After getting off to a 3-0 start to the year, Columbus went eight games without a win, before a victory over the Chicago Fire. They followed that with seven more winless games before last week's 2-1 win over the Montreal Impact.
The Revolution meanwhile have had two extended streaks as well this season, a positive and negative. New England already won five consecutive games, but come into this one losers of seven in a row.
Jake and I discussed the two teams before they take to the field to try and sort out their season before it's too late.
Questions for The Bent Musket
Massive Report: The Revolution won five games in a row between the end of April and the beginning of June but are now losers of seven on the trot. What has been the biggest difference you've seen of the team between the two streaks?
The Bent Musket: It's hard to focus on just one aspect of the team during the two streaks, but mostly the attack has been very stagnant over the last couple of months. The Revs are usually at their best when they can spread out teams on the counter and get favorable 1-on-1's. Lately, the Revs have been able to possess the ball a lot but haven't been able to generate the quality of chances in the final third.
Overall, it's a question of shooting. The Revs just aren't taking very many shots and they're putting even fewer of them on target. During the Revs' massive skid their shots on target have been 3 vs. Montreal, 2 vs. New York, 5 vs. Philadelphia, 1 vs. Real Salt Lake, 6 vs. Chicago, 2 vs Los Angeles and 3 vs Dallas. Of those seven games, only against the Fire and Union did the Revs actually force the opposing goalkeepers, Sean Johnson and Zach MacMath, into serious action that I can recall.
If the Revs want to break out of this streak they have to get back to doing what they do best, getting the ball forward quickly and not to be afraid of shooting from distance. Kelyn Rowe last year in particular was scoring regularly from well outside the penalty area and the Revs could use anything at this point offensively.
MR: Who would be your midseason MVP for New England through 19 games this season?
TBM: I don't want to cop out and say there isn't one, because the best player on this team almost changes from game to game. It could be Andrew Farrell one week on defense, Diego Fagundez out wide the next and Patrick Mullins up top in May couldn't stop scoring. The one constant force however has been Lee Nguyen, who might be the most underrated player in MLS. He's tireless on both offense and defense going box-to-box and it's rare to say that he has a bad game. Honorable mention to Andy Dorman who the Revs just lost to a knee injury two weeks ago and is currently on the disabled list. Dorman had been another constant for the Revs at the holding midfield spot in Jay Heaps' 4-1-4-1 formation.
MR: Many people recognize Robert Kraft as the owner of the New England Patriots, but he also owns the Revolution. What is he like as a soccer owner and how involved is he with the soccer side with an NFL franchise looming in the same building?
TBM: The best way to answer this is to read Kevin Alexander's Boston Magazine article from this past April for at least the summary of situation. Browsing the #NERevs hashtag on Twitter during the week, especially during the transfer window that's open now, is usually good for a few interesting reads about the ownership and the front office.
I think what's most disappointing is that the World Cup ratings in New England were really high, with Boston, Providence and Hartford/New Haven, CT all in the top ten in overall ratings. There is clearly an audience in the region that wants to watch soccer and the Revs, with a lack of a soccer specific stadium in particular, haven't been able to attract those fans. With expansion teams Orlando City and New York City FC spending on big international transfers in Kaka, David Villa and Frank Lampard, it's hard to ignore the fact that the Revs have one of the lowest payrolls in MLS. The Revs are still an exciting team to watch (okay, maybe not right now since they've been awful in their last seven) and are still one of the youngest teams in the league. One or two additions, like say bringing back Juan Agudelo as a Designated Player, could be what puts this team over the top and consistently back into the playoffs.
Questions for Massive Report
The Bent Musket: Here in New England, we fondly remember the days of when Michael Parkhurst played centerback and was the MLS Defender of the Year in navy blue. How is Parky doing in Columbus and how has the defense fared with him in the lineup?
Massive Report: Parkhurst has been a key ingredient in both the Crew's defense this year, but also in the team as a whole. As the captain, he has taken on a leadership role to help some of the other players, especially the young guys, and has embraced this with open arms. As I'm sure you know, Parkhurst isn't the most vocal player on the pitch, but his ability to lead by example has been important for Columbus in 2014.
He also has allowed head coach Gregg Berhalter to play the system he pictured when he took over the Black and Gold. Parkhurst's ability to play out of the back and maintain possession of the ball has allowed this team to control the majority of the games they've played. Although many of them haven't resulted in wins of late, the coaches and players are generally pleased with the way they played. The Crew traded Chad Marshall to the Seattle Sounders before the season began because he would not help them in possession and Parkhurst has helped to ease that departure by filling some rather big shoes, literally.
TBM: I know Parkhurst has been named to the MLS All-Star Game, but what about having Wil Trapp and Matt Lampson in the Homegrown Game? And did [Federico Higuain] deserve to be an All-Star this year?
MR: It is nice to have Trapp and Lampson honored as some of the top homegrown players in the league. Obviously Trapp has been a vital contributor for the Crew this season, being the cog between the defense and the attack at just 21-years old. He has played in every game in which he was available this season and has been a top performer for the club.
Lampson's recognition comes from what he did last year - 13 appearances and five shutouts - as he has not played in a meaningful match this year, but he deserves this opportunity. After he successfully defeated cancer in college, it is remarkable he has made it as far as he has and Columbus locals will be proud to see him in this game.
From the perspective of someone who watches Higuain on a regular basis, I believe he should have been an All Star. He is one of the most creative players in the attack that MLS has, but doesn't get the recognition that some of the players with bigger names or in major markets receive. With that said, if you asked me who he would replace on the team, it would be difficult for me to give you a name. Hopefully he'll get there some day.
TBM: Gregg Berhalter is a pretty familiar name to a lot of USMNT and MLS fans, what are your thoughts on the job he's done now that he's in the middle of his first season in charge?
MR: I think Berhalter has done pretty well with what he had. I was recently asked to grade him halfway through the season and I gave him a B+. Obviously the year started off brightly and has dropped off since, but there are two reasons I rate him so highly. The first is the style of play the Crew play. Berhalter brought a clear idea of how he wanted to play to Columbus and is molding the team in that image. The team is building an identity that it lost after the 2008 MLS Cup winning season and that's good to see.
Also, the players have the utmost confidence in him and believe in what he is trying to do. Fans are beginning to get restless due to winless and losing streaks, but the players understand the process. They obviously want the results, but they continue to express that they are still learning and want to play for Berhalter and the staff. It takes time to build teams in small markets and I think Berhalter is going about it the right way. In time, I think the results will back that up.