Saturday night is match day again as the New England Revolution prepare to welcome floundering D.C. United to Gillette Stadium. The Revs are on a heck of a hot streak right now, which is pretty much the opposite of what's going on for United. They haven't won since March 9th, and in fact have only even drawn twice all season.
TBM: I don't want to come off as insensitive, but man, I don't really know where to start. I guess I'll come at you with this: give me one particular area of the game where United have been deficient, that has contributed to their horrid season so far, and what you feel they must do to improve in that realm.
AT: Does "soccer" count as a particular area of the game? The Black-and-Red have been deficient all around. They've been lacking in all aspects of attack (movement, passing, set piece service, creating, finishing) and defense (positioning, marking, focus). If I'm picking one aspect of the game, though, it's transition. United as a team simply cannot create chances on the break because they have so far this year simply failed to get the ball forward quickly enough. At the same time, they have been very vulnerable when defending the break. It's gotten to the point where a team like Portland, who generally want to hoard possession, ceded much of it to D.C. when we played recently, secure in the knowledge that United would make a stupid pass that would lead to a counter. (It worked.)
TBM: Let's change gears. Tell us one area where you feel, if United is sharp enough, they can exploit the Revolution to their benefit in Saturday's game.
AT: My first instinct led me to a decision between "luck" and "raiding the locker room Gatorade fridge." But then I realized that you probably meant on the field. If guys like Chris Pontius, Nick DeLeon and Dwayne De Rosario can come close to their 2012 form, their interplay and movement could create some chances.
TBM: I happen to think that Ben Olsen is a talented coach, but if you start a season 1-10-2, you're on the hotseat. How long do you think Olsen has left, and are you surprised the leash has been this long?
AT: While I am surprised at the depths to which the team has sunk this year, I'm not surprised that Ben Olsen hasn't gotten the sack. The front office was pretty clear from the start of the year that they would be patient with Olsen, who, in just his fourth year since retiring from MLS, is still a very young coach. I think that Olsen is likely to keep his job through the end of the season at least. At that point, the question will become whether we saw enough improvement over the second two-thirds of the season not to can him in the offseason.
TBM: Give us an under-the-radar player that Revs fans should watch out for in this match.
AT: Outside midfielder Kyle Porter has to be the guy. He won Black & Red United's reader poll for United's Player of the Month for May. He's a Canadian international (his first and so far only cap coming against the USA in the friendly back in January) who played for the NASL Edmonton FC last year. He's just about the only guy on the D.C. roster who plays with any confidence going forward. His crossing has improved since the start of the year, and he's been taking set pieces in recent weeks. He's got the pace and ability to make runs at the back post, and that came together for his first counted league goal against KC a few weeks ago. (His first MLS goal wasn't counted, as it was tragicomically and incorrectly nullified for offside in Week 4.)
TBM: Finally, let's have your projected starting XI and a scoreline prediction.
AT: Lineup - 4-2-3-1: Bill Hamid; Chris Korb, Ethan White, Conor Shanosky, Taylor Kemp; Perry Kitchen, John Thorrington; Kyle Porter, Dwayne De Rosario, Nick DeLeon; Chris Pontius.
Score - Do I have to? Really? Fine... The Revs should expect a win here, probably something like 2-0.