It remains a little difficult to judge an opponent when we're still only two solid games into the season. Still, I don't think anybody expected the New England Revolution do have done as well as they have so far, despite the amount of games played thus far. If there was a single team from 2010 that was expected to do poorly it was New England. For a team coming off a poor season, they made almost no player movements and brought in only a couple of youngsters to fill in the gaps.
Despite this, New England came away with a win against east coast rival D.C. United and then went on to tie a game against the Los Angeles Galaxy away from home, a team which is largely expected to be a contender for both the Supporters Shield and MLS Cup this year, despite a 4 - 1 shellacking at Rio Tinto Stadium against Real Salt Lake.
So for anybody who is still holding on to the pre-season feelings about the New England Revolution, now's the time to drop them. This team should prove a more challenging opponent than either Toronto FC or Chivas USA.
Shalrie Joseph and Midfield Problem
My biggest worry heading into tomorrow's match up continues to be focused on the midfield. New England has a very important player leading their midfield. Shalrie Joseph has been with the New England Revolution for a number of years now and has consistently lead their team to victory. He is the primary driver behind the team and the main reason why they have done well so far this season.
By contrast our own midfield is still lacking that magic, creative piece that drives the strikers towards being able to actually score. Barring some miraculous change, or player announcement I foresee New England dominating the midfield in this match. It will be up to our defensive line to hold as best they can and orchestrate counters whenever possible.
Keep in mind that New England are expected to play a 4-5-1 formation tomorrow which means not only will our midfield be outclassed, but we'll also be outnumbered.
Didier Domi, New England's Newest Left Back
Speaking of defensive back lines, Steve Stoehr of The Bent Musket (SB Nation's Revolution blog) was kind enough to offer some guidance to his team for tomorrow's match. When asked about a single player the Portland Timbers should look out for he gave me Didier Domi:
Timbers fans should keep their eyes on left back Didier Domi. He made his MLS debut on Saturday and, apart from one or two shaky moments where he seemed to (understandably) lack match sharpness, he had a fairly solid outing and showed glimpses of his true quality. He should be ready to dive in headfirst against Portland on Saturday, and if he can fire on all cylinders his combination of experience, defensive ability and a cultured left foot could give the Timbers fits up the left flank.
Rodney Wallace and Jeremy Hall Steve Purdy and Ryan Pore to think about as they'll be the ones who'll be charged with slowing him down most of the time.
New England's Projected Starting Line Up
According to Steve over at the Bent Musket, here's who we can expect to face off against tomorrow:
Matt Reis; Kevin Alston, Ryan Cochrane (Portland local), AJ Soares, Didier Domi; Stephan McCarthy, Pat Phelan, Sainey Nyassi, Shalrie Joseph, Chris Tierney; Zack Schilawski
This is in a 4-5-1 formation.
Tomorrow's game kicks off at 4:30pm PT. The Match Thread should go live sometime around noon or earlier. Not sure where I'll be watching the game, but, as usual, I highly recommend 442 Bar.