I demand a rematch! There’s no way the Columbus Crew are four goals better than the Revolution on a night-in-nigh-out basis. Yet, 4-0 was the score three weeks ago at Crew Stadium. We all know the excuses – 11 games in 38 days, tired legs, injuries and fixture congestion. In fact, now it appears that they were not excuses but, in fact, the reality. The Revs looked a lot more stable in their following two games – taking four out of six possible points in those matches – and now look primed for the biggest game of the year on Saturday night.
The Revs, as a group, don’t want to talk much about the Supporters’ Shield before they clinch a playoffs spot (which the Crew already have), but there’s no question they have their eye on the trophy that goes with earning the best record in MLS. Not only it is a prestigious piece of silverware that the New England organization has yet to win, but also, more importantly, winning it would confirm home field advantage status upon the Revs through the first two rounds of the post season.
Now, the Revs catch Columbus minus their star, Guillermo Barros Schelotto. Whew. While neutral observers might feel cheated, the Revs can’t be upset about missing out on the Crew’s Argentine MVP candidate, who sliced and diced them up three weekends ago.
Even without Barros Schelotto pulling the strings – Columbus will get tremendous attacking play from the flanks. On the left, Robbie Rogers is in a real groove right now and can flat out fly. On the opposite side, Eddie Gaven had an excellent game against the Revs last time out and, even though his production numbers continue to disappoint, is having a good season balancing out Rogers.
New England is likely to play a back four again and I think it’s the right thing to do. Not only are their defenders clearly four of their best eleven players – meaning this system gets the Revs’ best players on the field – but having Jay Heaps and Chris Albright at the fullback positions supports the wide midfielders as Rogers and Gaven look to get forward. Quite likely, these are the areas of the field on which the match will be won or lost.
Another concern is set pieces, though without GBS serving in pinpoint crosses it will be less so. 6’5” rookie Andy Iro (who is unlikely to start in this next game) was wide open for his goal off a free kick in the September 6 game. 6’4” centerback Chad Marshall is also a massive threat.
Also worth mentioning is that a big reason that the Revs have looked like their old selves is that goalkeeper Matt Reis has fully recovered from the thigh injury that forced him to miss time in August. He’s only given up one goal in his last two games and is making saves and commanding his area the way he did before the injury.
It will also be fun to watch how the Revs try to shut down old teammate Pat Noonan. Noons has looked better and better through six games with Columbus, posting a goal and two assists, and he knows most of tricks he will see from the Revs out there (though Albright and Gabriel Badilla were not with the squad last year). Conversely, the Revs know Noonan’s moves pretty well themselves.
Forward Alejandro Moreno was not in the lineup the last time the Revs played the Crew but he is likely to be on Saturday. A ducker and diver deluxe, Moreno is having a big year, leading C-Bus with eight goals. He could thrive in what are likely to be slippery, rainy conditions in Foxborough during this game. Still, I think the Revs have the right guys to deal with him – though Mike Parkhurst might want to put Badilla on alert as to Moreno’s wily ways.
And, finally, since I mentioned Barros Schelotto and MVP in the same sentence, how about Steve Ralston for MVP? I know that Shalrie Joseph is a giant for New England and guys like Landon Donovan and Juan Pablo Angel are having strong seasons statistically, but Ralston is leading the Revs in goals and assists and his team could still end up with the best regular season record.
Rallie and the Revs probably need to win Saturday night special against the Crew if they hope to win the Supporters’ Shield and/or have Ralston or Shalrie win MVP.