The New England Revolution are gearing up to close out the worst season in their history against Toronto FC at BMO Field on Saturday afternoon. It will be a rare early game for the Revs with kickoff slated for 12:30 PM. Having already assured themselves of the lowest win total in franchise history, New England will really just be looking to end on a high note before they put the 2011 season to rest for good. Toronto is in much the same boat, but their recent performances have given fans of the Reds far more to look forward to in 2012.
New England will be without the services of rookie sensation Diego Fagundez, who suffered a concussion last week against Columbus. Also absent will be team MVP Matt Reis, Revs' Defender of the Year A.J. Soares, rookie Stephen McCarthy and winger Sainey Nyassi, all of whom are suffering from various injuries. Not listed is Rajko Lekic, who may be in line to make his first start since suffering an injury over a month ago.
Saturday also holds the distinction of possibly being the last match Shalrie Joseph will play for the Revolution. The captain's contract is up in December and no word has been given yet about whether or not he or the Revs are looking to negotiate a new one. If he does indeed leave, Joseph will be remembered as one of the greatest to grace the pitch in Foxboro, and his awards and accolades will speak for themselves if nothing else.
Another possible departure is head coach Steve Nicol, who also sports an expiring contract that is up this year. Stevie has led the Revolution to over 100 wins in his career, but has seen his fortunes take a drastic turn for the worst in the last two seasons, with New England posting back-to-back losing seasons and missing out on the playoffs in both years, something they hadn't done since he took over in 2002. Both coach and organization have been even more tight-lipped over Stevie's contract situation than they've been over Joseph's.
TBM: Another year and another playoff opportunity gone by the wayside. I can't say too much seeing as the Revs are below TFC in the table, but Canada's first MLS team has disappointed yet again. Despite going without the postseason for yet another season, the stretch run has definitely shown some life in the Reds machine. Danny Koevermans, in particular, looks to be a steal, and with a full season I certainly could see him breaking the 20-goal mark. What do you look forward to for next season out of the group you think will remain, and do you believe that Aron Winter and Paul Mariner can put the pieces together around Koevermans and Torsten Frings to build a real contender for 2012?
DF: I'm very very confident that TFC will be at least in the playoffs next year. Getting to the CCL quarter finals was a great cherry on top of what was another disappointing season overall, but having those 2 big games in March will mean that we'll actually be prepared to start the season. Almost every year so far we haven't had a settled squad leading into the season. A lot of the preseason work has been done with a massive squad overhaul in July, now management will surely be going all out to set things up right from the start next year, and I'm confident Winter and Mariner can get the right players in. Koevermans will be great if he can keep his form up over a full season and we have a few good secondary scoring options as well now with Ryan Johnson and Joao Plata in particular. There's a lot of young players in the squad who could have a big impact next year. The main priority in the off-season has to be to get a top class center back, as well as make sure we extend Plata's loan or buy him outright, that kid's been great.
TBM: Koevermans and Frings aren't the only good performers in Toronto red lately. Youngsters like Ashtone Morgan and Doneil Henry have shown promise, and some solid efforts from guys like Richard Eckersley and even backup goalkeeper Milos Kocic are encouraging. If you had to pick a non-Koevermans MVP for the last two months of the season, who would it be?
DF: Aside from Koevermans and Frings, I'd say it's actually been the other DP Julian de Guzman. Since Frings' arrival to shore things up behind him, and the addition of more skilled players like Avila and Koevermans ahead of him, he's looked a lot better and played like the Gold Cup 2007 MVP that's been MIA for the last 2 years. He looks a lot more energized and committed, he's actually managed to score a few goals as well, and he played a huge part in the CCL win in Dallas.
TBM: Give us an under-the-radar player Revs fans should watch out for on the pitch. (your last answer was, I think, Richard Eckersley)
DF: It depends on our formation, if we go with 3 at the back allowing the full backs to attack, then I'll say Ashtone Morgan. He's a Left Back who's come through our academy and clinched a starting spot over the season as well as getting his first Canada cap, and he's a great compliment to Joao Plata on the Left Wing as well as a rapidly improving defender. If we got 4-3-3, then Eric Avila. His career never took off at Dallas but he's been great so far, with the skill, tricky dribbling and passing that we've missed since Amado Guevara left after the 2009 season.
TBM: Who do you think Toronto fears most on the pitch for New England? (your last answer was Shalrie Joseph)
DF: I don't think anyone's really stepped up to displace Joseph have they this year? I guess, going by reputation, Benny Feilhaber is the big name people will be looking for.
TBM: Finally, let's have your projected starting XI and a scoreline prediction.
DF: Starting XI? 4-1-2-3. Stefan Frei; Matt Stinson, Ty Harden, Andy Iro, Ashtone Morgan; Torsten Frings, Julian de Guzman, Eric Avila; Nick Soolsma, Danny Koevermans, Joao Plata. Prediction? TFC are on a high after getting to the next round of CCL, and will probably be looking to put on a show. Without the whole team focusing on defense, then we can get very shaky at the back, so I'd say a high scoring game, I'll say 3-2 Toronto.