The New England Revolution will face the Vancouver Whitecaps this afternoon in their home opener. We spoke with Mark Dailey from Eighty-Six Forever, SB Nation's Vancouver Whitecaps blog, to get an idea of what the Revs are up against.
TBM: The Whitecaps came out and blew the doors off of New York in week one, but then sort of capitulated a bit to a somewhat-surprising Chivas squad in week two. Can you talk a little bit about the differences in performances between the two matches?
MD: It was an eventful winter here in Upper Cascadia with many changes both off and on the field. After losing striker Camilo Sanvezzo to La Liga MX club Querétaro FC, the Whitecaps have strengthened the team virtually in all positions. When the Caps played Chivas USA last weekend we did not see the same attacking, high-tempo style of soccer we saw them play against the New York Red Bulls at home just a week earlier. Carl Robinson started the Chivas match using his preferred 4-2-3-1 formation and apart from Pedro Morales, who started in place of the injured Russell Teibert, Robinson had the same squad available to him. The Caps were too slow and predictable in their build-up play all afternoon. Even having the advantage of an extra man Whitecaps could not inflict a lethal blow to hard working Chivas. I would expect despite Vancouver's well troubles away from home we'll see the team bounce back from last week and if that is the case then the Revs could have their hands full on Saturday.
TBM: Martin Rennie's out and Carl Robinson is in. Talk a little bit about the philosophical difference between the coaches and what you think are reasonable expectations for Robinson this season.
MD: Prior being promoted to head coach Robinson served as an assistant to Martin Rennie. Apart from goalkeeping coach, Marius Røvde, the coaching staff is completely new for 2014. Last season it was widely expected that Rennie would have to win the Voyageur's Cup (the Canadian equivalent to the USOC) and make the MLS playoffs for the second straight season in order to keep his job for another year. While the club does not publicize specific "benchmarks" for the head coach it is commonly believed that the Caps will go all out to win their first Voyageur's Cup and make a push to get back into the playoffs this season. Although the supporters are keen to defend and retain the Cascadia Cup I believe that local bragging rights may not rank as high in management's eyes this year.
Robinson is well liked by the players and it even appears that he is making progress with the enigmatic Darren Mattocks. A big difference we have seen between Robinson and Rennie thus far is that Carl is more proactive when it comes to the timing and choice of substitutions as well as switching tactics and formations on the fly. At the very least this proactive approach paid off last weekend when Robinson's team salvaged a point in LA.
This is Robinson's first head coaching job and, unless the team completely implodes and he loses the locker room, I believe that whatever happens this season Robbo will still be the coach beyond 2014.
TBM: The Caps and the fans must be relieved to have put the Camilo business behind them, even if it means he left. Losing a 20-goal scorer is never easy, so who do you think can step up and shoulder the load this season?
Two games into the season the Caps' five goals have been scored by four different players (Fernández, Manneh, Miller and Morales). Certainly losing Camilo was a big blow, but last season there was little goal contribution from the rest of the team. It was unrealistic to expect Camilo to score another twenty-plus goals this season because as we have seen with other MLS Golden Boot winners their goal production tends to drop the following year. Prior to Camilo leaving those who follow the team closely were expecting somewhere in the range of a fifteen goal season from the Wee Brazilian. If they Caps can "score by committee" to replace Camilo then that may be a good solution in the short term.
TBM: Give us an under-the-radar player Revs fans should watch out for this season.
MD: The signing of Pedro Morales the other week as our latest Designated Player made all the headlines, but midfielder Matías Laba is one player to watch out for. Laba is a box-to-box type midfielder who gets on with the job at hand and does it in a quiet, but very effective manner.
Another player to watch is right back Steven Beitashour, who the Whitecaps acquired over the winter. The former San Jose Earthquake replaces the venerable Young-Pyo Lee, who retired at the end of 2012. Beitashour hasn't played to the standard we know he is capable of in the first two games, so expect more from him once he has completely acclimatized to his new surroundings.
TBM: Finally, let's have your projected lineup and a scoreline prediction.
MD: Surprisingly Jay Demerit will not be making the trip out to play on Saturday, so my predicted XI for Vancouver is as follows:
Ousted, Harvey, O'Brien, Leverón, Beitashour, Reo-Coker, Laba, Teibert, Morales, Fernández, Miller
Predicted score: New England Revolution 1 - 1 Vancouver Whitecaps FC