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Friday, June 24, 2011
Revs need to take charge in Seattle

By Brian O'Connell

After failing to collect maximum points from last week's two-game home set, the Revolution (3-7-6, 15 points) will embark on the first of two grueling road matches when they face the resurgent Seattle Sounders FC (7-4-7, 28 points) at the newly-renamed CenturyLink Field on Sunday afternoon.

The interconference contest will be the first meeting between New England and Seattle this season, and there's little doubt that the Revs would like to forget their last trip to Seattle. On June 5, 2010, the Sounders pounded the Revs 3-0, with all three goals coming in the first half.

And while the Revs avenged the loss with a 3-1 win at Gillette Stadium on Sept. 4, 2010, the prospect of playing the Sounders in Seattle, where its large and lively crowd give new meaning to the phrase “home field advantage,” is one very few MLS clubs look forward to.

But, with all due respect to Seattle’s most strident supporters, the Revs have larger issues to attend to on Sunday. Namely: their offense.

In last week’s home draws to Toronto (0-0) and Chicago (1-1), the Revs unleashed a surprisingly lively attack that put both of their Eastern Conference rivals on notice. And yet, all the Revs could show for it was this sobering statistic: one goal in 180 minutes. Suffice to say, the Revs are going to need a lot more firepower if they have any shot at keeping pace with the Sounders’ potent and unpredictable attack.

Speaking of the Sounders, Sigi Schmid’s side has ascended to the upper echelon of the Western Conference standings despite a slow start. And if there were any lingering doubts that the club had shed its early-season struggles, Thursday night’s decisive 4-2 victory over New York erased them, as Seattle played scintillating soccer from start to finish in front of a massive crowd (46,065).

Taking three points in Seattle may be fantasy to some, but in reality it’s not at all impossible. Just ask the Revs. In their first meeting at what was then called Qwest Field in 2009, the Revs not only stole a win but also kept the Sounders quiet on the scoreboard, blanking them 1-0.

Here are three things the Revs must do to claim their first road victory of the season on Sunday:

1. Be bold. There’s no room for defensive tactics in this match. Caution must be thrown to the wind, especially when points are at a premium for the sixth-place Revs. The Revs must abandon their inhibitions and come out aggressive rather than passive, lest they find themselves in a position similar to the one they were trapped in the last time they were in Seattle. As they say: Fortune favors the bold.

2. Get wide. Last week, the Revs' attack looked lethal when it utilized its speed (Sainey Nyassi) and skill (Chris Tierney) out on the wings. Granted, Seattle’s surprisingly-stout defense, which has allowed less than a goal per game this season, is far stingier than the ones the Revs faced last week. But, given the scattered offensive successes the Revs have seen this season, they’ll have little choice than to go with what works -- and what’s working right now is effective wing play.

3. Stay sharp. If there’s one thing that’s plagued the Revs all season -- besides its anemic offense, of course -- it’s the unsettling series of defensive mental lapses they’ve suffered in transition. Last week, it was Dominic Oduro's gate-crashing goal. The week before, it was Thierry Henry's audacious display inside the area. Seattle’s attack isn’t predicated on one player, but rather a series of contributors -- all of whom can put one through without warning.

All history aside, Sunday’s match features two teams going in opposite directions. The Sounders are soaring, as they ride the momentum of a five-game unbeaten streak. Conversely, the Revs are reeling, as they stumble through their current six-game winless streak (0-4-2). In order to simultaneously snap both streaks, the Revs will have to play their best soccer.