We're back with the latest installment of Three Questions. Just in time for Wednesday's match against the New England Revolution, I spoke with Steve Stoehr, of SB Nation Revs blog The Bent Musket, in order to get to know the enemy a little, especially since this will be Chivas USA's first and only meeting against New England this season. Thanks very much to Steve for taking the time to answer my questions! He was even kind enough to answer a couple of extra questions.
The Goat Parade asks The Bent Musket:
1. The Revs have recently hit a rough patch in the season. What are the causes or reasons for the recent struggles?
What isn't the cause? Honestly, every aspect of the Revs' game has been called into question during the last eight games. The offense finally came alive a bit against Columbus, but then the defense fell apart. In previous games, the defense had played well, but the offense was totally impotent.
The biggest issue with the Revs, though, has been a lack of mental discipline. This extends to the entire squad. Just about every goal scored against the Revs this season, much less in the last few months, can be traced back to a ridiculous elementary mistake. Goals have been scored simply because the team fell asleep (see the last Chicago game). In the attack. the Revs have a real serious problem with off the ball movement. I've also noticed that they like to telegraph all of their moves; then, when the opposing team moves to cover the passing lane and pick up the run, the Revs' players in question will still try the move, inevitably meeting with failure.
Honestly I could write a novel about this rough patch. Just suffice to say that the Revs have been really, really bad, and there's really no way around it.
2. Who has been flying under the radar this season for New England, that Chivas USA fans should look out for?
Lee Nguyen is the man of the hour, really, though I'm not sure how "under the radar" he remains. He's the second-leading goalscorer on the team and consistently the most dangerous man on the pitch. Clyde Simms has also stayed out of the limelight this year, but his work as the holding midfielder and the glue who keeps the center of the pitch together cannot be overstated. The few matches this season where he's struggled have been some of the worst the Revs have played.
3. What do you think it will be like to have Shalrie Joseph returning to Gillette Stadium Wednesday? How will the fans and his former teammates react?
It's going to be weird. We've never seen him in any other uniform before. Shalrie meant so much to this franchise for so long, and it will definitely be strange to have him around but playing against the Revs. I expect the fans to react with nothing but respect and admiration; he loved us and we love him.
As for former teammates, I figure there might be a moment or two of hellos and back slapping before it's time to get down to business. Shalrie's a fierce competitor and he won't pull punches, so neither should the Revs. The prevailing attitude around training right now appears to be that it's going to be strange, but it's not an issue and it's all about winning right now, no matter who is wearing the other shirt.
4. How will the addition of Juan Toja impact New England, and is there any chance he'll play Wednesday?
Juan won't play Wednesday. Even optimistic estimates have his paperwork holding him up until at least September 5th. In fact, he probably won't feature for the first time until September 15th.
Toja adds a level of creativity and flair to the midfield that, honestly, the Revs weren't lacking, but can always use. The difference between him and the rest of the Revs' midfield creativity is that Toja not only has MLS experience, but he's had MLS success. He can play both centrally and on the left, but my best guess is that he will be the new left winger, with Nguyen moving to the right and Benny pairing with Clyde in the middle. Then again, Heaps does seem to like the idea of Benny wide, so Toja could stay central. Either way, he's a definite upgrade.
5. Prediction for the match?
I predict a 1-0 Revs win. The offense woke up on Saturday, and Chivas seems to have a lot of trouble scoring. Plus, the losing streak has to end sometime, right? Right?
The Bent Musket asks The Goat Parade:
1.) We all want to hear about Shalrie and how he's doing. What has he brought to the table for Chivas so far, and is he everything you guys hoped he would be?
Well, to say it's been a rocky start would be a bit of an understatement. Chivas have gone 0-2-1 since Shalrie joined the team, and the once-solid defense has become a sieve, as they've given up eleven goals and scored three in that span. Joseph can't be held accountable for all the mistakes in those performances, but he has not played well so far. In particular, in the match that Chivas earned a draw, 1-1 against the Colorado Rapids, Joseph was directly responsible for Colorado's goal, as he allowed Brian Mullan to strip him of the ball at the edge of Chivas' box and Mullan scored easily. He would have been responsible for that loss, too, except Tristan Bowen and Juan Pablo Angel bailed him out to get an equalizer for Chivas.
We know Shalrie is a top professional with a long and distinguished track record in MLS. But he needs to step up for Chivas if he is to start helping his new team, and preferably fast.
2.) Chivas seems to have a relatively strong defense right now, but man, you guys couldn't buy a goal. What has been the real problem for the Goats when it comes to offense? Is it one thing or a big confluence of events?
Well, the most recent trend has been that they can't score and they let in a slew of goals, but yes, the trend on the season has been defense is good, offense is not good. I think the biggest issue has been that there is no fluidity between the midfield and the forwards. At their best this season, Chivas have gotten big contributions from wingers like Ryan Smith and Miller Bolanos, who stretch the field out and provide good service into the forwards. But because of conservative formations, constant lineup rotation, and the lack of a central attacking midfield playmaker, Chivas have not been able to get in any kind of an attacking rhythm all season. The most goals they've scored in a match is two, and they've been shut out countless times. There seems to be a psychological block that's hampered them too, but despite having talented strikers, there isn't enough service to give them good chances on a regular basis.