D.C. United takes to the road tomorrow night with the chance to start the season with six points off the bat. This one against the New England Revolution isn't likely to be as easy as last week's victory over the Columbus Crew though.
B&RU: Will Steve Nicol try to win this game? Or just try not to lose like Landon Donovan said he did in LA?
TBM: Donovan's comments were obviously the petulant complaints of someone frustrated at not winning. Four appearances in the MLS Cup finals flies directly in the face of his statement that Steve Nicol-coached teams don't try to win. The Revs wanted to win on Sunday but were more than satisfied with a road point against one of the toughest teams in the league, as most sides would be when they aren't at home. That said, the Revs will definitely be looking to win at home against D.C.
B&RU: Give us an update on Marko Perovic, Ousmane Dabo, and Didier Domi. They all missed at least a portion of last week’s match due to injuries. Will they play against D.C., and if so, what should we watch out for?
TBM: Last time I heard, Perovic will be unavailable for Saturday with a hamstring complaint. Dabo will also have to wait at least another week for his MLS debut as he works to recover from a quad strain. Domi, however, is available for selection and should be expected to line up at left back. He brings confidence, skill and experience to a very young defense and should stabilize the left-back position in a way that it hasn't been in a few seasons now.
B&RU: Do you consider United to be New England's biggest rival? Because honestly, you're not even in our top four.
TBM: No, I don't. I think a lot was made in the early going of MLS about the rivalry on the "I-95 Corridor" in an attempt to generate intriguing subplots and sort of manufacture derbies in American soccer, which contributes to the persistent notion that the Revs and United are massive rivals. There's certainly no love lost for D.C. here in New England, but in recent years the Revs have developed more animosity with teams like Chicago, Houston and (arguably) LA. There is also a burgeoning rivalry with Philadelphia that stems back to the 2007 MLS Cup final when Philly fans attended the match and heckled Revs supporters, but whether or not that is reflected on the field remains to be seen. D.C. is certainly a rival, but not on an extreme level.
My answers to the Bent Musket's questions about United are after the break.
TBM: What do you think of the team's performance last Saturday? How much of it was down to a surprisingly weak Columbus team and how much was D.C.'s dominance?
B&RU: Yeah, I think it was a little of both. The Crew certainly made some odd roster and tactical decisions that were working against them. I expected a much closer game. Here's what I was most impressed with though: this was the type of match that United would have lost in 2010. They dominated possession in the first half and had far more chances than their opponents, but they failed to finish. If this was 2010, United would have given up two early goals in the second half and lost. But in 2011, they scored two early goals in the second half and won. Watch out.
TBM: How important was it for Charlie Davies to get those goals? Do you think he's poised to be a force in MLS this season?
B&RU: Lots of folks will say that the two goals were critically important for Davies' confidence. I disagree. The kid has been fully confident in his own abilities for months. I think it was more important for him to make a statement to the U.S. Soccer community as a whole: I'm back. Hopefully we can see some consistency from Davies, because he certainly has the potential to be a force in MLS.
TBM: Give me an under-the-radar player New England fans should watch out for in this match.
B&RU: Rookie center back Perry Kitchen is out this week with the U.S. U-20 National Team, and will be replaced by Uruguayan defender Rodrigo Brasesco, who filled in for an injured Jed Zayner in the second half for United last week. There shouldn't be any drop-off in defending, but Brasesco is also a known aerial threat on free kicks and corners.
TBM: Who do you think DC fears the most on the pitch for the Revs?
B&RU: I still have nightmares about Kenny Mansally's two-goal performance at RFK in 2010. That was Week 2 last year. This year United's team is much younger and faster, but still has some questions in the back with improving but still slow Marc Burch likely to start on the left, and inexperienced rookie Chris Korb on the right.
TBM: Finally, let's get your projected starting XI and a prediction.
B&RU: Pat Onstad, in the twilight of his career, will reprise his role in net. The defense will probably include Dejan Jakovic, Brasesco, Burch, and Korb. The midfield is likely to be a repeat of last week with (left to right) Chris Pontius, Dax McCarty, Clyde Simms, and Andy Najar. Finally, Davies should be set to earn his first start this week, and will be joined by Josh Wolff. I'm a bit worried about our defense, which wasn't really tested last week, but I think United will be able to manage a tie. A 1-1 final seems like the best bet.