The New England Revolution are set to begin a new era against Sporting Kansas City at Gillette Stadium on Saturday night: the era without captain, talisman, and hero Shalrie Joseph, who was traded to Chivas on Wednesday morning. The match will follow an international friendly between AC Milan of Italy and CD Olimpia of Honduras as part of a soccer doubleheader in Foxboro.
The Revolution are coming off of a 2-1 away loss to Philadelphia last weekend, while Kansas City also tasted defeat in that round of matches, dropping a home result to Columbus by the same score. This match will be the third meeting of the season between the two sides, and Sporting has the current advantage in the series, carrying a 1-0-1 record against New England in 2012. Both previous matches were in Kansas City.
The theme of the match for New England will be finding a way to win without Joseph. The Revs were just 1-4-1 this season when the Grenadian midfield general wasn't starting; they were 0-3-1 when he didn't feature at all. Offensively, the midfield needs to find a way to not only gain possession, but keep it, and establish the tempo of the match. That job generally fell to Joseph, and will now likely be split between Clyde Simms and Benny Feilhaber. Without that capability, the Revs will end up losing possession in dangerous areas, and Kansas City is a team that will punish them for it.
Defensively, New England has to deal with Sporting's dangerous, up-tempo 4-3-3. No matter who takes the pitch for SKC, the attacking talent in the side is frightening; Teal Bunbury, C.J. Sapong, Kei Kamara, Bobby Convey, and Graham Zusi are all dangerous creators and goalscorers. Again, the Revs will have to learn to keep a compact, organized shape in defense without Joseph in the middle keeping them together, and again it will be up to Simms and Feilhaber to dominate the center of the pitch.
The injury report for New England could make things particularly bleak for the Revs unless there has been improvement since Friday. Kevin Alston is questionable with hamstring soreness, so Florian Lechner could feature in his place. Perhaps more unnerving is the listing of A.J. Soares as doubtful with a right hamstring strain; defensive depth is not one of the Revs' strong points, and Soares is one of the best young defenders in the league.
Newcomer Blair Gavin is also doubtful with hamstring tightness, likely a continued symptom of the injury issues that have dogged him since his first season in the league. Bobby Shuttleworth and Alec Purdie are both out.
The Revs are just 13-21-10 all-time against Kansas City, and this season hasn't looked much better. A 3-0 loss in the second game of the season was followed up by a 0-0 draw two weeks ago, both at Livestrong Sporting Park.
The match will be televised live on CSN starting at 7:30 PM EST. 98.5 The Sports Hub will handle the radio call.