July 4, the New England Revolution will face 2009 MLS Cup Champion Real Salt Lake at Rio Tinto Stadium, the scene of last July’s 5-0 debacle, and this time with a more troubled team. Hopes are not high for New England, who increasingly have difficulty putting a competitive team on the field and fans in seats.
The Revolution (3-8-6, 15 pts, -8 GD) stand 17th in the 18-team league and Real Salt Lake (7-3-5, 26 pts, +9 GD) are tied at fourth place with Philadelphia Union. RSL had a strong start which culminated with a heartbreaking loss at the CONCACAF Champions League final and then were tripped up by the loss of creative midfielder and MVP Javier Morales to a broken ankle on May 7.
This July 4, the Revolution will be without injured central midfield rookie Steven McCarthy and veteran Kheli Dube. Two of this season’s “major” signings, Ousmane Dabo and Didier Domi, are questionable. (Dabo has only featured in three games this season and Domi in eight.) After extended rehab for an ankle injury, Benny Feilhaber returned to action at last week’s loss to Seattle Sounders, but looked distinctly out of form. New England’s 2010 goal leader Marko Perovic, out for the remainder of 2011 with injury, this week reportedly asked the team to decline his contract option. Neither he nor Serbian teammate Ilija Stolica, who was loaned out to FC New York, will return.
Real Salt Lake have several injured key players, but have a deep squad to draw from. Morales is still out and forwards Arturo Alvarez and Paulo Jr. are doubtful. Forward Fabian Espíndola and defender Chris Wingert are questionable and Álvaro Saborío is probable.
NE’s Shalrie Joseph has accumulated four cautions to date and will be suspended if he acquires another. Pat Phelan and Ryan Cochrane each have three yellow cards. RSL’s Will Johnson has four cautions and Jean Alexandre, Robbie Russell and Chris Wingert each have three.
In 2010, the Revolution suffered a humiliating 5-0 loss to RSL at Rio Tinto, improving from a 6-0 loss in 2009, and this spring New England’s lingering animosity boiled over when the two teams met at Gillette Stadium. Joseph, Phelan and Johnson were ejected and altogether 11 cards were issued in RSL’s 2-0 defeat of New England. Click here for the slideshow of that game.
This season, Fabian Espindola leads RSL with four goals and many other players have contributed to Salt Lake’s 18 goals. Shalrie Joseph leads New England with four goals, but New England leads MLS with fewest goals scored (13).
The Revolution now are at odds with their supporters groups about the June 18th incident involving rough treatment by stadium security cracking down on profanity in chants. Real Salt Lake have thousands of dedicated fans and Rio Tinto has an intimidating atmosphere for opposing teams. This week, head coach Steve Nicol told team staff writer Jeff Lemieux – “We want to go [to Rio Tinto] and kill the crowd, kill the game,” but that’s unlikely given the history between the teams and the physical style and limitations of the Revolution.
Real Salt Lake vs. New England Revolution kicks off Monday, July 4 at 8:30 p.m. ET and will be broadcast on ESPN 2.
FOLLOW BOSTON PRO SOCCER EXAMINER AND LE EISENMENGER ON TWITTER AND SUBSCRIBE TO EMAIL ALERTS.