To preview the New England Revolution, we contacted Steve Stoehr of The Bent Musket to get his take on our enemies (far) up I-95.
Questions for The Bent Musket
B&RU: What were your hopes for Teal Bunbury after the New England Revolution traded for him, and how has he meet or not meet those expectations?
TBM: Everyone was hoping that Teal would replace Juan Agudelo's production and impact this season. No one expected him to do it all on his own, but we were thinking that maybe we've found a 10-goal scorer who can lead the line and scare opposing defenses, creating space for others. He definitely has not met those expectations, at least not yet. In four matches he hasn't scored a goal, and to be honest, he hasn't looked terrifically threatening in the process.
That said, Bunbury has played every minute of these first four matches, and he's coming off a couple of seasons where he didn't get much time and had to deal with injuries. He's also being deployed poorly; Jay Heaps is apparently married to his 4-1-4-1/4-3-3 scheme these days, and when Bunbury is the center-forward in that set, it limits his skill set. Bunbury isn't a target man, though he may have the size. He's much more threatening as a forward-facing striker, and probably functions better either as an inside-out winger in the 4-3-3 or as a partnered striker in a 4-4-2. He's not meeting expectations, but that's not necessarily his fault entirely.
B&RU: What happened to the Diego Fagundez of last year? Has the league figured him out, or is it something more simple to correct?
TBM: It's probably a bit of both, and also the loss of Agudelo. Diego looked amazing through most of last season, but he's a player who rarely takes hold of games and dominates. He's the kind of guy you'll watch disappear for long stretches before he suddenly pops up in the 86th minute with a moment of brilliance that scores or sets up a goal. So far, those moments just haven't happened yet. The league might have a better read on him this season and may be keying on him harder, but he's too good of a player to stay in a slump this long.
Also, again, you can't understate the loss of Agudelo. Fagundez played pretty well without him at times, but most of his best performances came with Juan on the pitch. In the system that Heaps runs, it's just so important to have that true #9 who can finish, pass, and hold the ball, depending on the situation. Diego needs it, too, so he can make those cutting runs from the wing and both craft and take opportunities.
And yeah, the whole league knows that Diego likes to cut inside when he receives the ball on the left. The fact that he hasn't figured out how NOT to do that every single damned time he gets the ball speaks to how young he still is.
B&RU: Do you believe that the Jose Gocalves situation has been solved, or do you expect it to pop back up again this year?
TBM: I think it's been solved for the time being, but I wouldn't be surprised to hear more about it later. There was a little bit of mudslinging going on in that situation that left us all a little unclear on how it unfolded and who was at fault, but I'm willing to bet that Jose was doing a little Euro-style leveraging in his effort to get a new deal. Yeah, maybe his agent thought they were promised something, or maybe someone in the front office made a careless comment that promised more than they could deliver, but Jose has a history of volatility over contracts and I just think he was posturing for more money.
The thing he needs to realize is that the Revs have never had any issues at all with cutting bait on a player that won't suit up for the money they plan on giving him. More than maybe any other team in the league, this team believes a player should honor his contract. Right now Jose's the second-highest-paid defender in the league, and I think Mike Burns and Brian Bilello would rather resign their positions than sign a defender to a DP deal, which is pretty much the next step for Goncalves. If he continues a trend of strong play, then yeah, I'd be willing to bet he asks for more money again, and yeah, there will be a problem. It probably won't happen till much later in the season, though, especially if the Revs are out of the playoff race.
B&RU: Give me an under-the-radar Revs player to watch out for this match.
TBM: Keep your eye on Andy Dorman. Last season he was used as a physical alternative to starting defensive midfielder Scott Caldwell, but so far this season it looks as though he's taken that starting spot away from Scotty and grabbed it with both hands. In Dorman's first tenure with the Revs back during the glory years of the mid-00s, he was an attacking threat who used good instincts to get into the box and score goals. Now that he's half a step slower of foot but all the wiser in experience, his presence in the deeper parts of the park has become invaluable. For that matter, he also offers an advantage of size in the middle that Caldwell simply can't match.
