It's the Thursday before the season opener, and you can just feel the excitement and anticipation throughout Major League Soccer. New England is no different. New Revolution Head Coach Jay Heaps certainly has his work cut out for him, but with more than a handful of new faces in new places, it certainly looks like the Revs have enough to make a run at the playoffs in 2012.
As the title suggests, we're going to dissect and analyze the decisions made by the new head man from a fan's standpoint, and I'll even throw in a few of my suggestions or perhaps what I may have done differently through the course of the match. This particular installment is a season preview of sorts, a starting off point if you will, going into the new season.
Now that Revs fans have all had a chance to see the players (new and old) take the field for four matches in Arizona, we can begin to see the side take shape. Remember, these pieces are always going to be written based solely on the information we have and what we have seen, so no, I will not pencil in Jose Moreno or Lee Nguyen, just because of what people say via Twitter and FaceBook!
So, with that knowledge in mind, here's the Couch Captain's season preview of where the team stands going into Saturday night's First Kick 2012 in San Jose!
INJURY REPORT 3/6 : NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION -- OUT: FW Zak Boggs (R ankle sprain); MF Sainey Nyassi (L hamstring strain); DOUBTFUL: FW Saer Sëne (L knee swelling)
Boggs and Nyassi were already known, but the news on the new big man is a little disheartening. At post time, the report is that Sëne has swelling in his knee after picking up a knock against LA, and typically a cross country flight isn't the best remedy for swollen ligaments and joints.
Pepe Moreno isn't going to be included in this particular squad either for multiple reasons, not the least of which are the reports that he is arriving in New England slightly injured.
Kenny Mansally has been on national team duty with Gambia, and will only be included in the 18 if needed.
With Sëne (and Moreno for that matter) more than likely out for the match, the thought of playing only one true striker went out the window. A 4-4-2 will give the Revs two strikers up top that can play off of each other, and keep the best four midfielders on the field. Obviously the formation is always subject to change given the players available and match scenario, but the often "vanilla" 4-4-2 is a good, somewhat conservative way to start 2012.
GOALKEEPER: REIS. Do I need to type this every week?
DEFENDERS (L-R): BARNES-SOARES-LOZANO-ALSTON.
Can someone step up and win the left-back position already? Barnes will get the start Saturday (also, if memory serves me, I believe Tierney is out for the first match due to a red card). Lozano and Soares, when both are healthy, will be your CB duo in 2012, so get used to it. Alston, despite all the criticisms he receives, continues to man the right flank for New England.
MIDFIELDERS (L-R): FEILHABER-JOSEPH-SIMMS-ROWE
New England certainly isn't the "cross the ball into the box" type of team, so expect Rowe and Feilhaber to be cutting into the middle of the field frequently to create chances and runs for the forwards. Simms and Joseph give you great midfield veteran leadership and presence where every match is won: the middle of the field. If New England can win possession battles in center midfield and get the ball out wide to their creative, attack-minded wings, they'll have several opportunities to create dangerous chances for their forwards.
What else could I do? No Moreno or Sene presumably, Mansally hasn't been with the squad, Boggs is hurt, Nguyen has only just arrived, and I prefer Fagundez as a super sub. Cardenas was getting the start for me due to his pace and aggression, so it essentially came down to a coin flip between Brettschneider and Alec Purdie, and it came up heads. All kidding aside, it was Brettscneider's size that gave him the edge, in hopes that Cardenas can get the ball into the box with his speed and the physical play of Brettschneider could perhaps knock in something ugly.
BENCH PLAYERS: FAGUNDEZ. McCARTHY. GUY. NGUYEN. ROACH. PURDIE. SHUTTLEWORTH.
Quite frankly, given the injuries and Tierney's suspension, these were really the only players left that could perhaps fill the bench. If Mansally is deemed ready to go and be a part of the team then he could certainly make the bench for the match, if he had been training with the team, I would have even thought about starting him. McCarthy has proven he can play at CB, which is a huge help to this team. That gives the Revs options at the back, because Barnes is also a CB by trade, so there's a little room for shuffling at the back if need be.
Lee Nguyen just hasn't trained enough with his new teammates to warrant a starting spot (again, I go by what we have seen, which is nothing) but if the situation arises, I'm ok with giving him a run-out in the second half if Heaps deems him ready and fit.
Fagundez and/or Purdie should see time in this match, especially if the offense is stale. If New England needs a goal late, expect one of these two to come on for an added offensive pop.
McCarthy is an interesting sub option, because he could fill in at CB if needed, or even replace Simms at center mid and play more defensive minded in front of the back line if New England needs to hang on in the last 15 minutes.
FINAL THOUGHTS: Injuries REALLY limited the options and ability to be creative here. It's a rough idea of what you'll see quite frankly, but given what we know right now, this should be very close to what you see on Saturday night in San Jose.
I think the Revs will play relatively conservative and feel out the game in the early moments and will try to create opportunities on the counter given the plethora of speed they'll have at their disposal. The back line is absolutely strong enough to produce a result, provided that they don't get caught out trying to advance forward. Communication and discipline will be the key, but if the Revs can stick with the gameplan and spark a little bit of offensive magic, this squad of 18 will not come back from San Jose empty-handed.