The New England Revolution are back home on Wednesday night, welcoming an old friend as Shalrie Joseph returns to Gillette Stadium with Chivas USA. The Revs are still mired in an eight-game winless run that has now featured five straight losses. The Goats, on the other hand, are in the thick of a playoff race, but haven't won in their last three, and in fact have conceded eleven goals in that span.
The last three matches notwithstanding, Chivas is known as a team that defends very, very well. Taking away the last three matches, Chivas had conceded just 21 goals in 20 matches. Assuming that the month of August has represented a series of outliers for the Goats, the Revolution are going to have a real tough time getting on the board. Lee Nguyen and Benny Feilhaber will have to be at their very best to create chances for the forwards, and if Jerry Bengtson or Saer Sene happen to get a clear look, not putting it away could be fatal to the Revs' chances.
Offensively, calling the Goats anemic would be an understatement. They've only scored 17 goals all year, and although their attack has shown signs of life recently, it still represents one of the easier jobs for the Revs to deal with on paper. Oddly enough, Chivas has talent in the box; Juan Pablo Angel, Juan Agudelo, Ryan Smith, and Nick LaBrocca are among the most dangerous offensive threats in stripes, but for some reason, they can't connect. A performance from A.J. Soares and Stephen McCarthy that looks anything like the abysmal showing against Columbus, however, will still almost certainly end in a loss. Just because this team hasn't scored much does not mean that they won't punish glaring errors.
Our Q&A today is with Alicia Ratterree of The Goat Parade, SB Nation's Chivas USA blog. You may remember her from our Blair Gavin Q&A a month or so back. Also, you can read my answers to her questions over there.
TBM: We all want to hear about Shalrie and how he's doing. What has he brought to the table for Chivas so far, and is he everything you guys hoped he would be?
AR: Well, to say it's been a rocky start would be a bit of an understatement. Chivas have gone 0-2-1 since Shalrie joined the team, and the once-solid defense has become a sieve, as they've given up eleven goals and scored three in that span. Joseph can't be held accountable for all the mistakes in those performances, but he has not played well so far. In particular, in the match that Chivas earned a draw, 1-1 against the Colorado Rapids, Joseph was directly responsible for Colorado's goal, as he allowed Brian Mullan to strip him of the ball at the edge of Chivas' box and Mullan scored easily. He would have been responsible for that loss, too, except Tristan Bowen and Juan Pablo Angel bailed him out to get an equalizer for Chivas.
We know Shalrie is a top professional with a long and distinguished track record in MLS. But he needs to step up for Chivas if he is to start helping his new team, and preferably fast.
TBM: Chivas seems to have a relatively strong defense right now, but man, you guys couldn't buy a goal. What has been the real problem for the Goats when it comes to offense? Is it one thing or a big confluence of events?
AR: Well, the most recent trend has been that they can't score and they let in a slew of goals, but yes, the trend on the season has been defense is good, offense is not good. I think the biggest issue has been that there is no fluidity between the midfield and the forwards. At their best this season, Chivas have gotten big contributions from wingers like Ryan Smith and Miller Bolanos, who stretch the field out and provide good service into the forwards. But because of conservative formations, constant lineup rotation, and the lack of a central attacking midfield playmaker, Chivas have not been able to get in any kind of an attacking rhythm all season. The most goals they've scored in a match is two, and they've been shut out countless times. There seems to be a psychological block that's hampered them too, but despite having talented strikers, there isn't enough service to give them good chances on a regular basis.
TBM: Give us an under-the-radar player Revs fans should watch out for in this match.
AR: I hesitate to pick anybody, since there's a solid chance he won't be in the lineup, but forward Tristan Bowen has returned to Chivas in a big way the last two games. He only had a few appearances for the Goats last season, battled an injury, then was loaned out to a club in the Belgian second division. Chivas took their time in recalling him to the first team after he returned from the loan this year, but activating him seems to have paid off. He set up the game-tying goal against Colorado, and he was very dangerous against Seattle, in a match in which Chivas looked as good as they have all season in attack, only they choked defensively and gave up six goals.
TBM: Who do you think Chivas will fear most on the pitch for New England?
AR: New England seems to have several strong offensive weapons, and given that they've had trouble with teams that have multiple threats, I could see them trying to contain Lee Nguyen and Benny Feilhaber in midfield, and Saer Sene and Jerry Bengtson up top. I know the Revs have struggled lately, but following the performances Chivas have been putting in lately defensively, they've got to be licking their chops at the prospect of this match.
TBM: Finally, let's have your projected starting XI and a scoreline prediction.
AR: Predicting Robin Fraser's lineup is a fool's errand, and I wrote something about this last week. If I got to pick the lineup, here's what I would select:
D: Riley, Califf, McKenzie, Jazic
MF: Bolanos, Minda, LaBrocca, Bowen
FW: Agudelo, Correa
Prediction: Chivas win 1-0.