What you should see from him, if the last two matches are any indication, is simple and tidy play in midfield. He breaks up attacks and plays backboard for the attackers, firing off the short passes and resetting possession for everyone else. He has the capacity to play the killer pass and sometimes will, but his value definitely lies in the short game. However, the most dangerous element of his game is his nose for goal, which remains unchanged since his younger days. Dorman has a sneaky tendency to make late runs into the box and he's a definite scoring threat if opponents don't track him correctly. Also, his height makes him a menacing target on set pieces.
B&RU: Finally, let's have your projected starting XI and a scoreline prediction.
TBM: The injury report is going to make a big difference here, as it determines whether or not Kelyn Rowe can make an appearance. However, assuming he's out like last week (or even just too hurt to start), I think you'll see something like this:
(4-1-4-1/4-3-3, L to R): Bobby Shuttleworth; Chris Tierney, Jose Goncalves, A.J. Soares, Andrew Farrell; Andy Dorman; Diego Fagundez, Lee Nguyen, Daigo Kobayashi, Saer Sene; Teal Bunbury
Don't be surprised to see Charlie Davies get a start, though. I'm not sure who he'd replace, but he demonstrated real hunger and ability in his substitute appearance against San Jose. It would be a long shot, but it's not impossible.
As for a scoreline prediction, the Revs haven't been good at RFK in a while, but I don't think D.C. will snatch the win here. I see a 1-1 draw.
Questions for Black and Red United
TBM: So 0-2-1 must not have been the start you guys were hoping for after United's disastrous 2013 regular season. It appears that D.C. has a scoring problem, too, which is something the Revs can absolutely understand at this point. What's gone wrong so far that's lead to this opening to the season?
B&RU: So far, it has been taking time for the midfield to find itself and start working together properly, something which we saw the team progress on in the game against the Chicago Fire. Their relationship (or lack thereof) with the forwards was preventing any attacking play whatsoever. However, with the injury now to Luis Silva, at least one new player will have to be thrown into the mix. Hopefully, the progress made by Perry Kitchen and Nick DeLeon especially can continue and the introduction of a new player will be more seamless than before.
The other main problem is the defense, which has four new starers this year. They have not shown as much progress as the midfield so far in this short season, and the lack of speed of Jeff Parke and Bobby Boswell has not yet been balanced out by their soccer IQ and ability in the air. Christian, the new Spanish fullback, has also not yet lived up to his supposed pedigree.
TBM: Last season's D.C. set records for MLS futility. What were the biggest moves in the offseason that you believe will help keep that from happening again?
B&RU: The biggest moves were acquiring proven MLS veterans, such as Boswell, Parke, Fabian Esinpdola, Eddie Johnson, and Davy Arnaud. While these players most likely will not make D.C. United MLS Cup favorites overnight, they can help rebuild a mindset of winning and help mentor the younger players who will replace them in the next season or two.
TBM: D.C. just bought Chris Rolfe from Chicago. What do you think was the rationale behind the move, and how do you expect it to affect this weekend's match?
B&RU: D.C. United wanted Chris Rolfe in the Re-Entry Draft, and were going to take him in the second stage until he re-signed with the Chicago Fire. All of that is to say that I would caution reading too much into based on current injuries, such as to Chris Pontius and Luis Silva. However, with Pontius out at least another 8-12 weeks, the need for another attacker that can play both wide and centrally was obvious, especially for when Eddie Johnson is likely gone for the World Cup this summer.
I don't think he will necessarily start this game, but I think we will see him debut for D.C. United in the second half, replacing Davy Arnaud in central attacking midfield.
TBM: Give us an under-the-radar player Revs fans should watch out for in this match.
B&RU: Perry Kitchen will be a name that is familiar to New England fans, but he is the key to everything that D.C. United does. He took a step forward in the game against the Chicago Fire, combining his traditional break-up play with an ability to get forward and play the first pass that started many of United's attacks. His goal off of a scrum in the box was just the cherry on top of a great performance from the fourth-year player who is still only 22. Should he continue at this level throughout the season, he will get recognition throughout the Eastern Conference and the league.
TBM: Finally, let's have your projected starting XI and a scoreline prediction.
B&RU: Bill Hamid; Sean Franklin, Bobby Boswell, Jeff Parke, Christian; Perry Kitchen; Nick DeLeon, Davy Arnaud, Lewis Neal; Fabian Espindola, Eddie Johnson.
As it is a home game against another struggling team, I will go with my heart and predict a 2-1 win for United.