The New England Revolution must get back to winning ways against Sporting Kansas City on Saturday night, or they risk falling further out of the playoff picture after a promising mid-summer surge that had them in contention. Sporting KC will not be pushovers, however, as they are also locked into a tight race for the Supporters' Shield, and nothing less than a win at home will suffice for them as well.
The Revs have shown the ability to beat just about anyone on their day, but inconsistency in play and in mental toughness makes it difficult to predict how they will perform. SKC, meanwhile, is a juggernaut, featuring several American internationals and a squad that is strong in both attack and defense. The last meeting between the two sides was a drab 0-0 draw, but poor conditions and the absence of several key players had a lot to do with that. Such excuses will not be on the cards on Saturday.
Today's Q&A is with Ben Gartland of The Daily Wiz, SB Nation's Sporting Kansas City blog. We spoke with Andy Edwards ahead of the two clubs' last meeting, and Ben has already posted our answers to his questions as well.
TBM: Tough loss last week. It looks like New York came in with a particular game plan and executed it perfectly, and that said game plan really turned out to be a kryptonite for SKC. Do you think they exploited a particular weakness, or was that game just a case of one good team getting the better of another?
BG: Petke's game plan was perfect. He played a high line, which allowed New York to have a huge advantage on counters. Vermes' 4-3-3 has the defense up helping put pressure on the ball. It usually leaves one or two defenders on plays like corner kicks. New York was able to counter these by having players ready to receive a clearance and they capitalized it tremendously. Counters have been a certain weak point for Sporting this season and have cost them points throughout the season, especially against high lines.
TBM: Both the Revs and SKC elected to start affiliations with USL clubs, but with very different results. While some of the Revs' players struggled for time in Rochester, SKC's Dom Dwyer tore up the division in his loan spell. How beneficial would you say the affiliation was for the club?
BG: It's been great so far for Sporting and for Orlando. Before he was released Yann Songo'o was a key part to the Lions' defense. Dwyer was a scoring machine. Christian Duke and Jon Kempin have each gotten some good playing time. They've helped Orlando do so well down in USL-Pro while providing the players with competitive experience and keeping them hot for when Sporting needs them.
TBM: Last time we met, I asked about SKC's slow start. It would appear that any issues have been corrected. What came together for the club in recent months?
BG: There's been a multitude of reasons why. First has to be the forward lineup finally becoming consistent. The Kamara-Bieler-Saad combination has done really well for Sporting because they fit well together and well with the midfield, which leads to my next reason. Graham Zusi has been a great field general in the midfield and generally makes the midfield a more cohesive unit. It's been a consistent lineup with the aforementioned reasons and it seems like Sporting has it figured out for the season.
TBM: Who do you think SKC players will fear most on the pitch for New England?
BG: Saer Sene could be a problem for Sporting if they run into the same problem as New York. Sene is someone who can really disrupt a defense, especially if the defense is trying to recover off of a counter. I would put Seth Sinovic on Sene just to try and not allow him to get any opportunities whatsoever.
TBM: Finally, let's have your projected starting XI and a scoreline prediction.
BG: Nielsen, Myers, Collin, Besler, Sinovic, Rosell, Feilhaber, Zusi, Saad, Bieler, Kamara.
Gonna go with a 2-1 scoreline in favor of Sporting.
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- Report: Revolution Sign American Striker Charlie Davies
- Breakers vs. Portland Thorns FC 2013: Match Preview
- Revolution 0-1 Toronto: New England Can't Find the Net in Disappointing Loss