The Brotherly Game: Lee Nguyen is apparently one of the best midfielders in Major League Soccer, if Revolution head coach Jay Heaps is to be believed. What's your take on Nguyen this season?
The Bent Musket: I believe he is one of the best midfielders in Major League Soccer, or at least one of the best creative ones. He's got incredible skill, technique, and vision, and without him this Revs' team would be in truly rough shape right now. I'm talking worse than Toronto tough shape. I mean, he's the second leading goalscorer on the team. You can't understate that value.
I'd say the only knock on him has been his inability to deal with the really physical teams in this league, but that's been a knock on this entire Revolution roster. To be fair to Lee, he has no one protecting him since Shalrie was traded. You guys won't get a chance to see Nguyen because he's out for the rest of the year after having shoulder surgery, but next season I think he'll become a force if the Revs can put the right talent around him.
BG: Heaps and John Hackworth are at similar points right now - disappointing teams with some youth and nothing to play for beyond future jobs and pride. What is the fan base's opinion of Heaps heading into the offseason?
TBM: Mixed, really. Some people think Heaps is on the right track and just has to deal with some rookie coach hiccups before he really hits his stride. Others look at the record and the deteriorating style of play and believe he doesn't have what it takes to turn this team around. I think it's undeniable that Heaps was getting this team to play attractive, effective soccer early in the season. What has happened since then is a mystery, but the general consensus is that most people wouldn't necessarily be upset to see Heaps get a second season, but he's going to be on a short leash
I think with Hackworth, he has the benefit of the fan base knowing that a crazy person screwed it all up before he took over, so you can't throw this whole season on him. There's a little of that with Jay, where he's being forced to undo three or four seasons of mind-boggling personnel and team-culture decisions by Steve Nicol (really didn't have a great end to his career here), but Jay has had an entire season and offseason.
BG: I think it's fair to say that Jerry Bengston has been quite the acquisition, especially in comparison to another striker that was brought in this season. Is he the biggest threat on the Revolution, at the moment, offensively, or should Saer Sene be expected to command the game once again (note: asked while forgetting that Sene tore his ACL)?
TBM: Saer will command the offense again next season, if current performances are to be believed, although he obviously won't on Saturday because he's out for the season. In terms of this weekend's game, it's Jerry all the way, but that's because half this squad is on the treatment table. Bengtson has, as you said, been quite the acquisition, but he hasn't hit his stride with his teammates yet. I'm also not sold on him being quite as effective a poacher as Sene, who conjured up goals out of nothing on several occasions. I think once the chemistry between Jerry and his providers in midfield starts really clicking, you'll be looking at one of the most potent strike partnerships in the league for 2013.
BG: Diego Fagundez has appeared in 17 games for the Revolution this year, but hasn't received much in the way of minutes in those games, despite five starts (552 minutes total). In some ways, Fagundez's situation is similar to the Union's situation with Zach Pfeffer and the team's other Home Grown Players. Is there any concern about his development and is it possible that Heaps may increase his playing time prior to the end of this season?
TBM: Heaps has already increased Diego's playing time by a wide margin. He started a few matches in the last month and put in some decent performances. There's definitely a little concern that Diego's being brought along too slowly, but it's important to remember that he's only 17, and he so far has shown difficulty mixing it up with some of the more physical sides in MLS. He has time to continue his development, and being called into Uruguay's U-20 camp next week should be another big leap forward for him. If it were me, I'd be throwing Diego into the fire on a consistent basis right now, trying to give him an idea of what he can expect as an everyday MLS player, but that's why I'm not paid to coach. I think Jay's handled Diego's development just fine so far.
Projected Lineup: Shuttleworth; Alston, Soares, McCarthy, Barnes; Cardenas, Simms, Feilhaber, Rowe; Bengtson, Imbongo
TBM: There's a chance you could see some tinkering in the starting XI, obviously. In defense it's unlikely, since those four are the only fully-healthy defenders. Reis might start over Bobby, but I get the sense that the end of the season is Bobby's to use for his development. In midfield, you could easily see Blair Gavin or Juan Toja get their first starts instead of anybody, and up top Diego could always get the nod over Imbongo. However, this is the lineup that Heaps brought out against Houston, and I'm not sure I expect it to change.
Scoreline prediction: 1-1