1. New England finished last season very well but just missed out on the playoffs, and have been pulled down by their away form so far this year. How optimistic are you that the current group is on the right track?
Optimism is maybe not the right phrase to use... however, I believe that the Revs are a playoff team and right now, being below the red line and winless on the road are major marks against the team. Despite that, I don't think New England are bad, so their current form can easily be solved by one of their patented hot streaks at some point during the year.
New England lives and dies by their streaks. Their form can be equally hot and cold at any point during the year. At some point, they will likely build on their home success and rattle off a fairly decent run of results and jump back into the East playoff picture. I believe that on any given day, the Revs can beat a team like TFC that is atop the East and Supporters’ Shield tables, but also on any given day they can lose at Colorado or something. It doesn't mean that the dropping a game like that means the Revs are bad, but they are who they are - a mostly inconsistent team who on any given day can score three or four or, likewise, allow three or four.
2. Like Toronto, the Revs have a head coach with a long MLS playing career behind him. How long will the leash be for Jay Heaps is the team doesn't stay in the playoff race this season?
I normally answer this question with a different question - who else can the Revs bring in that is better than Jay Heaps? Could the Krafts convince someone like Sigi Schmid to take over as first-team coach? Could another former Revs player, like longtime MLS assistant Steve Ralston, be a viable head coach? New England, for better or worse, enjoys a fairly stable platform for Heaps and their core players.
Guys like Rowe, Farrell, Nguyen and Fagundez have been around a long time and Heaps helped groom this side from a dismal rebuilding team all the way to an MLS Cup final. There isn't really a good reason to dump Heaps unless the Krafts think they're going to get someone significantly better as a head coach and honestly, New England doesn't just change coaches on a whim - not even the NFL’s Patriots. Steve Nicol was given ample time to save his job but was eventually let go. I think Heaps' job security in the short term is fine but again, this is a very talented Revs team that I think should be a playoff team. Missing the playoffs two years in a row, even just barely, might be enough for the Revs to move in a different direction.
3. Which lesser-known player should TFC fans be watching out for on the New England side?
It's hard to think of a TAM-level player to be lesser known, but Antonio Delamea is proving to be a solid MLS centre-back in his first few months in the league. The Slovenian just got recalled for national-team duty and deservedly so; he's been one of the few constants in the Revs lineup and an all-around solid player in 2017. Yes, David Villa kind of made him and the rest of the Revs’ back line look silly against NYCFC midweek, but Villa does that fairly often to a lot of teams.
You could also give a decent shout to Xavier Kouassi, who the Revs signed to a DP contract last summer but sadly tore his ACL late in the European club season and didn't make his MLS debut until this year. Kouassi scored the equalizer late at Yankee Stadium on Wednesday but also suffered a leg injury and has been ruled out for the TFC match. Diego Fagundez is a well known but had a great homestand a few weeks ago, scoring three times in two games against Real Salt Lake and Columbus, and while he hasn't been piling up the stats otherwise, he's arguably having his best season as a professional.
Lineup prediction (4-4-2 diamond): Cropper; Tierney, Angoua, Delamea, Farrell; Koffie; Caldwell, Rowe; Fagundez; Agudelo, Nguyen.
Gershon Koffie gets the start because of the Kouassi injury but for the most part this is the best Revs starting lineup. I don't love the idea of Lee Nguyen as a striker, but I'd rather have him up top than Kelyn Rowe at full-back. Juan Agudelo makes his first start after recovering from an injury but if it's Kei Kamara from the start or as an early second-half sub that's fine, too.
Prediction: Revs 2, Toronto 1. New England is very good at home and while TFC is still a threat without Bradley, Altidore and possibly Giovinco on the field, I'd like to think the Revs can grind this one out for a badly needed three points.