Know Your Enemy: New England Revolution
OTF’s Stephen Mangat is fired up…
Identity seems like it’s something that should be solid, yet it’s an always-changing thing. When you’re a kid, you define yourself by your favorite bands, sports teams, and video games (Beastie Boys, Baltimore Orioles, GoldenEye). As a young adult, it’s your social circle, activities, and how many Natty Lights you put back last weekend (teammates and old friends, soccer, lots). As a grown-up, it’s family, experiences, career, and what TV shows you’re watching (they’re close, Peace Corps, IT, Colbert Report).
During the early to mid 2000s, New England Revolution were the league’s all-conquering entertainers with Pat Noonan, Clint Dempsey, Taylor Twellman, and Steve Ralston. Several years later, the Revs have moved from the swagger of young adulthood to the dourness of being mature as Jay Heaps, a defender with the entertaining teams, became coach and forged a new identity built on discipline and defense. So grab your cheap beers: It’s time to stay young, Fire fans, and take a look at this weekend’s opponent, the New England Revolution.
PLAY OUR MUSIC FOR THIS SEASON!!!
Know this: Even though he’s coming off a one-game suspension for a recent sideline tirade, Jay Heaps will be fucking fired up and angry. That’s just his deal. Also, he’ll have the Revolution in an interesting 4-1-4-1.
The holding midfielder protects a robust back four, and the four attacking midfielders support the forward. Andy Dorman, the holding midfielder, is the key man, as the other midfielders aren’t much for defending. So keep your eyes on Dorman and you’ll quickly know what to expect from New England.
Bobby Shuttleworth took over for Matt Reis and he’s done pretty well. While his distribution is shaky, he has a solid twitter feed. Alas, arbiter-of-truth FIFA2014 ranks him toward the bottom of MLS goalies.
These guys are a physically impressive bunch. Jose Gonçalves, Andrew Farrell, and AJ Soares are strong like bulls, and both Kevin Alston and Darrius Barnes are very quick. Chris Tierney isn’t as imposing, but he crosses the ball very well.
Whichever four of this groups plays (injuries may change things up), they’ll be well-organized, tough customers; madman Heaps demands nothing less. New England has, perhaps, the league’s most underrated defense.
This is where New England gets a bit interesting. Expect a foursome of Diego Fagundez, Saer Sene, Lee Nguyen, and Daigo Kobayashi to support a lone striker. All four are skilled, dangerous, unpredictable and inconsistent.
At their best, this group is an attacking machine that would give any team in the league fits (especially when Kelyn Rowe is playing). At their worst, this group is a lightweight liability that doesn’t defend and leaves lone defensive midfielder Andy Dorman marooned between the midfield and defense.
Teal Bunbury will be alone up top and tasked with holding the ball and winning battles. He has the strength, speed, and skill to lead the line by himself, but he has yet to put it all together for a consistent stretch of games. Injuries have limited him the past couple of seasons and he’s goalless this one, though Heaps seems to have faith in him.
How can Chicago win?
Win and limit the second balls
Teal Bunbury will challenge for everything and the Chicago defenders won’t be cleanly winning tons of balls. That’ll leave a fight for the second ball, so the Fire midfielders need to be on their toes. Also, big performances from the Chicago centerbacks will help limit the second balls onto which the New England midfielders will look to connect.
Get tough in midfield
While the Revolution defense is about as tough as they come, their midfield is similarly lightweight. Andy Dorman is no wimp, but he’s no longer a box-to-box guy and it’s up to the attacking four to set the tempo. This tempo can be interrupted with physical play that doesn’t suit New England’s midfield, so hopefully Jeff Larentowicz and friends are ready to turn up the pressure and get stuck in.
Challenge the centerbacks on the ground
Whoever is playing in central defense for the Revolution will be strong and uncompromising. As a result, they’ll likely foul a lot. So no back-to-the-goal stuff for Chicago’s attackers, they need to face Gonçalves, Soares, and/or Farrell and take them on.
Best of luck, Fire fans. It’s a home game, so throw back a few and get ready to party!
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OTF’s Stephen Mangat is a Union season ticket holder and stormed the field after his 3-year-old niece’s team won last weekend. Follow him @smangat12.