Tonight, the New England Revolution will take on the Seattle Sounders in a match where the Revs are battling for postseason relevance. Mathematically, anyway. Realistically, they're trying to play spoiler and get a couple of good performances at home in the books to close the door on what has been a most disappointing and dismal season to date.
New England is coming off of back to back losses, having conceded six goals in that span and scored only two. Last week in Chicago, if not for the last-minute heroics of Ryan Guy, the Revs would have been outscored six to none after what can only be described as complete surrender in the first half. Seattle, meanwhile, is on a great run in all competitions, having just booked their place in the next round of the CONCACAF Champions' League and remaining firmly entrenched in the top three of the hyper-competitive Western Conference.
TBM: Mauro Rosales is a name that burst into everyone's consciousness as an MVP candidate before he went down with injury a couple weeks ago. How key is he to the Sounders' quest for MLS Cup and do you think postseason success is predicated on his healthy and prompt return?
DC: Having watched this team lose Steve Zakuani for the year and Fredy Montero for several weeks early in the season I don't know that I would focus on one player being any key to success now. Yes, Rosales is a great player and will still get some mentions on the low end of MVP voting. He offers width, speed and a deft touch on the right side, but there are so many options for Seattle. Seven players have 5 or more goals in all competitions and while losing him as a provider hurts a bit, the team has shown that they have several good to great players.
TBM: Osvaldo Alonso just scored a brace in CCL play, helping the Sounders wrap up a spot in the quarterfinals. Some people consider him one of the best holding midfielders in MLS - do you agree? What does he bring to the table that is so valuable?
DC: Alonso is a strong ball winner first and foremost. It doesn't matter if it is one of the leagues best or some fill-in bringing the ball forward. Ozzie just doesn't care who has the ball. It's his job to win it. Those tackles are hard, sometimes too hard, but set the tone for the defense. This year his dribbling and passing have become stronger. That let's him get forward more often working with the offensive stars. When he gets space he will rip long range shots, though often shot too high it forces defensive awareness and lightens the pressure on Montero and Fucito.
TBM: Give us an under-the-radar player Revolution fans should watch out for (last time you mentioned Mike Fucito but went with Rosales).
DC: Lamar Neagle, who if an MLS fan has heard of him it is because of his hattrick against the Columbus Crew. Once the right back of the future (back in 09) he spent 2010 as a forward/right mid for the Charleston Battery where he became a better off-ball mover and a guy who should shoot when he thought he could score. Now as a left sided mid, he's gotten his opportunities when Mauro Rosales is out. He has some off ball speed, can use a speed dribble move to create space and cuts in too shoot with either foot. Though he has 28 appearances he's overshadowed by the other talents on the team, but he's pulling himself into his own deserved light.
TBM: Who do you think the Sounders fear most on the pitch for New England? (you chose Shalrie Joseph last time).
DC: Still Joseph. He's probably my dream player who is active for the team. I dream of a Joseph/Alonso pairing. No one would bring the ball up the middle. Considering that I said Beckerman when asked a similar question regarding Real Salt Lake, maybe I just love the three best holding mids in the League. Sure, Shalrie isn't stuck in that role all the time, but when he is, he's amazing. He's also the most capable of them in entering the offensive game and changing it.
TBM: Finally, let's have your projected starting XI and a scoreline prediction.
DC: With the US Open Cup Final against the Chicago Fire on Tuesday and both the CCL Knockouts and MLS Cup Playoffs assured this game is nearly meaningless for Seattle. At this point Sigi's men are just battling for 2nd in West/overall while needing to rest some key players to win a trohpy. So this is as wild a guess as I've ever had. It is literally possible that Seattle start an MLS reserve quality lineup. I'll project a mix, but dropped in italics are some guys who could appear. To be clear this isn't about over-confidence, but preparation for a Cup Final.
4-4-2: Ford; Gonzalez (Tetteh?), Ianni, Scott, Riley (Estrada?); Neagle, Carrasco, Evans, Levesque (Noonan?); Jaqua, Ochoa