I had to look twice. And still I'm not sure if I believe it.
New England have allowed only 9 goals through 14 matches, and boast a goal differential of +6, the fourth-best overall in MLS in that department. And they're currently riding a five-match undefeated run that includes a 2-0 road win over Houston, and 5-0 pasting of the Galaxy in Foxborough. You'd be forgiven for thinking the Revs would be somewhere in the top four in the Eastern Conference. Instead, they're on the outside looking in - sitting sixth in the tightly packed Eastern race.
With a record of 5-4-5, and averaging 1.43 points per game, New England offers a barrier slightly lower than what the Caps have had to contend with in the past two weeks. But clearing the hurdle posed by the Revolution is going to be a much tougher task than many fans appreciate.
Forwards and Mids
As the saying goes, good things come in small packages, and the big deal for the Revolution this year has been 5' 8" M-F Diego Fagundez, who leads the team in goals (5), shots on goal (10), and game winners (3). He's New England's first-ever homegrown product, having signed in 2010 and progressed into the first team in 2011. He put in 20 appearances for New England last year, scoring twice and adding two assists. He's a crafty little speedster who, at 125 lbs, makes Camilo look like a heavyweight. Fagundez has the foot skills to weave through defenders at pace, and the savvy to pull off the quick one-two and just blow through back lines. As luck would have it, and thus far through 2013 the Caps haven't had much of it, Fagundez usually plays on the right wing - making him the guy going up against whoever the Caps throw out at LB for this match.
French striker Saer Sene had a spectacular debut season in 2012 - at least until he tore up his ACL in August. By that point, he'd racked up a team-leading 11 goals. By comparison, midfielder Lee Nguyen played almost every match for the Revs, but only counted 5 markers. Sene's been gradually recovering throughout 2013, and though he's had nine appearances, the majority of those have been stints lasting 30 minutes or less. He's started the last two matches for New England, but has yet to play a full match. Sene's usual spot is wide on the left, so if Y.P. Lee isn't switched over to play LB, that'll be his assignment all night.
Forward Juan Agudelo moved from Chivas to New England in early May. Since then, he's quickly worked his way off the bench, and has started the past three matches. Agudelo's netted a pair of goals in the four matches he's played for the Revs to date. Expect him to start again as the lone striker if coach Jay Heaps opts for his usual 4-1-4-1 scheme.
The aforementioned Nguyen, a former Whitecaps midfielder, has played every match so far this year for the Revs and leads the squad in shots attempted with 29. Caps fans will no doubt remember that Nguyen potted two against his former team in a 4-1 thumping of the Caps in Foxborough. Nguyen also leads the squad in fouls committed, so the midfield battle this weekend could be a rather physical one.
Scott Caldwell seems to have nailed down the holding mid spot for the Revolution, having started in that role the past three weeks. He's another product of the successful Revolution Academy, and the second ever Homegrown talent to sign for the side.
Left to right across the back line, the Revolution field Chris Tierney (LB), Jose Goncalves (CB), Stephen MacCarthy (CB), and Andrew Farrell (RB). With the exception of the odd rotation at LB, this line has been intact and pretty much unchanged from season's start.
The fullbacks are an interesting study in contrasts. Tierney's in his sixth year with the club, and is one of MLS's best set-piece guys and corner takers. Opposite him, at RB, you'll find Andrew Farrell, who the Revs took first overall in the 2013 SuperDraft. He's started all but one match for the Revs this year. Farrell's a physical specimen, with pretty soft feet for a defender.
CB Goncalves is in his first MLS season, but has a wealth of experience internationally. He's played in Switzerland, Germany, Italy, and Scotland. He's got some UEFA Champions League experience under his belt as well. At 27, he's just entering his prime as a defender. Fellow CB Stephen MacCarthy stands out at 6' 4" for the Revs. He's a 3rd-year guy for them.
As mentioned, the Revs have allowed a ridiculously low total of nine goals so far this year. Is it down to great goalkeeping? Or is that figure just the natural result of a really stingy defence that doesn't give you much opportunity to shoot? Well... it looks to be a healthy portion of both.
Keeper Bobby Shuttleworth is now in his 5th year in MLS - all with the Revs. At 26, he's just now beginning to enter his best years, and this season has moved from the backup role into a starter. He has faced 51 shots through 14 matches, making him the 13th busiest keeper in the league. Comparatively, Vancouver's Joe Cannon has faced 42 shots in 13 matches, and league leader Zac MacMath (PHI) has had to contend with 70 shots in 15 matches. Shuttleworth's save percentage of 80% is first overall among keepers to have played at least 3 matches this season.
New England hits town following a three-game eastern homestand during which they compiled two wins and a draw - and, rather fortunately for the hosts, on the heels of a Wednesday night matchup against the Red Bulls, in US Open Cup play. Vancouver is New England's first stop on a three-game west coast swing that also takes them to Chivas and San Jose. The Revs haven't conceded a goal in their last four MLS matches. With five goals scored in their last two matches, the Vancouver Whitecaps have virtually erupted offensively. The trend will need to continue Saturday if the Caps are to get past the Revolution. The Revs' FBs get a lot of touches on the ball, Tierney in particular. Nguyen gets involved in just about everything to do with the attack. If Reo-Coker and Koffie can shut down Nguyen, and the Caps can somehow slow, if not limit, Fagundez, there will be points on the table for Vancouver.