Scouting report: A breakdown of what to expect from the New England Revolution
New England comes into Saturday's match with a five game winless streak and the worst offense in Major League Soccer.
It's really a disappointing start for the Revs, who now have five points and a 1-3-2 record after starting the season with a promising win in Chicago.
New England got blown out 4-1 by New York on Saturday, but let's ignore that result for a second.
Prior to that game, the Revs had scored just one goal and allowed just two goals in five total games. Jay Heaps was managing the league's worst offense and best defense at the same time.
The New York game was a bit of an aberration. Two goals were conceded late while New England was throwing numbers forward. That four-goal barrage skews the numbers for a defense which has played very well for most of the year.
This will be the second matchup between Philadelphia and New England in 2013. The Union is now 5-0-3 all time against the Revs following the March 16 1-0 shutout at PPL Park.
New England's leading goal scorers in 2013:
Jerry Bengtson (1), Brandon Barklage (1).
Oh and it should be noted that Brandon Barklage plays for New York. So, yes, New England has scored one goal and benefited from one own-goal in six total games this season.
The Revs have been passing and possessing well in the midfield, but there's just no "bite" up top.
The biggest perk is the return of Saer Sene, who is returning to full match fitness after missing the early part of the season due to ACL surgery. New England's leading goalscorer in 2012 played 29 minutes last week and could be a prominent figure against the Union.
Honduras international Bengston is struggling up top, with guys like Diego Fagundez, Juan Toja, Lee Nguyen, and Kelyn Rowe playing as wide midfielders and/or withdrawn strikers. Heaps has shuffled the deck somewhat, using Rowe on the right, trying Fagundez up top, and bringing Toja off the bench. Nothing has seemed to spark the offense.
New England is missing the talent of longtime fullback Kevin Alston, who was diagnosed with leukemia just a few weeks ago. The good news is that the disease is entirely treatable, but it means that soccer goes to the backburner while the 24-year-old focuses 100 percent on getting back to full health.
Before last weeks 4-1 loss, the Revolution had the best defense in the league. They had allowed just two goals in five games, a drastic improvement from 2012 and 2011. After the New York result, they've allowed six goals in six games. Still, it leaves them in the top five in total defense.
The absence of Alston means that Chris Tierney, who was injured at the start of the season, comes in at left back. He's a left footed player who likes to get up the field and hit smart crosses into the box.
Centrally, Jose Goncalves has been a revelation. Strong and physical, yet calm on the ball, he seems to be the piece that was missing on the Revs backline these past few years. He looks comfortable playing from the back, distributing high percentage balls to the midfield.
A.J. Soares has been the other starting CB for the Revs this year. He left Saturday's game in the first half with a hamstring injury and could be replaced this week by either Stephen McCarthy, Darrius Barnes, or starting right back Andrew Farrell.
In the central midfield, you'll see two of Andy Dorman, Kalifa Cisse, and Clyde Simms. All three are better defensively than offensively, so you'll see most of the forward looks from Nguyen, Rowe, and Toja.
Bobby Shuttleworth played in goal last week, but Matt Reis returned to training on Wednesday. Reis' father-in-law was badly hurt in the the Boston Marathon bombings and the longtime goalkeeper has been attending to family matters since the tragedy. If you missed it, here's an excerpt from his appearance on CNN's "Piers Morgan Live": Matt Reis speaks about the Boston bombings
Possible Starting XI: Shuttleworth (GK), Tierney ,Goncalves, McCarthy, Farrell, Rowe, Dorman, Cisse, Nguyen, Sene, Bengtson (4-4-2)
This will be the first game played at Gillette Stadium since the April 15th bombings at the Boston Marathon. Last week, it was New York supporters showing solidarity with Boston.
Last week's own-goal from Brandon Barklage ended the Revs' 394 minute scoreless streak, which was a club record. A New England player has not scored since the first game of the season on March 9.
Finally, a great excerpt from the Revolution website:
Jack the Knife: "While the Revs have struggled to find success against Philadelphia, the team’s most recent issues can be focused on Philadelphia forward Jack McInerney … McInerney has made six appearances against the Revs and has scored four goals, including three game-winning goals … he has scored Philadelphia’s last three game-winning goals in one-goal wins against New England dating back to July 29, 2012, including the lone goal in the Union’s 1-0 win on March 16 at PPL Park earlier this season."
Contact Union writer Kevin Kinkead at email@example.com