At long last it’s time for the New England Revolution home opener. There’s still some leftover snow sitting around, but Minnesota United played their home opener a few weeks ago in an actual snow storm so they’re used to it.
Today we chat with one of the new guys on the block, Darrell Vitullo of E Pluribus Loonum. Normally I’d boo that punny blog name but I am a sucker for anything related to the Loons, which is a great nickname, far better than United.
Anyway, be sure to check out all of their Minnesota coverage as well as my answers to their questions for today’s game.
TBM: An emergency goalkeeper and only six available players on the bench? Who's missing for the Loons and why?
DV: MNUFC just can’t seem to catch a break so far this season. After the embarrassment of the first two games, the Loons played a really solid game last week against Colorado that they probably should have won. It was a very nice building-block game for a struggling club. However, coming into this week it now feels as if the entire roster is missing and they won't be able to build on last weeks performance. Francisco Calvo, Johan Venegas, Rasmus Schuller and Kevin Molino have all been called up for their respective National Teams. Justin Davis is out after drawing a Red Card last week against Colorado. Joe Greenspan, John Alvbage, Patrick Mclain and Thomas de Villardi are all out with injuries. All-in-all, six of these players are significant losses and will force Adrian Heath to play some players that haven’t played significant minutes yet and/or have already proven to be major liabilities.
TBM: We've covered who's not going to be in New England, what about who will be there. Who are the key starters and/or replacements in the starting line up this week.
DV: The main player to keep an eye on is Superman, Christian Ramirez. There were a lot of questions coming into the season whether Ramirez could score in MLS at the clip he did in the NASL, where he was a three-time Golden Boot winner. Through three games, he has answered that question with a resounding “YES” by already scoring twice and was inches away from scoring two more times in Colorado. There are parts of Ramirez’s game that leaves you wanting more. But there is no denying when the ball is on his foot, he is a threat to score from anywhere. I mean that literally. The guy just has a nose for the goal. I’ve never seen a player with such fearlessness and with such creativity to shoot from anywhere at any time like he does. He has scored some absolute jaw dropping goals the past couple years where you think to yourself, how, how did he just do that? He is honestly one of those types of players when he has the ball you have to watch closely because you might miss out on something amazing if you look away for even a split-second.
Another player to keep an eye on is Brent Kallman, another of the Loons NASL holdovers. Kallman got his first start of the season last week against Colorado. He played a sublime game on the back end to really solidify what had been the Loons biggest weakness through the first two games. Was it a one-time thing or will he be able to repeat that performance?
I’d also keep an eye on Vadim Demidov who will most likely start again because of the thin bench mentioned above. Let’s not sugar-coat things, he was not good the first two weeks. Can he find his form and be the player that has played in some of the top leagues in the world or will Kamara and Nguyen eat him up for 90 minutes?
TBM: Going back to the Femi-Shuttleworth trade, what was the reaction like in Minnesota? Would Femi have gotten significant minutes behind Miguel Ibarra and company?
DV: The initial reaction was something along the lines of, “WHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAT”? Just like Revs fans, we saw the potential in Femi and we were all excited about getting to watch him develop. Then to trade him back to the team MNUFC drafted him from in the expansion draft for a backup goaltender was a bit of a headscratcher. However, once we all took a step back, the trade makes sense. It’s no secret the Loons biggest weakness right now is their defense, but they have been good offensively so far and have potential to be a very good offensive team. Femi just wasn’t going to get the minutes behind Ramirez, Ibarra, Danladi, Molino and Venegas.
Now trading for Shuttleworth did raise some eyebrows as well. Why were they trading for a backup goalkeeper when they had the chance to sign the Revs starting goalkeeper and Minnesota native, Cody Cropper? However, now that Shuttleworth has been forced to play with Alvbage injury, we are starting to see the logic in the trade. He made some big saves last week against Colorado and really seemed to have a calming effect on the defenders.
I really don’t know what to make of this game with all of the missing pieces for MNUFC. I think they’ll be ok offensively but defensively could be another thing. I’m going to say the Loons keep it close but end up on the short-end 2-1.