Waking The Red: After a pretty ugly start to the season, things are picking up with 8 points in the last 5 games and a win in Houston no less. What's been the secret to that improvement?
The Bent Musket: I think the key there has been Jay Heaps settling on one consistent formation and system. The lineup still gets shuffled, but moving to a 4-1-4-1 that puts Lee Nguyen and Kelyn Rowe together in the middle has really transformed this squad. They still don't always play silky-smooth attacking soccer, but it allows Heaps to get his best attacking talent on the field and has really opened up the game of those two players.
Of course, it's also had a positive effect on Diego Fagundez. It took him long enough, but Heaps has finally realized that Diego plays best as a creative winger, and with two goals in his last two games, the kid is showing it. He gives good width to the squad, but it's his unpredictability and instincts that really show through when he gets a chance to attack from the flank. Take his goal last week against Houston; he made a cross-field lateral run, played the short passes on the right flank, and then turned a 35-yard half circle before playing a one-two with Clyde Simms and scoring. It's incredibly difficult for teams to pick up that kind of movement, and he brings it every day.
WTR: Continuing with the improvement theme, after a poor first season results wise, how are things progressing under Jay Heaps? Are fans and management happy? Is there pressure on him to deliver this season, or are the Revs going for the long term stable rebuild thing?
TBM: Despite recent improvements, results are still mixed. The start to the season was really disappointing, although the defensive performances have been mostly excellent. The Revs still have issues with slow starts sometimes, and have had one or two concentration lapses late in games as well. Problems like that always point back to coaching, so there are red flags there. Still, it's a results-based business, and if Heaps can keep the Revs in the playoff conversation this year I think fans and management will be happy.
That isn't to say there's no pressure on him. He's under tremendous fan pressure, that's for sure, and I think the organization will turn the screws if they have to this year. If this finishes up as another dismal, down-and-out season, I'm not sure he stays.
WTR: Andrew Farrell. TFC could have taken him, but passed up the pick for allocation. How is he looking so far, and what do you think his future holds?
TBM: He's been fantastic. Absolutely fantastic. He's got speed, smarts, technical skill, and great defensive instincts. He's also a great kid with a great attitude, and he learns fast. His crossing leaves something to be desired, which leads me to believe an eventual move the center of defense might be on the cards, but his future is incredibly bright. He might end up a member of the US National Team for the next World Cup cycle. He's really that good.
WTR: Saer Sene and Jerry Bengtson aren't really getting it done scoring wise so far, is Chad Barrett going to be given a chance to take a spot up front, or does the arrival of Juan Agudelo just push him further down the ranks? Were Revs fans happy with the Agudelo trade?
TBM: I think Barrett might be on his way out. Some of the tweets he's sent, the fact that he's not even making bench appearances anymore despite being healthy, all of those things point to a souring relationship and would indicate that his days are numbered. That said, the recent benching of Jerry Bengtson could breathe new life into Barrett's New England career, since Jerry's DP contract hits the cap harder than Barrett's. If this is a sign that the Bengtson era is quickly coming to a close in New England, Chad might be around a bit longer.
The Agudelo trade has been very well-received here, and we're all happy to have him in Foxboro. He showed some of what he can bring to the table on Saturday against Houston, forcing the own-goal, and if he can reclaim some of the form that made him such a hot prospect just a few years ago, I think he'll give the Revs a real lift this season. His arrival also seemed to indicate Barrett would be on his way out. If not him, then someone. For once the Revs have plenty of depth up top (though production remains an issue), but it's expensive depth. I'm just not sure Chad (or Jerry) will fit into the future if Sene hits full fitness and Agudelo pans out.
WTR: Predicted starting lineup and score
TBM: Lineup will probably be, in a 4-1-4-1 R to L: Bobby Shuttleworth; Andrew Farrell, Darrius Barnes, Jose Goncalves, Chris Tierney; Kalifa Cisse; Diego Fagundez, Kelyn Rowe, Lee Nguyen, Juan Toja; Jerry Bengtson
Injuries and suspensions make this difficult. Barnes could end up at left-back if A.J. Soares (questionable) is good to go, or out of the lineup entirely. If Simms is able to go he might start over Cisse. If Agudelo is 100% (or even if he's not), he might start up top or even on the left, or Sene if he's up to it. Kelyn Rowe might not be able to go the full 90 and might not start, and if that happens, we could see more changes. Out of eleven names here, only five or six are automatic.
I predict the score to be 2-0 Revs. Defense has been solid, offense is finding its feet, and I think it's high time we got a win over you guys at home. Knock on wood.
Thanks Steve. For my answers to his questions, click here, and then check out all the rest of their pre game coverage for the New England view of the game.