D.C. United has been fortunate to avoid the dreaded midweek games for much of the 2011 season, but here we have another game after just four days rest. Fortunately for us though, the New England Revolution have had one less day off. Nice scheduling, MLS. We exchanged questions with Steve Stoehr of the Bent Musket to learn more about our opponent.
B&RU: The Revolution were dominated by the Philadelphia Union just three days ago. Is there any reason to think things will be different for them on Wednesday night?
tBM:Honestly? No. The Revolution couldn't even muster the strength to dominate Toronto, or Vancouver when they held a man advantage. It pains me to say it, but New England is in a serious rut would be the understatement of the century. This team can't do anything right at the moment, and playing a match without Benny Feilhaber certainly won't help matters, even if he hasn't been the marquee contributor the fans were hoping for. United's youngsters can tear any team in this league to shreds on their day, and I have a feeling it will be pretty easy for them to have that day against a weak and demoralized New England side.
B&RU: New England fans seemed to have high hopes for Rajko Lekic when he was acquired. He's scored three times so far this season, but has he had as big an impact as you'd expected?
tBM: Another easy answer: no. Rajko's three goals have been welcome contributions (as any goals are when you're as offensively impotent as the Revs have been) but he was brought in with a pedigree and expectation of being a double-digit goalscorer who can be relied upon to hit the back of the net often. He has been anything but. There are a lot of factors in that which aren't his fault; inability to maintain possession, poor service, terrible decision-making in the final third, etc. However, it doesn't change the fact that he was brought here to score and he hasn't done it.
B&RU: With Benny Feilhaber serving a suspension, where will the creativity come from for the Revolution?
tBM: It will have to come from the wings and from Shalrie Joseph. This isn't very encouraging; although Shalrie certainly has the talent and ability to be a creative force, it isn't his greatest skill, and using him as a primary source for that sort of play hurts the team in many other ways. On the wings, only Chris Tierney has shown a consistent ability to pass and cross well from the outside, but he lacks the sort of ball skills and game-changing speed to be a true force, and no one else who plays out wide has the consistency or soccer intelligence to make a sustained impact. It's going to be a long match, I think.
B&RU: Will you still support the Revolution when they move to Atlanta/Memphis and change their name to the Dixie Wanderers?
tBM: I will not. Will you and your readers still support Baltimore United? ;)
B&RU: Obviously my answer is yes. United 'til I die.
tBM: DC is very much an enigma to me this year. They have a wealth of talent and at times play like world-beaters, but seem to suffer from maddening inconsistency and thus don't find themselves in the best position this year. Furthermore, they sport a very poor 2-2-5 home record. What do you think is the reason behind the up-and-down nature of DC's summer has been?
B&RU: Inconsistency is something you come to expect from a young team like ours. With two or three rookies starting on the backline on a regular basis, we aren't shocked at all to see a few rookie mistakes. Those should start to go away though in the second half of the season, and since this team is coming off two straight road shutouts, it appears that they may have gone away already. United has had a rough stretch of difficult opponents. Now entering a softer part of the schedule, the team needs to show that they don't just play to the level of the competition. They need to start beating teams with less talent than them.
tBM: The Dwayne De Rosario merry-go-round has apparently stopped off in the nation's capitol as he replaced Dax McCarty in a blockbuster trade. How does DeRo fit into this team's plans going forward, and do you believe he can finally find a stable home at RFK, like he had in San Jose/Houston?
B&RU: I do. Its telling that when the De Rosario trade happened, General Manager Dave Kasper said that he had basically just acquired Jaime Moreno. This team is huge on "Tradition." They're used to having a proven attacking midfielder leading the charge. That's what they had in Marco Etcheverry and Christian Gomez, and now that's what they have in De Rosario. He has a goal and an assist so far in three games with D.C., and I certainly expect that early success to continue.
tBM: Give us an under-the-radar player Revolution fans should watch out for?
B&RU: United's No. 3 overall pick Perry Kitchen had a breakout performance on Saturday against FC Dallas. I had never seen Brek Shea move from the left to the right for an entire half before, but he did it in that game to get away from Kitchen. If he can play like that consistently, then the early comparisons to Tim Ream will absolutely be justified.
tBM: Who do you think United fears most on the pitch for the Revolution?
B&RU: We fear Marko Perovic. We fear Benny Feilhaber. Since neither of them are playing, the only thing I fear is that United will enter this match overconfident.
tBM: Finally, let's have your projected starting XI and a scoreline prediction.
B&RU: For the most part, I think we'll see the slightly more attacking lineup that United used in the second half against Dallas. In my mind, that means De Rosario starting as a withdrawn forward behind Charlie Davies, with Fred da Silva at the top of a "T" shaped midfield, with Chris Pontius and Andy Najar on the wings, as Clyde Simms as the lone defensive midfielder. Its doubtful that Ben Olsen will mess with his backline after two straight clean sheets, so you'll probably see Kitchen, Ethan White, Brandon McDonald, and Daniel Woolard in defense, with Bill Hamid in goal. Final score: United 3, Dixie Wanderers 0.