The New England Revolution is headed home to take on the Seattle Sounders at Gillette Stadium on Saturday night. New England narrowly avoided an embarrassing defeat to Toronto last weekend, scoring an equalizer at the death to salvage a 2-2 draw. Seattle, meanwhile, has been on a rough slide, going 0-4-3 in their last seven games.
Even without the suspended Fredy Montero, Seattle has a wealth of attacking options that can punish unsuspecting teams. The Revs need to be wary of the threats posed by Mauro Rosales and Eddie Johnson, especially, while remaining mindful of the Rave Green's stacked midfield. The battle between Benny Feilhaber and Osvaldo Alonso should be especially entertaining; Alonso is widely considered one of the best defensive midfielders in the league, and it will likely be his assignment to keep Feilhaber's creativity in check. With the shackles on Benny, it may be time for someone else to step up as the creative force in the midfield.
Alternatively, if Benny is out wide, an even more intriguing contest between Benny and Shalrie Joseph (should he feature) could develop. It will be a battle of generations; Shalrie has long been the gold standard for holding midfielders in MLS, and Alonso is the younger man possibly looking to assume the mantle.
TBM: The Sounders are sitting at fourth in the West right now. That's a playoff place and by no means poor, but it seems like people expected a lot more out of Seattle in the preseason. What's gone right and, perhaps more importantly, what's gone wrong this season to get the Rave Green to where they are now?
DC: Goals against in MLS happen for two reasons - amazing greatness and capitalization by the opposition on a team's mistakes. Early in the season, during the 7-1-1 run, the only goals against were Goals of the Week. There were few mistakes, and none of those were finished off. Now, the Sounders are making mistakes, maybe even a few more than they were, but opposing sides are taking advantage. The MLS slide sees Seattle's opponents grabbing nearly two goals a game. Throw on an offense that still hasn't started and it's a bit dire right now.
TBM: Some saw the addition of Eddie Johnson as a controversial one, and it was predicted that he perhaps would not make much of an impression on the team or the league this year. His recent pugilism aside, how has EJ affected the Sounders this season, and has his arrival been positive?
DC: The team with Eddie Johnson is more talented than the one without it. His footwork is great, he has the ability to slot shots that few in the league can and he has great speed. Overall the forward pair is putting up goals at a rate unseen in the Sounders MLS era. But they've shifted tactically pushing play to EJ and Montero more than in years past and now the midfield that used to be able to score, can't.
TBM: Give us an under-the-radar player Revs fans should watch out for in this match.
DC: Cordell Cato is a Man on Fire. Most will see him as another MLS player who is merely fast, or in this case merely blazingly fast. But he's got a decent shot, is a strong crosser of low balls and is suprisingly strong for such a small frame. Most often he will play on the right, but has an appearance on the left and could possibly play in Montero's space as well. There's a chance that he starts this weekend, but he's nearly certain to play.
TBM: Who do you think the Sounders fear most on the pitch for New England?
DC: Seattle will need to concern themselves with the two former USMNT players in the midfield. With Feilhaber and Nguyen (and maybe Rowe) the Revolution have more quality short passers than most MLS teams. The Sounders can't count on Alonso to be the sole stopper. They will have to defend the midfield as a team.
TBM: Finally, let's have your projected starting XI and a scoreline prediction.
DC: Weber; Gonzalez, Hurtado, Ianni, Johansson; Alonso; Fernandez, Evans, Cato; Rosales, Johnson