The New England Revolution will look to exorcise the demons of their humiliating 3-0 loss to Chivas USA Saturday night when they host the Colorado Rapids in Foxboro. The defending MLS Cup champs are coming off a 2-1 victory over the Houston Dynamo, but are still attempting to deal with the loss of experienced winger Brian Mullan for another nine matches to suspension.
The big threat from Colorado is its engine room. The middle pairing of Jeff Larentowicz and Pablo Mastroeni in Gary Smith's traditional English 4-4-2 is one of the best in the whole league. We all know Jeffy pretty well; the trade that sent him to Colorado may go down as one of the worst in Revs history, especially when you consider that Larentowicz may have been the piece the Rapids were missing and neither player the Revs received in return back in 2010 is still on the roster. He and Mastroeni are able to impose their will on opposing midfields and play a simple passing game that feeds the ball wide and forward quickly and efficiently.
The injury report isn't as bleak as it has been in the past this week. Didier Domi and Marko Perovic are listed as out, the latter expected. Otto Loewy and Pat Phelan are doubtful, while Rajko Lekic makes the probable list with a right knee sprain.
TBM: The Brian Mullan incident has been hashed and rehashed over and over again before, but I haven't had my chance to talk about it so I'm going to anyway. Sort of. What sort of impact do you think the absence of the 5-time MLS Cup Champion will have on this Rapids squad over the next few months while he serves his suspension? Can Colorado be successful without him?
UZ: There's nobody else quite like Mullan on the Rapids. Not only is he a fantastic veteran presence on the field and normally one of the silent but effective guys on both offense and defense on the wing. We have other guys who have offensive talent (Sanna Nyassi), defensive talent (Wells Thompson), and veteran presence (Jamie Smith) but nobody like Mullan who can combine all of those talents into one. He hasn't been missed too much as both Nyassi and Wells Thompson stepped their games up lately... but by the time the 10 games are over it's pretty likely that we'll be pining for him back. On the bright side, I guess he'll be rested well for the playoffs.
More questions after the jump.
TBM: Conor Casey has been a conspicuous absence for Colorado so far this season. Considering what an integral part of the squad he's been over the last few years, how have the Rapids been coping without his presence up top? What players would you say have really stepped up and filled the void, and when do you expect to see him back in the team?
UZ: The Rapids offensive struggles recently starting right after Conor got injured is no coincidence. He's not just a fantastic goal-scorer but he also excels at pulling defenders away from other offensive members of the team simply because he's such a force to deal with once he gets the ball, opening space for Omar Cummings et al. Caleb Folan has stepped into the 'big target forward' role and hasn't done terribly but you can tell that he doesn't have the straight up ability that Conor has got, we're certainly counting the days until he comes back. He didn't make the trip to NE but he has been running so I'm expecting to see him at the very latest against Toronto on the 22nd.
TBM: Give us an under-the-radar player Revs fans should watch out for in this match.
UZ: I personally have called Andre Akpan the next Omar Cummings. Drafted in the 2nd round last year, he's been my favorite prospect up in the striker group for a while now and his fantastic goal against the Chicago Fire showed why. The kid is quick, he's got brilliant footwork and he knows how to finish, something that not all of the guys who have played striker for us recently have been able to say. If the starting two strikers are Caleb Folan and Akpan, you might want to watch out for Akpan making the noise up there.
TBM: Which Revolution player do you think the Colorado Rapids fear most on the pitch?
UZ: Just for today's game, I'm going to surprisingly pick the keeper. Matt Reis is a really good and really experienced goalkeeper, and with the Rapids offensive struggles recently you know that coach Gary Smith is going to be keeping his eye on the keeper situation there. Reis won't be making the same kind of mistake that Tally Hall made that gave Jamie Smith the free goal against Houston, so the Rapids won't be able to waltz into Gillette Stadium and escape with a lucky three points.
TBM: Finally, give us your projected starting XI and a final score prediction.
UZ: The Rapids are carrying enough momentum out of Houston that I think they'll be able to knock out a 2-1 win, especially if they don't have to start Scott Palguta. I'll key Andre Akpan and Wells Thompson - just for laughs since he did score one against his former squad last year - with the goals.
Pickens; Wallace, Moor, Wynne, Kimura; Thompson, Mastroeni, Larentowicz, Smith; Akpan, Folan.