When the Revolution visit D.C. United for tonight's knockout-round playoff match, Jay Heaps will be forced to make a series of lineup decisions. Will he play an in-form (yet banged up) London Woodberry—or will he opt for Kevin Alston? Will he start a rested Diego Fagundez, or select Teal Bunbury, who played 90 minutes against NYCFC on Sunday?
Below, four TBM staffers take their best shot at predicting Heaps' Starting XI.
Jon: Shuttleworth; Alston, Farrell, Goncalves, Tierney; Jones, Caldwell; Rowe, Nguyen, Fagundez; Davies
GK: This explains itself. Bobby has a penchant for making a "big time" save or two when the Revs need it the most. Also, as last season showed, Bobby tends to get hot when playoff time rolls around.
DF: The only question mark ahead of the playoffs is who plays right back. London Woodberry appears to have twisted his ankle against NYCFC, and Alston stepped in admirably to lock down the right side. The veteran's performance is deserving of a full 90 minutes, especially when one recalls how Alston performed against the Red Bulls in last year's playoffs.
CDM: These two selections are no-brainers. Scotty is the glue to this side, while Jermaine has played in plenty of big games throughout his career. Their partnership should also effectively limit the forays of Perry Kitchen and Markus Halsti, DC's two center mids.
MF: This trio is solely motivated by how New England's opponent, D.C. United, fared last week against Columbus Crew SC. They got trounced, 5-0, and the Crew deploy a similar attack in terms of dynamic movement, fluidity, counter attacks and quick passing. With that in mind, get your three creative minds on the field. Fagundez loves cutting in off the left flank, Nguyen can pick the lock and Rowe is an all-around attacker.
FWD: In many ways, the Revs' momentum goes as Charlie Davies rounds in and out of form. After a goal and an assist against NYCFC, the 29-year-old is heading in the right direction once again. So, ride the hot hand, all while knowing Juan Agudelo is waiting to pounce from the bench.
Jake: Shuttleworth; Hall, Farrell, Goncalves, Tierney; Jones, Caldwell; Fagundez, Nguyen, Bunbury; Davies
GK: Bobby's performance against NYC on Sunday wasn't flawless, but when he was needed to make big saves he was there. Though NYC created big chances, Lampard off the bar, Pirlo's free kick and Andrew Wingert's header bounching over the bar - Shuttleworth was there to deny NYCFC throughout until the penalty in the closing minutes.
DF: Let's assume that London Woodberry is unavailable due to his injury that caused him to be taken off late in the first half. I don't think there is a wrong answer at right back for the Revs, both Hall and Alston are solid options. But Hall's had the bulk of the minutes recently and is a more defense first option so I'd opt for him in the one game scenario.
CDM: Strangely enough, the slightly safer and take-less-risks Jones seemed to work well for the Revs against NYCFC. Playing with an early lead certainly helped, but Jones didn't venture forward nearly as much nor did he take many risks in his own half, all to the benefit of the Revs on both sides of the ball. His partnership with Caldwell continues to be incredibly effective, limiting time for veterans Daigo Kobayashi and Andy Dorman off the bench.
MF: It's hard to drop Rowe since he's in such good form, and Fagundez is probably the better option off the bench. But with Bunbury and likely Davies providing target options up front, the Revs could use another playmaker out wide. Diego's combined well with Tierney and Nguyen in the past and I wouldn't be shocked to see Agudelo in this spot either.
FWD: As good as Agudelo has been, even on a short week I think Heaps has to stick with Davies against his old club DC United. His hold-up play, combined with Bunbury out wide, is desperately needed at times for the Revs offense so that Nguyen and Jones can get more involved. It worked very well on Sunday and against a DC backline that was in disarray against Columbus, keeping as Davies up top after a good performance seems like a sure bet.
Seth: Shuttleworth; Barnes, Goncalves, Farrell, Tierney; Jones, Caldwell; Rowe, Nguyen, Fagundez; Davies
GK: Hey, Bobby, Bobby.
DF: Yes, that is Barnes' name. It's probably unlikely given the magnitude of his injury, but I'd like to see Barnes starting at right back. The veteran was sensational before going down in the early part of the season. If he's not ready then the spot belongs to Jeremy Hall, who has been reliable throughout the season.
CDM: Jones is a Designated Player that features for the USMNT while Caldwell is the team MVP whose stock is on the rise. Start ‘em.
MF: You know Nguyen is in there, but there's uncertainty about who will start alongside him. For me, it's Rowe and Fagundez. Both are streaky individuals who have been hot as of late.
FWD: With one goal and one assist in the regular season finale, Davies has to start. The fact that it will come against his former club DC United is an added bonus.
Nick: Shuttleworth; Alston, Goncalves, Farrell, Tierney; Jones, Caldwell; Rowe, Nguyen, Bunbury; Davies
GK: Once upon a time, we wondered how Brad Knighton would fare as the Revs' number one. Today, Bobby runs the show.
DF: The right back spot, Heaps' season-long question mark, likely loses a competitor with the injury to Woodberry. I favor Alston over Hall (who hasn't appeared since Step. 27) as his midweek replacement, mostly due to Alston's speed, which he will use to counter Chris Rolfe's pace on the left side.
CDM: The rock of this Revolution club, Caldwell and Jones will look to lock down the center of the park, where D.C. lacks a game-changing central midfielder.
MF: Rowe, who has continually played his way into form, deserves a shout after another strong performance on Sunday. The real battle comes down to Bunbury and Fagundez, two midfielders who have struggled to find consistency in 2015. I lean toward Bunbury, who seemingly earned a start after a solid two-way effort against NYCFC.
FWD: After a strong run to end the season—and an even stronger run through the 2014 playoffs—Davies has locked up the number nine spot; the opportunity to bring Agudelo off the bench will serve as a luxury for Heaps.