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How You Doin'? New England Revolution

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Steve Stoehr of The Bent Musket stops by for a chat prior to Saturday's match in New England

The Fort celebrate a 1-0 win over TFC last season, will they be joyous once more come Saturday night?
The Fort celebrate a 1-0 win over TFC last season, will they be joyous once more come Saturday night?
Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

Continuing Waking the Red's build in the ninth game of the 2015 season, WTR exchanged some questions with Steve Stoehr of SB Nation's New England Revolution site, The Bent Musket, to shed some light on the opponent from their perspective.

Question the First
Clubs such as Toronto, who constantly struggle to field a solid back-line, can look on in envy at the assembly of talent Jay Heaps has at his disposal, including two young starlets in Andrew Farrell and London Woodberry, who, should their progress continue, can be assets for years to come. Add in the ever-solid and dangerous Chris Tierney on the left and a handful of useful back-ups/role-players in Kevin Alston and Darius Barnes, and one can lean back, comfortable. That said, if there is one concern it is the centre-back sized hole that has recently been filled by moving Jermaine Jones into defense. Has the club adequately solidified that position? Was the loss of AJ Soares really that big of a deal?

When the squad is fully healthy, yes, they solved the position. With Jose Goncalves battling injuries and Darrius Barnes out for most, if not all, of the season? No, they never filled that gap, and yeah, losing A.J. Soares was that big of a deal. You have to understand the dynamic of the center-backs to understand why Soares was so important, apart from his obvious quality. Jose Goncalves is a center-back who is not afraid to step to the ball or push forward into midfield on an unexpected run. He takes risks, and often he is rewarded.

Just as often, he can be caught out as he wanders away from home. That's where Soares came in. A.J. also had the ball skills and ambition to go forward, but he was judicious with it and smart enough to realize that he had to play clean-up for Jose when the latter wanted to push up. Soares' positioning was impeccable, his feet were great, and he was lethal in the air. He just had a seamless way of combining with any center-back next to him.

There were issues early in the season when Andrew Farrell and Goncalves were paired up, because they are very alike. Farrell is all energy, all movement, no positioning. When you put that with Goncalves, who is at his best when allowed some freedom, you get a defense that sometimes has no defenders in it. Farrell has settled down into something approaching the Soares role, but of course, he had to re-learn his partner's tendencies when Jones moved into defense for Goncalves. In short, the Revs are missing one more central defender who can slide in and play the straight man foil to Farrell or Goncalves' wild tendencies, and they should probably find him soon.


Question the Second

Lee Nguyen has struggled to find the form that made him an MVP-candidate last season. The rest of the side has stepped up, for the most part, but aside from Charlie Davies and perhaps Kelyn Rowe and Teal Bunbury, the rest of that frightening attack has yet to really click entirely. Is it a case of too many weapons? Or them not coalescing into a fully functional unit? Is the team not set up for Nguyen's domination in the centre, given the increasing importance width plays in the attack? Or has he just been waiting to take out his pent-up frustrations on Toronto?

Well, hopefully he's been waiting for Toronto! In seriousness, though, there are a lot of moving parts. For one, the Revs under Jay Heaps are a team that doesn't seem to find its complete stride until about August. Until then, they seem to be streaky more often than not. Secondly, there are definitely a lot of cooks in this kitchen, and it can be tough to get them all in positions to succeed in Jay Heaps' current system. Juan Agudelo, for example, is a striker through and through, no matter what he or Heaps might try to tell you. Unfortunately for Agudelo, you simply cannot justify sitting Charlie Davies at this time, so in order to keep Agudelo on the field, he gets bumped wide. As a winger, Agudelo can be dangerous, but he's not at his best, and thus he hasn't really clicked yet.

As for Nguyen, it's probably a combination of three things. One, there's going to be increased pressure and focus on him from other teams. That's a natural outgrowth of having an MVP-caliber season. Teams will work to contain him and that will result in a production decrease, more than likely. Plus, he hasn't had Jermaine Jones in midfield protecting him and relieving some of that pressure on him, which was a big part of Nguyen's success in the stretch run of last season. Two, he's been upset and distracted over his contract situation. It turns out that while he's arguably the team's best player, he's unarguably not paid like it, and he isn't happy. Three, the honest truth is that he's probably not an 18-goal player. Lee had the midas touch last year, scoring almost every time he found himself a chance. I think Lee's got the right stuff to be a consistent double-digit goalscorer with a handful or more assists, but another season like 2014 is probably not going to happen.


Question the Third
New England looks to be a contender for the Eastern crown, and perhaps even the Supporters Shield, this season. DC and New England are a class above, with Columbus and New York, the Red Bull one, seem to be set to battle it out for the top four places. What, if anything, could derail those aspirations?

Well, if Lee Nguyen doesn't get going, I don't think the Revs will be challenging for the Shield, at least. I think this is a playoff team no doubt, but if the defensive depth issue isn't solved so that Jones can return to midfield, I think that also hurts this team enough to take the out of Eastern Conference title contention.

It's just important that this team stays consistent throughout 2015. Since Heaps took over in 2012, the team has followed a formula of slow start, red-hot April/May, summer slump, strong finish. Every year. Each year they got better, but the pattern remained the same. This season they need to avoid the summer slump and be less reliant on a strong finish if they want to really challenge for those top honors. D.C. just plays so efficiently and gets results, and of course there are the top dogs in the West to worry about in the Shield race. The Revs can't afford to slip.


Barbed Question
Normally this would be a chance to poke a little fun at the dreadful, injury-hazard that is the pitch at Gillette Stadium or to ask when, if ever, is the team going to move out of that soulless, cavernous stadium into a proper one, but given how fragile TFC is feeling these days, instead a plea: How about taking it easy on Toronto this weekend? New England has some big games coming up, doesn't this weekend seem like a good time to rest most of the first team? Please have pity – the Revolution still owe Toronto for the injury to Danny Koevermans a few years back after all.

Yeah, man, poor Danny. I always liked watching him in MLS. Well, look, we can't take it easy on you. But really, you shouldn't be asking for handouts. You guys have Michael Bradley, Jozy Altidore, and Sebastian Giovinco. There's enough talent in just those three to win this game, let alone the supporting pieces like Cheyrou. TFC is not a club that is anywhere near as bad as the record suggests, and frankly, this match scares me. So no! You will get no pity!


Many thanks to Steve for spending some time with Waking the Red – he can be followed on Twitter @Stoehrst – and be sure to check out all the latest Revolution news over at The Bent Musket.

WTR's responses to their questions can be found here