The LA Galaxy and New England Revolution face off for their only time in 2013 regular season play this weekend, with the Revs hosting a Galaxy squad without Omar Gonzalez and Robbie Keane. To get a sense of what's going on up in Foxboro, we asked five questions of Steve Stoehr at The Bent Musket. As always, my answers to his questions can be found here.
1. The Revs picked up Juan Agudelo from Chivas USA. The youngster has been passed around more than mom's Brandy at a high school party; do you think he's finally found a home in New England?
TBM: Well, two goals in two games would suggest that he's settling in nicely, something I also wrote about recently. Still, it's too early to say whether or not Agudelo has really made himself at home here. There's still the rumor that he wants to leave MLS after his contract is up, or at least get a DP contract. No matter how settled he seems, it's going to be difficult to decide one way or another as long as he's got that hovering over him.
I think the big issue he had before was that he was encouraged to run before he could crawl. One minute he was putting in promising performances in his first professional appearances, and then all of a sudden he was a national team regular and the future of the American striker position. For an 18-year old kid, that can go to your head really quickly. He probably went through a period of time where he thought he was untouchable, and suffered for it. That's a learning experience, and luckily for him he still has plenty of time to recover.
Will he recover in New England? Time will tell. But, like I said before, two goals in two games certainly indicates some level of success, that's for sure.
2. Jerry Bengston leaves for international duty soon. How is New England's Designated Player doing these days?
TBM: Jerry's been a non-factor, unless you count how he's factored into the disappointment of the Revolution fans, and probably the coaches and players, too, though they'd never admit it. His goal in the Open Cup against Rochester on Tuesday was his first since the season opener back on March 9th. Since then he's made 9 more appearances and scored zero goals. He only has 15 shots on the year, with just 6 of those ending up on goal.
In fact, he's played so poorly that Dimitry Imbongo has started over him. No disrespected to Imbongo, who is a big, strapping target type who will work hard on and off the ball for his teammates, but that says more about Bengtson's ineptitude than any lengthy statistical analysis ever could. Imbongo has trouble hitting the broad side of a barn at times, but even he's been more of a threat than Jerry.
I just don't think it really warrants consideration to think about Jerry's replacement while he's on international duty. Unless an injury crisis hits the forward line, guys like Imbongo, Agudelo, and Saer Sene will just continue to get the job done, as they have been for the last six games or so. Plus there's Diego Fagundez, of course, scoring goals at will.
3. Who do you prefer between McCarthy and Soares for pairing next to Goncalves?
TBM: It's a tough call. Both players have offsetting beneficial attributes, and at various times in their careers, each player has played like an MLS All-Star out there. I think, in the end, I'd have to be happier with A.J. Soares out there. He's a more complete defender with more upside, I think, and he's greatly benefited from Goncalves' leadership and poise. His positioning and anticipation are miles ahead of where McCarthy is.
On the other hand, he's not all that strong in the air (defensively, at least; he's scored a few headed goals in his time here) and his distribution has been lacking, especially this year. Those are areas in which McCarthy excels. However, with Goncalves next to him (an aerial beast and calm passer) and also Farrell at right back (great ups and surprising technical skill), Soares' deficiencies in those areas are pretty well covered by his teammates. It's tougher to cover for deficiencies in positioning and anticipation - those tend to leave your teammates high and dry, which McCarthy has done once or twice this season.
4. Back in November, New England grabbed two players from the English lower divisions. How are they working out for the Revs?
TBM: I assume you mean Kalifa Cisse and Andy Dorman. I'd say the both of them have been adequate, but maybe not quite up to expectations. Cisse is a guy you expect to come in and immediately stake his claim at defensive midfield, commanding the center and dominating MLS teams with poise and power. He's done that once or twice, but hasn't shown the consistency we wanted. On his game, he's one of the best holding midfielders in MLS, a destroyer who can also distribute and organize. When he's off his game, he's either not playing (which has happened inexplicably more than once) or he's giving a way silly fouls and suffering from miscommunication with his teammates. He's never played poorly, but again, he hasn't quite been that A-level presence I think we expected, or that his salary indicates he should be.
As for Andy Dorman, he's hardly an unknown quantity. He played four seasons with the Revs, and was a part of three of the four MLS Cup Finals teams that the Revs had in the 2000s. In 2007 he was the team's second-leading goal scorer behind Twellman. Somewhat shockingly, though, he hasn't really been deployed as an attacking threat. When he gets time in games, it's usually in the middle, with a mandate to sit deep and help control the game's flow. I'm not sure that's his best role, to be honest, and it's produced some quiet performances. He hasn't been awful, but he isn't wowing anybody with what he's managed to accomplish so far. He certainly doesn't look the same player that was tearing up MLS defenses in 2006-07, but he's older now, too. He scored in the Open Cup win on Tuesday, though.
5. Starting lineup and scoreline prediction?
TBM: 4-1-4-1, L to R: Shuttleworth; Tierney, Goncalves, Soares, Farrell; Cisse; Agudelo, Rowe, Nguyen, Fagundez; Bengtson
There are some caveats there. Dimitry Imbongo and Clyde Simms, two guys who would have a real good chance at a starting spot normally, are out. However, looking back at the Open Cup game, it's possible that Cisse won't start because he played in Rochester, which would indicate that Scott Caldwell would probably start in defensive midfield. Also, it wouldn't be unusual to see Juan Agudelo start up top, with either Saer Sene or Juan Toja manning the left wing, or even Ryan Guy, who is questionable on the injury report. Conversely, Sene himself could get the start at striker after going 45 minutes in Rochester.
I predict a 1-1 draw. LA is incredibly strong, but I think the defense can tough this one out and limit an offense that lacks Robbie Keane, and the way that Fagundez, Agudelo, and Lee Nguyen have been playing, an Omar Gonzalez-less defense is going to have nightmares in Foxboro.