After their week off the New England Revolution return to action this Saturday afternoon against fellow Eastern Conference foe, Columbus Crew at Gillette Stadium. Coming off a solid victory over Chicago before the break, the Revs will look to continue their climb in the increasingly-tight Eastern Conference.
First and foremost, the most important factor going into this match is that not only will the club be fully rested, it'll be the closest they've been to fully healthy since the start of the 2012 campaign. Armed with nearly a full deck, it'll be interesting to see exactly what Revs head man Jay Heaps decides to do.
With my analysis of Chicago already in the archives, in this week's Couch Captain we're just going to look ahead to Columbus, and what we all hope to be another big three points!
NE Injury List - June 8, 2012
PROBABLE: Bjorn Runstrom (R knee tendonitis)
QUESTIONABLE: Flo Lechner (R 5th metatarsal fracture), Sainey Nyassi (R hamstring strain)
Clyde Simms is still listed as "out" (to be fair, this is from Friday) and when the new report comes out this week I'd expect him to hopefully be at least questionable. Ankle injuries are incredibly touchy, as it's one of the most complicated joints in the body. With Simms out, Shalrie Joseph is pushed to his CDM role, which lately hasn't been a bad thing.
Lechner coming back would be a bigger deal than you think. You can never have too much depth on your back line, and quite frankly, I'd really like someone to push Chris Tierney. Kid needs a spark.
COUCH CAPTAIN'S LINEUP vs. COLUMBUS CREW: (4-4-2): Reis; Alston, McCarthy, Soares, Tierney; Nguyen, Joseph, Feilhaber, Rowe; Sene, Moreno
Not too much controversy in this particular lineup really. Rowe deserves the start after his great appearance off the bench against Chicago. Both Sene and Moreno are healthy and rested, so I'd expect big things out of the duo.
We're still apparently sticking with the Stephen McCarthy at CB experiment, but let me say this: the ice is thinner than it used to be. Too many times he's getting beaten for game-winning goals in 1v1 situations. John Lozano is fully recovered and healthy, and would have no problem stepping up. This is a big match for Macca.
COACH'S CHALKBOARD AND STYLE OF PLAY
Completely from the "if it's not broke.." mentality, there isn't much that needs to change with this side. They're getting healthier, getting proper experience, and all the while stick to the philosophy they set out with.
The wing play needs to be a little better in providing good service to Sene and Moreno. We've seen Sene's ability in the air, and Moreno is an absolute brute, so getting more quality crosses and service into them in the box should help the offense.
As far as the center of the park is concerned, it's blatantly obvious Benny Feilhaber didn't enjoy playing on the wing, and his quality of play improved quite a bit after he moved back to his CAM role against Chicago. Shalrie is one of the best CDM in league history, and the quality of play from the team as a whole is better when he's in that role.
Defensively, the team needs to understand their responsibilities and continue to progress towards becoming a solid, disciplined unit. We've touched on McCarthy, but it also needs to be said that if there were someone directly behind Tierney in the depth chart, he'd most certainly be on a shorter leash with the way he's been giving away possession. The outer backs need to be carefully selective in their runs forward, and as always, communication and organization needs to be better on set pieces.
Stay focused, stat disciplined, and defend The Fort. Pretty simple mantras for this weekend's encounter. I've been saying all season that this team has the talent, there's no denying it. However, does it have the discipline? The mentality? It remains to be seen, but certainly what's the most maddening, is that we've seen glimpses all season long. You can see this team getting better, and for some stretches they've looked like the side we think they can be.
Columbus poses a big test, in that they've been playing well, and a striker like Emilio Renteria will always cause problems for the back four. If the run of good form is going to continue the formula is simple:defend together, progress forward through your talented midfield, and get the ball to your talismanic striker. Seems easy in print, but we all know the execution is key.
Lastly, I'd like to harp on one word: COMPOSURE. Seen it a few times already this season, especially in matches like Real Salt Lake and Houston, where emotions sometimes get the best of this team. Cooler heads will always prevail, and as fans we all know that it's never the first guy that gets caught and carded, it's the guy who retaliates. Stay focused on the task at hand, and let your emotions fuel your play, not destroy it.
There's no reason to not expect three points at home in a conference matchup. New England will continue to build on their progress, the healthy legs will propel them to a big result on home soil.
PREDICTION: REVOLUTION 2 - CREW 1