Friday, May 25, 2007

Revs - Kansas City Preview

A real battle awaits the Revs at Gillette Stadium tomorrow as the Kansas City Wizards come to town. New England needs to win to regain their 3-game lead over Red Bull New York, while KC will be looking to bounce back after drawing to Colorado. Kansas City seems to be rejuvenated since hiring Curt Onalfo as head coach over the offseason. The Wizards represented the Western Conference in MLS Cup 2004, but have failed to make the playoffs the last two years since moving to the East. They are playing some exciting soccer, too bad nobody's watching.
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Eddie Johnson's resurgence has grabbed most of the headlines, but the addition of rookie midfielder Micheal Harrington has just as much to do with it. The former UNC player has added a much needed spark down the wing. Another addition who should feature Saturday is Carlos Marinelli. The much traveled former Middlesbrough player brings the distribution and touch of class that was desperately needed in the KC midfield. That was before he strained his hamstring in Toronto a few weeks ago. Marineeli should be back in the starting lineup as he played 37 minutes in the Wizard's 1-1 tie with Colorado.

KC comes into the game a bit banged up, especially in the back line. Jimmy Conrad will be missing the game due to a hamstring strain. Conrad also injured his jaw a few weeks back. I like Conrad, but if you continually go head first into 50-50 balls instead of using your arms to keep separation like your adversary is doing, you're going to get your jaw broke from time to time. Essentially, what makes him a good defender, also makes him reckless at times. Scott Sealy is also listed as out. This is good news for the Revs who already had enough offensive firepower to worry about. Midfielder Jose Burciaga is questionable with a shoulder strain (Parkhurst thinks he's a wuss) and our favorite kung fu artist, Nick Garcia, is probable with an abdominal strain. That's good news for Andy Dorman. The next time Garcia chops him in the throat to prevent a goal scoring opportunity, it won't have as much impact.

For the Revs, Shalrie Joseph is listed as questionable with a knee contusion. The word earlier in the week was he'd be good to go. It's also rumored that Daniel Hernandez would be ready. However, with the team's current depth at defensive midfielder, it wouldn't be prudent to rush him back. Wells Thompson has been listed as questionable with a broken wrist. Although I'd normally consider a footballer to be a wimp for missing a game with that kind of injury, he should probably be rested with Stevie Ralston likely to miss games in June due to the Gold Cup.

If New England is to be successful, they are going to have to win the battles on the wings. KC has exploited teams out wide and this has to be neutralized. Also, Shalrie Joseph and Jeff Larentowicz need to disrupt Marinelli. If the Revs can achieve those two things, Eddie Johnson will be left on an island up top.

The Revs have a real opportunity to take it to Kansas City's defense in this one. Although it's not wise to mess with a good thing (if the last game can even be considered "good"), I would hope Pat Noonan gets the start next to Taylor Twellman up top. Adam Cristman has been solid, but college rookies tend to burn out early and it may be a good idea to give him some rest. Granted, there's a bye week after the next one, but Cristman will need to play the full 90 minutes in a few of the upcoming games and will need to kept fresh. Starting Noonan would also bring the short passing in the box between him and Twellman that will likely produce goals in this kind of game.

The thing that worries me here is the Revs didn't play well last week and still won. While that was great last week, it doesn't provide much of a catalyst to improve upon going into this one. There's also natural grass installed at Gillette for the Gold Cup. It's an unproven surface, which could create a wildcard element. If the grass isn't properly settled, it will get a bit torn up during the Ireland-Bolivia game that will take place immediately before the Revs game.

Probable Revs Lineup:


Other Previews:

Boston Globe
Fox Soccer
Our Sports Central
Monsters & Critics
Down The Byline (KC Blog)