured left backs, either Tierney or Smith, should be able to start this one I think, so I'll slot one of them into the starting lineup. Captain Jose Goncalves is still possibly a toss up at this point, and while he might be available of the bench, I'd like to see Sporting CP loanee Sambinha make his first start for the Revs. He made a late cameo last week but I'm not sure I want to see a Farrell-Watson centerback pairing this week against a dangerous FC Dallas team.
I think Dallas is a really good team, but at Gillette with a reinvigorated Revs team, I like the home team. 2-1 with Kei Kamara involved in both goals to start his account in New England.