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Know Thy Enemy: Revs-RSL Preview with Matt Montgomery

If the Revs want to get back on track towards the playoffs, three points against a shorthanded RSL side is a must.

MLS: New England Revolution at Real Salt Lake Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

Today’s New England Revolution - Real Salt Lake game is fascinating for a variety of reasons, and not all of them are good.

Both teams have a decent injury list, with Juan Agudelo and Teal Bunbury both questionable and a good chuck of RSL’s starting lineup is off to play in the U20 World Cup with the USYNT.

Is this good news for the Revs? We’ll find out, but in the meantime, Matt Montgomery over at RSL Soapbox put down Breath of the Wild for a few minutes to chat about his vaunted academy class of youngsters and whether or not Mike Petke is about to rebuild RSL around them. Playing video games all day might be a better idea than watching this game tonight too...Matt might be onto something...

Anyway, you can check out my answer’s to Matt’s questions over on their site and while you’re there take a look at Kreg Asay’s weekly MLS Power Ranking Averages that’s one of my favorite posts to read.

TBM: I am declaring today's game a "Loser Leaves Town" match, meaning whoever doesn't win (if we both tie, we're both screwed) this game misses the MLS playoffs. And both teams still might not make it to November anyway, what's happened in RSL? Can this team recover or is this the start of a rebuild?

MM: You know, I'm still not completely certain what's completely going on, but I'm hoping this is the start of a rebuild. We've been kicking the can down the road for years — really, since Garth Lagerwey kept the same roster year-to-year in 2013 to 2014. We've known that by keeping the same roster around for a long time that there would be particularly painful moments. For instance, Kyle Beckerman is easily making DP money (and bought down with TAM), but he's not really at that level now. Does that mean he doesn't deserve his status on the roster? Not at all. He's been one of the biggest players for our club for the last decade. That deserves recognition and respect. But it does make roster building a tougher job.

So, long story short, I do think we're nearing our first true rebuild. We've been taking a more iterative approach under new coach Mike Petke, and after three weeks of conceding three goals a game, I think he's ready to push that big red button. That doesn't mean that they'll be making big roster changes immediately — they can't right now, even if they wanted to — but I do think it means that roles will change on this team, some players will earn fewer minutes, some will earn more, and everything we thought we knew will vanish into dust. Maybe.

TBM: It seems like half of the USYNT Under-20 team plays for RSL, which is really cool, except for the fact they all just left for the U20 World Cup. There's no question, just gush about your kids and academy system.

MM: OHHHHHH. It's hard not to gush about them, and I know some people get a little upset about their leaving, but this is a huge thing for Real Salt Lake. These players haven't been called in by default or anything similar. the four that are with the first team — Brooks Lennon, Sebastian Saucedo, Danilo Acosta and Justen Glad — are significant players for the U.S. and RSL. When that group was at the academy — and there are others, too, that we could mention, but for the sake of brevity, let's not — they were special. They looked a cut above everybody else, and they regularly put seven goals past Jurgen Klinsmann's son (which is not some bad joke; it's reality.)

And that's fine and good at an academy level, but it doesn't just mean an automatic transition to greatness by the mere fact that they did well as youngsters. It gave them an opportunity, but it doesn't mean they'll suddenly be good professionals. They have been, and that's a testament to the coaching and management at RSL academy over the last five years.

TBM: RSL has only scored nine goals all season and Yura Movsisyan has four of them. Is he getting enough support/service or is he ending up isolated too often? What might be other factors for RSL's offensive struggles?

MM: If you ask some swathes of RSL fans, it's the former and he's actually not finishing enough. If you ask me, and I guess you did, it's more the latter. If Yura Movsisyan scores anything close to half the goals we score this season, we're either A) struggling as a team to finish, or B) he's really upped his goalscoring game.

So, you're right. We've isolated him, and we haven't given him the proper support in our tactical approach. He might not finish every opportunity (find me a goalscorer who does and wants to play in MLS for under $3m, and I'll pay you handsomely for him), but he finishes a fair amount of them. We need other players stepping up and scoring, too. No great team hinges on one player being in good form to win games, and it seems like that's where we're at right now. We'll see if things turn around.

Predicted Lineup

VanOekel; Wingert, Maund, Schuler, Phillips; Sunny, Mulholland, Holness; Velazco, Plata; Movsisyan

Injuries & absences

Danilo Acosta (int'l duty), Jordan Allen, Chad Barrett (long-term), Kyle Beckerman, Tony Beltran, Justen Glad (int'l duty & injury), David Horst, Brooks Lennon (int'l duty), Nick Rimando, Sebastian Saucedo (int'l duty), Justin Schmidt