Saturday, May 10, 2014
W2W4: Revs host Sounders, 6 p.m. Sunday
By Brian O'Connell
Gillette Stadium will host a battle of streaking sides on Sunday when the New England Revolution (4-3-2, 14 points) face the Seattle Sounders (7-2-1, 22 points). Kickoff is set for 6:00 p.m.
The Sounders have leaned heavily on ex-Revolution midfielder/forward Clint Dempsey during their current six-game unbeaten run (5-0-1) and sit atop the Western Conference. Meanwhile, the Revolution enter Sunday's contest unbeaten in their last four (3-0-1), and have not conceded a goal at home this season. As a result of their recent success, the Revolution find themselves in a four-way tie for first place in the Eastern Conference.
Both sides are coming off of comeback wins, with Seattle getting theirs in a 2-1 win against FC Dallas on Wednesday, while the Revolution picked up a 2-1 victory of their own at Toronto last Saturday.
Plenty of storylines abound -- none bigger than the one surrounding Dempsey, to be sure -- so here's what to watch for on Sunday:
• Can the Revolution stop Seattle's surging attack? The Sounders march into Sunday's match with a league-high 22 goals scored this season, with Dempsey (eight goals) and Obafemi Martins (four goals) leading the way. With the opposition struggling to keep either at bay, the Revolution must defend as a unit, and they have to manage the game in order keep it from becoming a track meet, which is what ensued in the opening minutes of last week's match at Toronto.
"We had some good sequences and some good possessions (at Toronto)," Heaps told the media on Friday. "But we let the game get wide open, and it really wasn't what we intended to do."
• Battle to watch: Andrew Farrell vs. Clint Dempsey. All eyes will be on Dempsey come Sunday, without question. But one person in particular who can't let Dempsey out of his sight is center back Andrew Farrell, who'll likely be the player called upon to do much of the man-marking on the league's leading scorer. To date, the sophomore defender has done well at the center back spot opposite AJ Soares. However, he hasn't faced a forward of Dempsey's caliber this season, and as such, must play a smart and physical 90 minutes to keep the best forward in the league off the board.
• Will Patrick Mullins put together another strong performance? It's not a stretch to say that the biggest revelation from last week's match was the play of rookie Patrick Mullins. Not only did he score the first Revolution goal, he also drew a late penalty to set up the game-winner. Whether Mullins will wield as much influence this weekend remains to be seen, but coach Jay Heaps appears to be a believer in Mullins' skill set.
"He has a really good sense of how to play forward," Heaps said following the game. "That was one thing last week (vs. Sporting K.C.) we were missing a little bit, and then his hold-up play (as well). We really need someone to hold up the ball."
• Staying strong on set pieces. Defending set pieces has been an area where the Revolution have certainly improved this year. In their first nine games, they've conceded only one goal from a set piece situation, with Jose Goncalves' own goal in D.C. the lone culprit. But Seattle is unlike any other side New England has faced this season. Not only are the Sounders strong from the run of play, but they're just as formidable from set pieces. Considering Seattle's league-high seven goals from dead-ball situations, the Revolution simply cannot afford any momentary lapses when the Sounders win corners, free kicks, and throw-ins.
• Pressing the issue late. Sunday's match is sure to pack plenty of drama for a variety of reasons, especially in the waning stages if recent history is any indication. The Sounders have scored a league-high 12 goals after the 60th minute, with two of those coming in Wednesday's win. However, the Revolution aren't exactly slouches in the final stages, either. Five of their last six goals have come after the 70th minute, and three of them have been game-winners.
"I think that's something that our team does really well in the last 10 minutes of games," Revolution midfielder Steve Neumann said. "Either hitting on the break, and trying to create scoring chances, or unlocking a team. I think we've been pretty successful, to say the least, in the last 10 minutes in each of the past 4-5 games."