Tuesday, April 5, 2011
Revs need to be strong on D vs. Whitecaps
By Brian O'Connell
Hoping to re-find their form after their disheartening 1-1 draw to the expansion Portland Timbers, the Revolution (1-0-2, 5 pts.) hit the road for a mid-week match against another expansion team -- the Vancouver Whitecaps (1-1-1, 4 pts.) -- Wednesday night at Empire Field in Vancouver, B.C. The game will start at 10:00 p.m. ET and will be televised live on Comcast SportsNet New England. The game will also be broadcast on 98.5 The Sports Hub.
Although the Revs have accumulated one more point than their expansion adversary, it's been the Whitecaps who've impressed many observers this early in the season. After claiming a decisive 4-2 win over Toronto FC in their season opener, the Whitecaps briefly stumbled with 1-0 loss to the Union at Philadelphia. But, once they returned home last weekend, they resumed their offensive output and mounted a massive 3-3 comeback draw against Sporting Kansas City thanks to a pair of stoppage time goals by Camilo seconds before the final whistle.
In order for the Revs to find any measure of success against Vancouver, they'll have to do three things:
1. Make the aforementioned Camilo and Atiba Harris disappear. To do so, Ryan Cochrane, fresh off his first start in a Revolution kit, and rookie A.J. Soares will have to bring their A games to Empire Field if they hope to keep the potent Whitecaps off the board. Soares, who's looked the part of a first-round pick so far, has been one of the key cogs in the Revs revamped defending corps and may well assume a key role in Wednesday's match.
2. Take it one pass at a time, fellas. It sounds elementary and simplistic, sure, but after Saturday's unremarkable performance, Revs skipper Shalrie Joseph mentioned that he and his teammates found themselves trying to do too much when holding the ball. It's good to be ambitious, but too much ambition can cause a club to lose its composure. Therefore, the central midfielders will have to establish the tempo by making crisp, intermediate passes in order open up the field for their speedy wingers.
3. Find Zack Schilawski. The sophomore striker has been a bit of a revelation thus far. After finding himself as the lone striker in manager Steve Nicol's 4-5-1 formation, Schilawski has answered the bell with a goal and a collection of shots (7 so far). More importantly, it's Schilawski's finishing ability that makes him dangerous inside the box. If he can find the service, there's little doubt that the former Demon Deacon will factor into the final score.
Wednesday's match will be a good test for a young club like the Revs. It'll be the first opportunity to find out how sharp, both mentally and physically, they are. Sure, the desire to rebound was certainly present following Saturday's draw, but to do it on short rest after a cross-continent flight is another thing entirely. If anything, the Whitecaps match will show whether the Revs can fulfill that desire.
-- Wednesday's match will be New England's first against Vancouver, and the second against an expansion team in five days after the Revs faced Portland on April 2nd.
-- After Saturday's 1-1 draw to the Timbers, the Revs remain unbeaten in first encounters with expansion sides since 2000.
-- The last time a New England-based first division club faced the Vancouver Whitecaps, whose roots can be traced back to the original North American Soccer League, was back in 1978. The New England Tea Men, who played in the NASL from 1978-80, defeated the Whitecaps 2-0 at Foxboro Stadium.
Look for the Revolution to unleash the following starting XI against the Whitecaps on Wednesday:
GK: Bobby Shuttleworth
D: Didier Domi
D: A.J. Soares
D: Ryan Cochrane
D: Kevin Alston
M: Sainey Nyassi
M: Stephen McCarthy
M: Shalrie Joseph
M: Pat Phelan
M: Zak Boggs
F: Zack Schilawski
REVOLUTION INJURY REPORT:
Probable: Kevin Alson (left hamstring strain), Didier Domi (right knee swelling), Matt Reis (right adductor strain)
Brian O'Connell is covering the Revolution for ESPNBoston.com. He is the co-founder of New England Soccer Today (www.nesoccertoday.com), which covers professional soccer within New England. He can be reached at BOConnell21@aol.com.