Portland Timbers vs. New England Revolution Preview; A Chat With The Bent Musket

FOXBORO, MA - MAY 7: Benny Feilhaber #22 of New England Revolution reacts to an official's call during a game against the Colorado Rapids at Gillette Stadium on May 7, 2011 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

With the Portland Timbers grabbing an away point from the Philadelphia Union this past week, the Timbers are still very much in the play-off race. Despite a rough series of away games coming up, they're in a much better position given that point as well as a series of other fortunate final scores from the weekend. Three points would have been ideal, of course, but, while the Timbers have their work cut out for them, some are already predicting the Timbers will make it this year...

That's far more than anybody can say about New England. The original MLS side has been struggling of late and, despite some impressive performances against Philly and FC Dallas, are pretty much out of the play-off picture at this point. Their goal now is to ensure they make it next year and that all starts by winning games now. Make no mistake, they won't be planning on making it an easy ride for the Timbers...

In preparation of tomorrow's match, I was lucky enough to be able to speak with Steve Stoehr from the Bent Musket to figure out what's going on with the Revolution as the Timbers get ready to take them on:

Stumptown Footy: So New England's on a bit of a hot streak right now. Going to Philly and playing a thrilling 4-4 game and then winning against FC Dallas 2-nil. What's that about?

Steve Stoehr: The first game is all about poor second-half tactics, really.

Obviously, the offense has found some rhythm and is hitting a couple of teams pretty hard where it hurts, which is encouraging. But for a while there, the Revs were blowing leads like Garry O'Connor at a nightclub.

I mean obviously, against Dallas, they figured things out, but the worrisome part was that it took so long. Time after time the coaching staff was making these ludicrous defensive substitutions way early in the second half, and the team would start to turtle up ten minutes after going up a goal. You can't win that way, but against Dallas, they kept at it and pulled out the win.

SF: So would you say at this point the Revs play-off hopes are dashed?

Steve: I've been saying that for weeks

SF: Then obviously, the remaining games are all about planning for next season. Who is doing the right stuff? Who needs to go?

Steve: It's only been two games, but Monsef Zerka is a monster. He's got a great head on his shoulders, he has to stay. Matt Reis is reinventing himself. Seriously, he looks ten years younger out there. He has to stay. The usual suspects look good, too: Benny Feilhaber, Chris Tierney, Darrius Barnes all look great right now. Rajko Lekic has surprised me, he's coming on very strong at the close season. And of course A.J. Soares. You can't say enough about him.

But really, the major issue to this is twofold:

One, there are too many guys who shouldn't be here, or guys who should be playing better: Alston, Cochrane, Coria, Nyassi, Schilawski, Phelan, McCarthy. Not to mention guys who are flat out bad, like Zak Boggs, for instance

The second part is Shalrie Joseph. He's the best, but his contract is up, and he's expensive and aging. I doubt the Krafts will re-sign him, which will be devastating.

SF: Speaking of Feilhaber, I've heard some Revs fans calling him Failhaber. Is there any discord between him and the fans? Is he not performing like he was expected to? Obviously not counting the last two games where he obviously played well enough to get an assist and a goal...

Steve: You know, that's tough on him. He had an adjustment period to deal with. Not only entering MLS, but entering one of the worst teams in one of the worst environments in the league.

He started out strong, but kept getting shunted out wide left or wide right instead of being played centrally where he's comfortable, and his frustration with that, the level of talent around him, lack of quality officiating, and general crappiness of his situation just caught up with him, I think.

He's been recovering lately. Things are looking up, his performances are getting better again, and I think he's adapted to his surroundings. Next year, if he stays, will be his breakout year. And frankly, even at his worst, he still wasn't bad.

SF: Is there reason for him not to stay? Was his contract only for a single year?

Steve: No, I'm fairly certain it's multi-year. But you know as well as I do that if a player doesn't want to be somewhere, they can find ways to leave. The Revs would be all too happy to unload a $300k salary.

SF: Very true. So speaking of Joseph and contracts ending. Is the New England captain on his way out? Has he not performed as well this season?

Steve: He's been stupendous this season, as in every season. I don't think he wants to leave and I don't want to believe he's leaving, but, there's been no word of a contract extension or even any negotiations, and he's done at the end of this year. With the way the Revs penny-pinch all the time, what else can we expect?

It happened to all the core pieces of the MLS Cup squads except Twellman, Heaps, Joseph and Reis
And Heaps/Reis weren't expensive.


SF: And just one more thing, since he's a home town guy, how has Ryan Cochrane performed this year? I know the Houston Dynamo fans were never very pleased with him.

Steve: He's been up and down. Good performances (including against Dallas this past weekend, where he set up the second goal) mixed in with some pretty atrocious ones. Overall, though, I can't say he's been too bad. No worse than advertised, and maybe a little better.

SF: Predicted starting line up?

Steve: Hm. 4-4-2, right to left
Matt Reis; Kevin Alston, AJ Soares, Ryan Cochrane, Darrius Barnes; Monsef Zerka, Shalrie Joseph, Benny Feilhaber, Chris Tierney; Rajko Lekic, Milton Caraglio

--

Once again super thanks to Steve for taking time to discuss the team a little bit. I look forward to see some of these guys play tomorrow night!

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