Jake from The Bent Musket was kind enough to talk to us about the New England Revolution and what we can expect from the Revs this weekend. You can find our answers to The Bent Musket’s questions here.
1. The Revs sit in last in the Eastern Conference. Are the first two matches indicative of the team this season or is it too early to tell?
It's definitely too early to tell, but at the very least the Revs seem far more organized and capable on the defensive side of the ball. Aside from letting Maxi Urruti's ten-minute stretch in Dallas last week, the new centerbacks for New England in Antonio Delamea and Benjamin Angoua have done very well in the first two games of the year. Losing a pair of one goal games to FC Dallas and the Colorado Rapids is nothing to be ashamed about, although the Revs offense has left a lot to be desired.
The only New England goal this year has come via a Lee Nguyen penalty and the Revs in particular weren't happy with the way they played after that early goal in Dallas. The Revs were able to initially control that game but eventually sat back and failed to generate anything offensively until Urriti's two quick goals put them behind. New England isn't a team that should be sitting back and inviting pressure since they thrive at pushing the pace and pressing teams a bit when they don't have the ball. We'll see if they can get back on track in their home opener.
2. What can you tell us about Bobby Shuttleworth that we might not know? What can we expect from him? Why did he fall down the depth chart with the Revs?
Bobby Shuttleworth's form in early 2013 and most of 2014 was that of a borderline All-Star and if the MLS still had an East-West format, I could've made a very good case to include Shuttleworth on the East team during that stretch. Shuttleworth effectively replaced the legendary Matt Reis twice, once during the 2013 season after the Boston Marathon bombings that injured Reis father-in-law John Odom and then to start 2014 after Reis' retirement as a player. While Bobby didn't have as strong of a year in 2015, he wasn't by any stretch bad.
That did change last season and while Shuttleworth didn't do himself a lot of favors with his play, his defense also constantly put him in bad spots. Bobby was averaging closer to two goals a game allowed in MLS play last year while backup Brad Knighton was averaging a little over one goal a game and used a stellar run in the US Open Cup to grab the starting job late in 2016. With the arrival of Cody Cropper as the Revs #1 goalkeeping option, Shuttleworth was put on the trade block and found a new home in Minnesota. It's rare to see a keeper with Shuttleworth's resume available in MLS, but that's how bad it got for the Revs last year. As a defensive unit, the backline and goalkeeper, there were a lot of changes needed after a major regression in 2016.
At his best, Shuttleworth is a solid MLS starting keeper, and more than capable as a backup. Bobby's only real issue has been consistency and wild swings in form on the field. When he's good, you'd leave him alone for months at a time. When he's bad, you'll be waiting for him to make that one killer save to keep his team in the game and it just won't happen. Sadly for Bobby, he went from a defense that was bad last year to one that might be worse this year. I hope The Fort offers him a positive response on his return this weekend because I think he more than deserves it for filling the shoes of a club legend for the better part of four years.
3. Which players should MNUFC fans keep an eye on and why?
Well, you should already know a lot of the usual names in Nguyen, Kelyn Rowe, Diego Fagundez, Juan Agudelo and Kei Kamara.
However, the newest and perhaps most exciting new addition for the Revs actually signed over a year ago, but just made his first appearance last week. Xavier Kouassi is a holding midfielder the Revs signed as a Designated Player last year on a pre-contract, but he suffered an ACL tear while finishing the European season with Swiss club FC Sion.
Kouassi was supposed to be the replacement for Jermaine Jones last year, but his injury means he'll be replacing Gershon Koffie who the Revs acquired via trade to fill the void last year. Like his predecessors, Kouassi is an athletic and aggressive holding mid who's not afraid to get physical or get yellow cards. While we haven't seen him at full strength yet, his technical ability is very strong and as he continues to recover from his serious injury, he will likely only get better on the field.
4-4-2 Diamond - Cody Cropper; Chris Tierney, Benjamin Angoua, Antonio Delamea, Andrew Farrell; Diego Fagundez, Xavier Kouassi, Lee Nguyen, Kelyn Rowe; Juan Agudelo, Kei Kamara
Backup keeper Brad Knighton is off the injury report and would likely be available off the bench to replace Cropper if needed. The only thing that might be different is Nguyen has been lining up at striker with Agudelo at the top of the diamond. This hasn't really worked for the Revs in the first two games but Jay Heaps might give it a go again in the first home game.
The Revs need this one badly, and while I don't think they'll run up the score like Portland or Atlanta, I think it's a comprehensive win for New England.
Prediction: Revs 3-1