With Sporting KC heading east to take on the New England Revolution this Saturday, I caught up with MLS editor for FoxSports.com, Kyle McCarthy, to preview the match. The match will kick off at 6:30 p.m. CT on Saturday with coverage available on KMCI (38 the Spot), SKCTV, Sports Radio 810 WHB, and La Gran D 1340 AM.
JF: New England will be without two defenders for Saturday's match (Jose Goncalves - injury, Kevin Alston - red card). How will these absences affect Saturday's match?
KM: It makes a difference. Goncalves provides a significant presence in central defense. He wins the ball off of a tackle and also provides cover if other players get beat. The Revs have a solid group of defensive players, but it's very difficult to replace a guy like Goncalves. Looking forward to Saturday, they will have to make some changes because Goncalves will be out and Kevin Alston is ruled out through his red card. They have the pieces in place to gather a solid back four, it's just difficult to keep changing in that part of the field.
JF: What are you thoughts on the Revolution's season so far?
KM: It's taken the Revs a while to find themselves. They succeeded last year because they were able to establish this fluidity in possession and some potency in the final third. Their style of play requires a significant understanding between all of the players. The continued changes in the lineup due to injury have really impacted how they've been able to attack opposing teams. The absence of Juan Agudelo has posed a problem. The knocks to Lee Nguyen and Kelyn Rowe have disrupted the rhythm as well. That being said, the Revs have managed to pocure results along the way and that's been important for them. It seems to me, the best of this Revolution team is in front of them this year.
JF: The most familiar name on New England's roster for Sporting KC fans is forward Teal Bunbury (traded to NE from SKC in February). How has his transition to New England been this season?
KM: Revolution coach Jay Heaps has asked Bunbury to play as the lone striker in his 4-1-4-1 setup. Bunbury is capable of filling that role. He's good enough technically and he possesses the pace to stretch a team in behind. But it's taken the Revs a while to figure out how to provide him with the right type of service. He isn't a straight swap for Juan Agudelo, who played in that role last year and operated a little bit more in front of the line. Bunbury hasn't received the exact sort of service that you would want him to receive in order to place him in a position to be most effective. Bunbury will want to find a way to make more of an imprint on games going forward. It's just a matter of him settling in with his teammates and the Revs getting everybody that they want on the field at once.
JF: How do you expect New England to approach the match and specifically handle the high pressure from Sporting KC?
KM: Revolution coach Jay Heaps said on Wednesday that he knew his side needed to deal with the pressure that Sporting Kansas City would bring and that's a difficult assignment. The Revs will be playing with a different group at the back and they're going to have to find their footing quickly because Sporting won't allow them to settle into the game. From the Revolution's perspective, it's a matter of figuring out how to play out of the back quickly and effectively, and them moving the ball up the field in a way to relieve that pressure against a team that is very good at exerting it.
JF: How do you see the matchup of Sporting KC's attack (Feilhaber, Zusi, Dwyer) against a Revolution back line who will be without two starters?
KM: It's a match-up where Sporting can obtain an advantage if everyone plays up to their usual standards. Dwyer up top played very well against Montreal. He presents a thorn in the side of any defense. His work rate is simply fantastic. He forces defenders into bad spots and he makes them work for 90 minutes. The key for Dwyer is can he makes sure he converts on goal? I think you saw, he's more than capable of doing that against the Impact. He poses a significant threat to the Revolution back four. As for Benny Feilhaber and the rest of the Sporting midfield, I think that it's an interesting challenge for them heading into this match against the Revolution. You've essentially got three-versus-three in central midfield. When Sporting is placed into those sorts of circumstances, they tend to come out on top more often than not. The strength of that trio in the center of the park has really frustrated opposing teams. I think that Benny Feilhaber will be up for this one.
JF: What are you expecting to see from Saturday's match?
KM: I expect both teams to have their runs in the game. You look at Sporting Kansas City and you see a team that is able to unsettle the opposition and is able to get the ball down the flank and is able to punish opposing teams when they giveaway set pieces. The onus is going to be on the Revolution to establish a solid foundation at the outset of this game. There will be changes in the back and they will have to make sure that they keep their concentration for 90 minutes to ensure that that pressure doesn't exert the sort of toll that it has in the past.