The New England Revolution will take on the Seattle Sounders on Sunday afternoon in the first match of an extended road trip. Seattle has been up and down this season but appear to be getting their house in order and they still sit pretty at third in the Western Conference. The Revs will have to try and fight for all the points they can get after coming up with just two points in their recent two-match home stand.
Seattle possesses threats all over the place. The class and ability of players like Alvaro Fernandez, Mauro Rosales and Erik Friberg are undeniable, but their best player on his day is probably Fredy Montero. The Colombian has taken to playing a free role in the last few matches and it seems to be working well for the Sounders offense. Even without Montero getting on the scoresheet, they still put 4 goals past a pretty good New York Red Bulls defense on Thursday night.
The latest injury report is both damning and encouraging. The out list features Marko Perovic (of course), Didier Domi (still with the achilles), Kheli Dube, and Stephen McCarthy as he recovers from a left shoulder subluxation. Chris Tierney is doubtful, unfortunately, with a left foot contusion, creating a scary selection problem at left midfield. Ousmane Dabo was upgraded to questionable, while Alan Koger also joined him there with a left ankle contusion. Finally, the good news is that both Benny Feilhaber and Ryan Cochrane are upgraded to probable and, being that this injury report is released on a Friday and this week's game is on Sunday, will probably be available.
TBM: Seattle is a team that I feel like should be doing so much worse than they are. My image of them since their entry into the league is a dynamic team skipping along rainy turf, picking up wins and draws along the way with style and frequency. This season, it feels more like they've been trudging through the season and underachieving; but there they are, third in the West with 25 points and a respectable, if unspectacular, record of 6-4-7. What do you think has been the secret to their consistency so far this season, or lack thereof, considering the lack of production from marquee players like Fredy Montero?
DC: At their best Seattle was a dynamic team that should be exciting to watch, but when you lose the player most responsible for that excitement to injury, and in the expansion draft they lost Sanna Nyassi who also added that speed if little else. Instead of that speedy flank play they are now a team that at its best will advance the ball through a more patient build-up through technical players like Alvaro Fernandez and Erik Friberg. That and the lack of an effective target forward have shifted how Fredy Montero is now getting space.
Where in the past space for Montero was because of a body like Blaise Nkufo or Nate Jaqua, the current answer is through tactical shifts and more freedom of movement. This is a recent shift since his return to the starting lineup, and in Seattle's last five games they have 3 wins and 2 ties. While Fredy's only goal was that sublime free kick in Toronto, the offense may be starting to click, in those same five games they have 9 goals, getting them from all over the place. The team may not be lacking for scoring any more.
TBM: Steve Zakuani was a major attacking piece for the Rave Green and losing him had to be a major blow not just emotionally (considering the manner and severity of his injury) but on the field as well. How well do you think the team has coped with his absence, and what sorts of changes have you seen made that might be a direct result of that?
DC: The changes are best captured in the style of player of Alvaro Fernandez. The Uruguay World Cup player isn't as fast, but he has a bit more height and even better footwork. That one shift between two solid to great MLS players is the shift of an entire team. No longer a speed on the flanks 4-1-3-2, Seattle is now a more traditional narrow diamond team that counts on patience and quality passing. Even the long balls have shifted from a vertical deep ball to spring a speed player to a diaganol to hit the open man.
TBM: Give us an under-the-radar player Revolution fans should watch out for.
DC: Normally I would say Mike Fucito, because I can't rave enough about him, but today I'll have to go with Mauro Rosales. A former youth Argentine National who spent time with Ajax he still has some speed and certainly lost his flair. Mauro can still change the game with quality dribbling or through crosses into traffic that still find their target.
TBM: Who do you think the Sounders fear most on the pitch for New England?
DC: You probably tire of this but Shalrie Joseph. He's caused Seattle trouble in the past and will likely do so again. His combination of height, speed and tenacity from a usually deep central position cause trouble going both ways. While he may not be at a once MVP caliber that he was, Joseph still is one of the best two-way players in MLS.
TBM: Finally, let's have your projected starting XI and a scoreline prediction.
DC: Seattle 2 - New England 1
Wahl, Ianni, Hurtado, Riley