Lets get to this week's opponents, the New England Revolution. What do we really know about them? Well, here to help us prepare is Steve Stoehr, regiment commander from The Bent Musket, our fellow SB Nation blog. If you want to read my responses to Steve's questions, you can read them here.
Who are three New England players that Orlando City fans should watch?
Steve Stoehr: The first player I'm going to tell you to watch is Charlie Davies. Chuck has scored three goals this season, all in the last three games consecutively. Since he solidified his spot as the starting striker flanked by Juan Agudelo and Teal Bunbury, we've started to see the emergence of a new breed of solo striker. Davies plays bigger than himself, but his real talent is his running and movement. It drags defenses out of shape and gives the other attackers room to work, and when they do, he finds the pockets of space that result in his goals. He's also become a real hard-working striker, as evidenced by his diving header this past week.
Next I will say Scott Caldwell. Is he flashy? No, not at all. But he's the glue that holds the midfield together. He hangs back and protects the back four, but don't let that fool you. Caldwell has an endless motor and he will find opportunities to dart forward, making a timely interception or recovery and instantly sparking a counter-attack. It was his win of the ball that started the counter-attack leading to the Revs' second goal this past weekend.
Last, it's London Woodberry. Yes, the right back. For years now, teams have understood that the Revs' viable width comes from Chris Tierney on the left. In the last three games, we have seen Woodberry come in on the right and dominate the position, playing solid defense and whipping in lethal crosses from the right. He picked up his first assist against the Red Bulls, and suddenly the Revs are no longer one-dimensional from the flank. You'd be amazed at how much of a difference that makes.
What is the team's preferred style of play and formation?
SS: The Revs prefer to play an up-tempo, high-press style where they basically overwhelm opponents by staying in the attacking half or final third and essentially strangling you with pressure. All it takes is one giveaway and the Revs will be in the box and scoring. The formation is a 4-2-3-1.
What have you learned about this year's team through the first part of this season?
SS: This year's team looks more confident this year. Last season, especially at the end of the season when they went on that long, long stretch of great results, there were times when it looked like the Revs were shocked at how good they were. They also generally lacked the kind of focus and mental toughness to hold up in the really difficult matches and situations. This season? They expect to win, and know that they can, and when adversity rears its head, they don't flinch.
What are the major strengths and weaknesses of the team at this point?
SS: The team's strength is its absolute wealth of attacking weapons. The Revs can score on the break, they can go direct, and they get goals from the wings in Agudelo and Bunbury, from their striker in Davies, from the midfield in Lee Nguyen and Kelyn Rowe. They can pass their way into the box, or they can use their width and whip crosses with Tierney and Woodberry. And of course there's Jermaine Jones. Honestly, any team playing the Revs should be terrified.
The weakness at this point is probably defense, only by virtue of lack of depth. There were huge question marks surrounding the back line entering this season after A.J. Soares left for Norway and Andrew Farrell moved to center back. Farrell has shaken off a poor start to settle in nicely, despite playing next to someone different almost every week. Therein lies the weakness, though; with Darrius Barnes out for most of this season, there really isn't much cover if anyone else goes down. Recently, Jose Goncalves was injured, and Jermaine Jones had to play center-back, an arrangement that is workable but far from ideal.
What are the fans' expectations for the club, both realistic and unrealistic?
SS: Realistic expectations are a deep Open Cup run and at least the Eastern Conference finals. It may not even be unrealistic to expect an appearance in the MLS Cup Final again. Unrealistically? The Treble. Supporters' Shield, Open Cup, and MLS Cup. The funny thing is that the Treble is unreasonable but not at all impossible if this squad keeps it together.
What do you expect the starting XI to look like on Friday and what is your final score prediction?
SS: Shuttleworth; Tierney, Farrell, Goncalves, Woodberry; Caldwell, Jones; Agudelo, Nguyen, Bunbury; Davies
I predict a 2-1 win. The Revs have been hot lately but they've gotten away with some things, and I think away from home they stumble a little, but it's enough.
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Big thanks to Steve for helping us get to know more about our new enemies.