The New England Revolution have to face D.C. United on Saturday night in the nation's capital. It will be the second regular-season meeting between the two sides in 2013; the last ended in a dour 0-0 draw in Gillette. They also met in Open Cup competition, where United ended the Revs' cup dreams with a 3-1 defeat.
Jay Heaps was quite bullish on the quality of United's roster in spite of their poor record after the 0-0 draw, but no results since have validated that opinion. Regardless, D.C. always plays the Revs tough, and it won't be easy to pull three points out of RFK.
Today's Q&A is with Adam Taylor of Black and Red United, SB Nation's D.C. United blog. If you'd like, you can read our last two Q&A's with him, for the U.S. Open Cup and for the last in-season meeting.
TBM: I'm not trying to be deliberately offensive here, but I think we can all agree that this year's edition of D.C. United is horrendous, yes? If that's the case, why on Earth have you guys been able to get a draw and a win off of the Revs in two meetings so far?
AT: Oh, no offense taken. Mostly all I hear is stadiumstadiumstadium.
As to your question, I want to say hate? Hate and ritual sacrifice, maybe? Although our hate of the Jersey Metroscum is stronger, and that didn't do us much good in our second meeting with them, so I'm at a loss. In all seriousness, I think United's midfield has had a way of clogging things up and making games ugly, even against good teams, this year. These aren't Steve Nicol's Revs anymore, and you guys seem to have trouble battling against a physical central midfield - and with Perry Kitchen and John Thorrington in there, that's exactly what D.C. United have.
TBM: Oftentimes with any team that has a poor season, there's one particular area where they just couldn't seem to get anything right and it proved to be their downfall. In D.C.'s case, however, you have the worst offense and the second-worst defense in the league statistically. Even with all that going wrong, though, there have been bright spots - specifically, two wins and four draws. What went right in those matches that hasn't gone right in the other 14?
AT: In those games, the defense went right. In at least two of the draws, it wasn't the defense, actually, so much as the goalkeeper - Bill Hamid was MLS Player of the Week in the third week of the year due to his headstanding performance in Jersey, and Joe Willis was nearly as impressive in keeping the clean sheet in this month's draw in Colorado. The wins were both choppy 1-0 affairs at RFK Stadium, where United finally managed to both create and convert a chance. Basically, the only things that have really gone right this year have been out at the Maryland SoccerPlex in Open Cup play.
TBM: Last time we did this little exchange for a regular-season match, you said that the improvement shown in the last two-thirds of the season will determine whether or not Ben Olsen keeps his job. Have you seen any improvement yet?
AT: If you'd asked me a week ago, I'd have said yes, but Saturday's thrashing at the hands (feet?) of the Fire clearly makes me reconsider. I still think Olsen is safe through the duration of this season, but there have been so many new pieces brought in since the transfer window opened a couple weeks ago - and only one league match, which obviously didn't go so well for the Black-and-Red. I think whether and how those pieces integrate into the side will have a lot to do with Olsen's status come the winter. Luis Silva scored a Goal of the Week nominee of a goal in Chicago, and he looks pretty well set to play a big role going forward. Jared Jeffrey is an interesting prospect in central midfield, and we'll have to see whether he can push Thorrington for minutes alongside Kitchen. Up top, Conor Doyle is another young American, and he actually seems to fit what Olsen appears to want out of a target man: big, physical, good passing and an ability to, y'know, finish. He's only hear through the end of the year on a loan from Derby County in the English second division, so it could be interesting to see what happens if (if.) he does well between now and October.
TBM: Tell us which player you think D.C. fears most in a Revolution uniform for this match.
AT: Clyde Simms? No, it's probably either Diego Fagundez or the two-headed monster of Kelyn Rowe and Lee Nguyen. Fagundez reminds a lot of us of Andy Najar for all the right reasons, and his attacking movements from the outside in can be hell to deal with, especially when you have flabbergasted defenders the way we do. Rowe and Nguyen, if they can shake the marking of Thorrington and Kitchen, could just pick United's back line apart like so many pieces of string cheese. Really, if either of them (Fagundez or the two-headed monster) gets going, there's not a lot of reason to think Revs fans who make it down for the game won't be driving back up I-95 with smiles on their faces.
TBM: Finally, let's have your projected starting XI and a scoreline prediction.
AT: With Bill Hamid still with the USMNT and with Chris Pontius and Dwayne De Rosario still hindered somewhat by injuries and fitness concerns, I think we'll see the following 4-2-3-1: Joe Willis; Chris Korb, Dejan Jakovic, Ethan White, Taylor Kemp; Perry Kitchen, John Thorrington; Kyle Porter, Luis Silva, Nick DeLeon; Conor Doyle.
After the defensive fiasco we saw last week in Chicago, it's hard for me to pick anything but a loss here. But I didn't get into blogging because it was easy: Give me something new. Give me a scoring draw. Goals from DeLeon and Rowe leave things level after 90.
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