As we love to do so much here at SB Nation whenever possible, I exchanged a few questions with this week's upcoming opponent's respective blogger on the network in search of greater knowledge regarding all things New England Revolution. As Sporting Kansas City prepare for a very important game on Saturday night in Foxboro, Mass., not only the team needs to know their opponent, but bloggers, TV people and fans alike need to do so, as well.
Thanks as usual for the wonderful work of our SB Nation counterpart. This week's participant is Steve Stoehr of The Bent Musket.
Have you ever wondered why the Revolution just don't score many goals? Why a midfielder always ends up their leading-scorer, or why their official team website is such a cheap knockoff of a real website URL? Well, believe it or not, we've got all those answers right here.
1. New England are currently sitting in the middle of the heap known as the Eastern Conference of Major League Soccer. This is pretty much where a lot of people predicted them to be - a team that can jump up and surprise on a given night, then flop around aimlessly on the floor the next. Has that sort of been the case so far this year, given solid performances for a draw against Los Angeles Galaxy and three points against DC United, followed by draws to the two expansion teams, including Vancouver who were down a man for much of the game? Is that the outlook for the rest of the season?
That's definitely been the story so far, especially if you're an optimist. In reality, I saw a gritty and gutsy performance in LA followed up by some lucky officiating breaks against DC. The Revs played poorly against Portland and Vancouver and eventually got disappointing results, but against RSL things really caught up with them. You can't win matches when you're constantly conceding 60% or more possession to the other squad and are chronically unable to set up chances for your scorers. The outlook for the rest of the season just got a lot better with the surprise acquisition of Benny Feilhaber, though; he makes the midfield exponentially better, ESPECIALLY in attack.
2. Shalrie Joseph is once again the leading goal-scorer for New England at the moment. This has become the norm over the last handful of years since Taylor Twellman's eventual retirement, but it brings up two big questions in my mind: what does that say about the signings and/or development of the forwards on the roster that a midfielder continues to lead the team in scoring, and simply, what in the world makes Shalrie so good?
It says that the Revs have been notoriously awful at scouting talented forwards. In reality, this has been true for far longer than its been a problem. The last consistently dangerous forward the Revs acquired was Clint Dempsey, and during the years of dominance and MLS Cup Finals appearances, New England was reliant on Taylor Twellman, Dempsey and Pat Noonan for spark up front.
Shalrie is so good for a number of reasons. He has great size, incredible technical ability, a motor that doesn't quit and the confidence to try the audacious and take risks in midfield that most of the Revolution's other midfielders don't have. It's that level of skill and control that allows him to be one of the league's best-ever holding midfielders, and then suddenly explode onto the scene as a top-notch target forward threat and creative midfielder. Most of all, though, he's probably the most determined player on the pitch for the Revs. Steve Nicol could ask him to play in goal and Joseph would honestly focus so completely on being the best 'keeper possible that he'd probably set shutout records. His sheer will is like a force of nature.
3. For those that have yet to hear the news, or those that have heard but are yet to do their own homework, tell us all about Rajko Lekic. I understand this is a player that you yourself had an inside track on when it came to first-hand information on his signing. What's his game like, why will he succeed in MLS, and do we need to worry about him this Saturday?
"Psycho" Rajko is a potent goalscorer who has a perfect blend of size, quickness and intelligence. The man knows where the goal is, and his game is to get the ball there as often as possible. A lot of assumptions have been made about his ability as a target forward due to his size; that's really not his bag. However, he does possess strength and a pretty good first touch, so he can play the role for the Revs provided he has good service and support. He'll succeed in MLS at the very least because he has the physical tools, but now more than ever because with Feilhaber on the pitch, he can be guaranteed at least a couple of good chances per match. Watch out for him to link up with Benny early and often this weekend.
Bonus question: Are the Revolution so cheap that they won't spring for a .com for their official team website? Seriously, www.revolutionsoccer.net?
Do you know who the Krafts are? I mean, honestly, it's like that question doesn't need to be asked. In all seriousness, though, I have no idea why the team's URL ends in .net. It's probably a holdover from a previous era, or due to a locked-in contract or something.