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Crossing the Touchline: Columbus Crew SC at New England Revolution

Who is New England and how do they play?

It’s a game many circled on their calendars after an early-May trade of Kei Kamara to the New England Revolution. Columbus Crew SC, who Kei scored 22 goals for just a year ago, travel to Boston to see the Revs and the team’s former striker for the first time in 2016.

There is no question Kamara will be motivated in this match, but that doesn’t mean Crew SC won’t be. First, the club sits near the bottom of the Eastern Conference with just 16 points through 16 games and no wins in the last five matches. You can rest assured the player want to turn that record around. Columbus is also winless on the road, which is not a good omen for this match at Gillette Stadium.

While the Revolution isn’t in a much better position, three points up on the Black & Gold but still below the playoff line, New England will be motivated for a home win after dropping a 1-0 decision to New York City FC on Wednesday.

As this is the first of three meetings this season between the two East rivals, will turned to Jake Catanese, part of The Bent Musket’s "Cavalry," to give us some inside on the Revs.

Questions for The Bent Musket

Massive Report: Well let's start with the obvious, Kei Kamara. How has he changed the Revolution offense since coming over from Columbus? Does he fit into what the Revs want to do offensively? Most importantly, if he's scored two goals, would Lee Nguyen let him take a penalty kick?

The Bent Musket: There are two things that Kei Kamara does really well for the Revs: win aerial/long balls to help keep possession and open up space for Lee Nguyen. The Revs have always lacked a great aerial presence on offense and even set pieces and now big clearances upfield that would routinely end up back with the other team now get settled by Kei in the midfield or attacking half. This is good, because eventually the Revs are going to move forward with players like Nguyen, Fagundez, Agudelo, etc., on the ball and in space.

Kei fits in really well with what the Revs want to do but sadly it's still not translating into goals or results for the Revs for the most part. Yes, the Revs have two US Open Cup wins and are in the quarterfinals against Philly but New England wasted a two-goal performance from Kei in Montreal last weekend and got blanked by NYC midweek. The Revs are still generating good chances as they have been all year but as we've come to expect from the Revs the past few years the inconsistency can be mind-boggling at times.

And yes, I'd assume Lee would let Kei get the hat trick.

MR: A late red card on Wednesday means no Bobby Shuttleworth in the New England goal for this match. Considering what a mainstay he's been since 2012, what do the Revs have behind him? How much confidence is there in either goalkeeper?

TBM: Brad Knighton is a fine MLS keeper and was acquired by the Revs immediately after Matt Reis retired in 2013 and was signed as a rookie free agent out of preseason with the Revs back in 2007. Knighton has a few recent appearances for New England, including a 2-1 win over Vancouver but did take two losses against DC and Montreal, including what would be the deciding penalty giveaway against the Impact.

Both Knighton and Shuttleworth are fine shot stoppers though how well the two command their box and communicate with the Revs backline aren't always as solid as their shot blocking skills. The Revs defense hasn't been as good in years past and they're leaking goals at an alarming rate and most seem really soft at times. Whether this is bad luck, see any deflected ball off Jose Goncalves that ends up in the net, or everyone not being on the same page remains an issue. But, while most can see the problem with the Revs backline/keepers, I'm not sure there's a specific solution to what ails the Revs defensively and it's probably more a collection of smaller things.

MR: Both these teams sit lower than either club expected this season. What are the Revolutions' reasons for underachieving this year?

TBM: Inconsistency. And there's several factors that lead to this but for the Revs there have been a lot of injuries, specifically at striker, and in the end just a lot of bad play in front of goal in particular. It's hard for a team to improve on offense when Charlie Davies, Juan Agudelo and Teal Bunbury have all missed games and started up top at lone striker. Also, the Revs on defense have been moving guys around, with Andrew Farrell seeing more time back at right back where he excelled as a rookie.

I don't think the Revs are a bad team, but they've had good performances end up as draws and losses too often this year. There's plenty of time to turn it around and make the playoffs, though there's much debate as to just how much that means now, but failing to hold a 2-0 lead and losing 1-0 at home in consecutive games doesn't inspire a lot of confidence. I've been saying this team needs a big breakout win seemingly all year to jump start the offense or the team's confidence and it just hasn't happened. If the Revs are going to have to grind out results the rest of the year, something they've never shown to be great at in recent years, this is a team that can miss the playoffs.

To read Massive Report’s responses to The Bent Musket’s Questions, head on over to their "Know Thy Enemy."