There are far more than three questions to answer as the New England Revolution end their preseason with the Desert Diamond Cup Final tonight against the Columbus Crew.
There are still several roster spots to finalize, but we're going to focus on what issues the starting lineup faces going into the MLS regular season opener.
1. Who Wins The Battle at Right Back?
Jordan McCrary, Darrius Barnes and London Woodberry are all up for the starting job at right back, at tonight's game could be a hint as to who has the advantage going into the season opener next week. The versatile Barnes can feature anywhere on the backline and might be more valuable off the bench or as a spot starter. Woodberry saw the bulk of the action last season, and had many bright moments, including his crossing into the box on offense.
But as we saw earlier in the DDC, Woodberry has a tendency to give up tactical fouls and accumulate yellow cards, and had to serve a 1-game suspension for a preseason red card. McCrary might be a rookie but his more defense first style might suit the Revs a bit more with Chris Tierney's tendency to overlap on the left.
We'll see what head coach Jay Heaps has in mind for the final tonight.
2. How Well Can the Koffie-Caldwell Partnership Work?
The most talked about position for the Revolution this offseason has been at holding midfield. With Jermaine Jones no longer with the team, the Revs turned to the international market and Xavier Kouassi as a replacement. Originally set to sign in the summer, Kouassi suffered a knee injury with his current club FC Sion of Switzerland and now might not feature at all in MLS in 2016.
So instead, the Revs made a trade with the Vancouver Whitecaps, a short term move for a holding midfielder as Gershon Koffie has one year left on his current contract and wants to test Europe. However, Koffie is a capable midfielder and while he not have the attacking influence of Jones circa 2014, he can be a solid box-to-box player and more of an enforcer than Caldwell. As Gershon gets more comfortable working next to Caldwell and the Revs system overall, we should see more of Koffie getting forward into the attacking third.
However, we should still expect the reigning club MVP to perhaps step up on the attacking end. Caldwell scored two goals last year and added five assists, by far his more prolific offensive season in his three year career. If Koffie is going to be more of a stay at home midfielder, then Caldwell will have to shoulder more of the offensive responsibilities and take more risks with the ball. Having one of the deep midfielders dribbling upfield more and starting the attack rather than just cycling through the passing options could do wonders for the Revolution in 2016.
3. What's The Best Combination Up Front?
Obviously, the Revolution are set with Lee Nguyen in the middle of the attacking midfield in Heaps' 4-2-3-1, but the options around him are always a question. It might come down to the player who is in the best form, as we've seen in the past with the streaky Diego Fagundez.
Charlie Davies has usually featured up front with a combination of Juan Agudelo, Teal Bunbury, Kelyn Rowe and Fagundez out wide. Agudelo is also capable of playing up top and even Bunbury had a great shift up top in the second half of the Revs' last preseason game. For a team that doesn't rely on one person to score goals, the starting striker role could be more based on chemistry and Davies skill set with his back to goal than anything else.
On the wings, it was Fagundez's defense last year and Bunbury's overall box-to-box play that seemed to lead the way for the Revs. Of course, that means that you're always going to have a Rowe or Agudelo coming off the bench but over the course of a long season there should be plenty of opportunities for everyone to get minutes.
Personally, I think the Revs are at their best when on the counter attack, as we saw with Bunbury's two goals against Houston earlier in the week. Given the talent and depth of options for Heaps, and the years of chemistry the group has together, it's even more important this season to find a consistent and productive combination.
The Revolution kickoff against the Columbus Crew in the final of the Desert Diamond Cup tonight at 9PM EST.