The New England Revolution get back in action after the bye week by taking on a struggling Seattle Sounders side in the Emerald City. The Rave Green haven't won an MLS game in 2013 and were just knocked out of the CONCACAF Champions' League semi-finals, so while they haven't been playing well, they're also going to be anxious to get back on track in front of their home fans.
Today's Q&A is with Dave Clark, the managing editor of Sounder At Heart, SB Nation's Seattle Sounders blog. You can read my answers to his questions about the Revs over there.
TBM: Tough result in Mexico on Tuesday night. Coupled together with the team's severe struggles in the league, do you see the aggregate loss galvanizing the squad into righting the ship, or is this just going to pile on the misery for the surprisingly lackluster Seattle Sounders?
DC: I don't know that the issue was the mental image of the team. But there are positives to take from this CCL run. One, the team knows that they can hang with anyone. No club in MLS is as talented as Tigres, let alone Santos Laguna. Seattle went 1-2-1 -1 against that quality of team despite the injuries and delayed showings by DPs. Bigger than that though is that they are finding their identity. The club is learning how to deal with what Yedlin brings to the field and have integrated Shalrie Joseph in a midfield role that changes how the team uses Osvaldo Alonso and the wide mids. Lastly there is a change in defensive posture recently where the club is pressuring higher on the field in attempts to force turnovers in more threatening areas.
TBM: Speaking of league struggles, what's going on up there? Seattle has been a perennial contender since entering the league, and aside from missing Jeff Parke and Fredy Montero, it really doesn't seem like there's been much of a dip in talent level for the Rave Green. What the hell is up with the Sounders?
DC: Playoff level talent is definitely on the squad. There have been injury issues (Martins, Joseph, Ianni, Evans and others). There were national team calls (Martinez, Johnson, Martins). There was necessary squad rotation due to fitness (Rosales, Gonzalez). There were benchings to send messages (Hurtado, Zakuani, Rosales). But other teams have similar issues and actually win games. If there was one horrid moment it was when the Timbers managed the late draw. The narrative with a single Seattle win in league play would be quite different than the panic inspiring national message at this point.
TBM: There's been lots of talk about the emergence of rookie fullback DeAndre Yedlin. Since the Revs are also starting a rookie at fullback and seeing a lot of success with him, we're curious to know your impressions of the young man and where you think his career trajectory is headed.
DC: Yedlin has holes in his game. He also plays a rather unconventional fullback. His on ball skills are more like an attacking mid. His crossing needs significant work. If not for his stunning speed his defense would be exploitable, but he has that speed so it is not. It is a lot of fun watching a local grow from the system, go to an amazing soccer college and then not just get signed but bump a Swedish National Team player off the roster. Let that ferment for a bit. Sweden's number two right back was cut because of the quality offered by a HGP that was at Akron just in December. Kid has a future and it probably involves leaving the Sounders for richer waters in a few years.
TBM: Give us an under-the-radar player that Revs fans should watch out for in this match.
DC: Hate to do this because he may not be fit enough to get in another starting performance, but Shalrie Joseph. You already know him well, but Sigi is using him in front of Alonso in a box-to-box role threading long passes on offense, allowing the wide mids to buzz around and force turnovers and Alonso to sit deep and kill counters. He's also still got the height and savvy to be a threat on set-plays. Is Joseph the player he was in 09 & 10? Nope. But he doesn't need to be. In Seattle he needs to be kind of like a blend of Christian Tiffert and Brad Evans while providing locker room leadership.
TBM: Finally, let's have your projected starting XI and a scoreline prediction.
DC: Gspurning; Burch, Traore, Hurtado, Yedlin; Alonso; Evans, Joseph, Rosales; Zakuani, Johnson