The New England Revolution face D.C. United on Saturday night at Gillette Stadium. They're hoping to extend a six-match unbeaten streak with their fifth win on the trot, but D.C. is a traditionally-difficult opponent anyway, and it will not be easy. We caught up with Ben Bromley of Black and Red United, SB Nation's D.C. United blog.
TBM: The last meeting between these two clubs went D.C.'s way, but the Revs have been on an absolute tear lately after a slight formation and lineup shift. What do you think will be different for United in this match?
BB: There won't be too much different for D.C. United, expect the fact that the team has continued to gel since the last match against New England. The spine of the team has really solidified, with the partnerships of Jeff Parke and Bobby Boswell and Perry Kitchen and Davy Arnaud providing the rock of the team. The main difference will be the addition of Chris Rolfe, who has become a mainstay in the lineup ever since he was traded to D.C. United just before the first United-Revs game. He and Fabian Espindola have started to create an impressive partnership, with each assisting the other's goal in United's win against Houston. And speaking of Espindola, he continues to be on fire, with five goals and five assists so far this season.
TBM: Revs fans have been ecstatic when looking at the conference standings lately, but D.C. fans can't be too upset either. What's the secret been for the Black and Red?
BB: The secret has been trusting in the veterans that Ben Olsen brought in this offseason. After stumbling out of the gates, fans were undeniably nervous about these veterans that Olsen had acquired: players like Parke, Boswell, Espindola, Arnaud, and Sean Franklin had been good MLS players, but none of them were superstars. But after those first two games, these players started to find their feet in DC, and once the defense started to improve everything else did as well. The addition of Chris Rolfe added some sorely needed creativity, and hopefully Eddie Johnson's first goal last weekend will be the first of many.
TBM: Eddie Johnson finally got on the scoresheet last weekend and served his suspension on Wednesday, so he should be available on Saturday. What's been the major issue with him to this point, and do you think those issues are behind him?
BB: Part of Eddie Johnson's critique of the team was correct: he does not have the same kind of players getting him the ball that he did in Seattle. The lack of a winger that can consistently cross has been a long-standing problem for D.C. United; for the past few years, it has almost always been forwards or central midfielders taking corner kicks, for example. But part of it has been on Johnson as well. As the team has gelled around him, he has continued to scuffle. Now that he has gotten his first goal out of the way, I hope the goals will now come more easily to him; it should help that Chris Rolfe and Fabian Espindola are playing so well.
TBM: Who do you think United fears most on the pitch for the Revs?
BB: The thing that scares me the most is speed, so that would mean Diego Fagundez. For all the good qualities that Parke and Boswell have, speed is not among them. Without Boniek Garcia, Houston did not have much in the way of team speed, and D.C. United's midfield and back line was able to shut them down. It will again be up to that midfield, and primarily Perry Kitchen and Davy Arnaud, to prevent Fagundez from being able to get one-on-one with either of the center backs.
TBM: Finally, let's have your projected starting XI and a scoreline prediction.
BB: I will preface this by saying that, as the third game in a week's time, we all expect Ben Olsen to rotate his squad; however, he has shown no inclination that he will do so. With that I mind, I will predict the top choice XI: Bill Hamid; Sean Franklin, Bobby Boswell, Jeff Parke, Chris Korb; Nick DeLeon, Perry Kitchen, Davy Arnaud, Chris Rolfe; Fabian Espindola, Eddie Johnson. I am going to predict a little luck for United and go with a 2-2 draw.
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