Both the Earthquakes and Revolution are searching for their first win of the MLS season. The Quakes, unlikely the Revs, have found the back of the net so far, and they have not lost at home in 21 straight matches. What will New England bring to Buck Shaw Stadium Saturday night? Steve Stoehr of The Bent Musket provides a preview:
Question: A lot has been made recently of Jose Goncalves and his early season petulance regarding his contract situation. It appears that all his been mended on that front, but what are the repercussions, and how might they affect the Revs on Saturday?
Answer: Well, the repercussions were two poor performances on the road to open the season. Jose was terrible against Houston, and as a result of his lack of focus, he was left out of the match day squad entirely in Philadelphia. That seems to be over with now, as he returned to the XI against Vancouver and helped post a clean sheet.
In terms of how it might affect the team against the Quakes, I'm not sure. Clearly this squad hasn't found its stride or its comfort zone yet, and anyone can see that Goncalves' situation probably had a lot to do with that. I think the defensive unit is cohesive again, so I'm not predicting enormous failures by the back line, but I don't think this team is a well-oiled machine just yet. Couple that with the Revs' well-documented West Coast issues and you have a recipe for a really, really long night in San Jose.
Q: You can't win games if you don't score goals, and the Revs are three games into the season without one of either. What is missing in the Revs' attack right now, and could the problem worrisome for a lengthy part of the season?
A: What's missing is Juan Agudelo. The exciting and fluid 4-1-4-1/4-3-3 system that the Revs employed last year and are trying to use this year was predicated on a multi-talented #9 who can scare defenses with his running, dribbling, and finishing, while simultaneously bringing others into the play with his ability to hold and pass the ball. Teal Bunbury is a good finisher and a scary striker when facing the goal, but his hold-up play is lacking. Without that key cog, the attack has fallen apart. Against the Caps, it looked as though Jay Heaps finally figured out how to stabilize the defense and shore up the midfield to prevent it from being overrun. The Revs truly had some really good attacking sequences in that match, even if their passing accuracy was still relatively poor. However, as soon as the ball got to those front-line attackers, the moves died. Either the players have to get in gear and learn to fit the system, or the system has to change.
Q: Retired goalkeeper Matt Reis, now a coach in LA, was a mainstay of the Revolution for many years. How has his replacement Bobby Shuttleworth done in the role and has he helped fans forget about Reis?
A: Well, Bobby actually took the role away from Reis for the first half of last season, so there's some latent confidence in him to get the job done. That said, Shuttleworth's form didn't hold out, and Reis took over for the second half of the year. Coming into this season, Bobby was expected to be locked into a goalkeeper battle with Brad Knighton, and a lot of fans felt that Brad was the clear winner in preseason. Still, Bobby got the start, and he's given up five goals in three matches.
Confidence really isn't high. Bobby has upside and his best qualities are good ones, but he's far from the elite class of MLS goalkeeper that Reis was. With Matt, you had a body of work to look back on that gave you confidence in him, even if he had a bad game. Reis received national team call-ups and backstopped three Eastern Conference Champion teams. That's the sort of confidence that you have to earn, and Bobby hasn't done that yet. He's had two months of good form in his entire career. At this point, he hasn't helped fans forget about anybody.