Thursday, July 3, 2014
W2W4: Revs at Salt Lake, 10 p.m. Friday
By Brian O'Connell | Special to ESPNBoston.com
A Fourth of July showdown between the appropriately named New England Revolution (7-6-2, 23 points) and Real Salt Lake (6-3-7, 25 points) will pit two teams looking to snap a slump at Rio Tinto Stadium. Kickoff is set for 10 p.m. ET.
The Revolution enter the match attempting to end their three-game losing streak, which has seen them fall from first to third in the East. Similarly, Salt Lake is stuck in a five-game winless rut (0-3-2), which has also seen them drop from the top to third-best in the West.
New England is coming off a disappointing 3-1 home loss to the Union last Saturday, while Salt Lake is looking to forget last Saturday's 1-0 road loss to Chivas USA.
Here's watch to watch for in a contest that both squads hope to use to reverse their recent woes:
• Strong start a must. Over the course of their three-game losing streak, the Revolution have conceded a total of four first-half goals. As a result, they've been forced to dig themselves out of a hole, and oftentimes play outside of their comfort zone. The second half of last week's loss to the Union wasn't the prettiest by many standards, but Revolution defender Andrew Farrell liked the spirit his side showed to briefly close the gap late.
"We didn't battle enough in the first half, and we went down a goal, and they got two more after that," Farrell told revolutionsoccer.net. "[In] the second half, we showed some things that we did better, [and] worked a little bit harder."
• Finishing a must. Giving up early goals doesn't help any team's chances, but then again, neither does missing juicy opportunities -- which is precisely what the Revolution have done in their last two losses to New York and Philadelphia. Over the course of the past 180 minutes of league action, the Revolution have amassed 18 shots on goal. The exact number that found the back of the net: one. To break out of its offensive slump, the likes of Diego Fagundez, Teal Bunbury and Lee Nguyen have to start putting away their chances.
• Will the absence of Andy Dorman doom the Revolution? One of the bright spots throughout the season has undoubtedly been the sound play of Dorman, who has manned the six spot since mid-March. But the physicality that the veteran has incorporated into the midfield comes with a price. As a result of the six cautions Dorman has collected, he'll be serving a one-game suspension on Friday, thus opening the door for the man he replaced -- Scott Caldwell -- to step back into the holding midfielder's spot.
"We train every day of the season so everyone knows their roles," Caldwell told revolutionsoccer.net. "So it definitely is a lot easier when you stick with a system, and everyone just has their individual roles that fit into it."
• The unfriendly confines of Rio Tinto await. Salt Lake has long held a distinct home-field advantage since the "RioT" opened in 2008, and this year has been no different. Prior to a 3-1 loss to Portland on June 7, Salt Lake was unbeaten in their first six of the season (3-0-3). That's bad news for the Revolution, who not only enter Friday's contest 0-3-1 all-time at Rio Tinto, but have found themselves historically overmatched. Case in point: The Revolution have a negative-15 goal differential in their four games at Rio Tinto. Incidentally, their lone result there came exactly three years prior to Friday's clash (3-3 on July 4, 2011).
• New boss is the same as the old one in Salt Lake. For the second straight week, the Revolution will face a new coach for the first time. Longtime assistant Jeff Cassar replaced coach Jason Kreis shortly after last year's MLS Cup final loss to Sporting Kansas City, but not much has changed since. The claret and cobalt still rely on the likes of Javier Morales, Luis Gil, Kyle Beckerman and Nick Rimando to get the job done. While the latter two may or may not be available following World Cup duty with the U.S., Heaps is expecting Salt Lake, who've gone 5-0-1 against the Revolution since 2009, to be as dangerous as ever.
"It's one of the teams where maybe the coach changes, but the personnel and the approach stays the exact same," Heaps told revolutionsoccer.net. "[Kreis and Cassar] have been together for a long time, so a lot of their ideas, a lot of Salt Lake's philosophy over the last 7-8 years has been based on Jeff's ideas along with Jason's ideas."