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May 11, 2014 at 12:56 AM

Sounders FC vs. New England Revolution, preview and prediction

Sounders FC (7-2-1) vs. New England Revolution (4-3-2)
Sunday, May 11, 3 p.m., Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, Mass.
TV/radio: Q13 FOX, KIRO 97.3 FM (Jonathan Yardley, Kasey Keller)
Spanish radio: ESPN Deportes 1490 AM
Referee: Jose Carlos Rivero

KEY REVOLUTION PLAYERS

M Lee Nguyen — The team’s leading scorer with four goals, already matching his production from last season. Three of those goals have come via penalty kicks, one each the past three weeks. His influence has extended far beyond that, though, as a creative force and playmaker in midfield. Some even think he is playing well enough to get into the U.S. national team pool, and while it’s obviously far too late to realistically make a push for the World Cup, the praise seems more a compliment of his current form.

M Diego Fagundez — Just 19 years old, but don’t tell the Sounders that. The talented youngster has scored in each of his two games in the head-to-head matchup, including a devastating stoppage-time equalizer in 2012 that extended Seattle’s record winless streak to eight games. He’s started all nine games this season, but the production has been a bit underwhelming with no goals and just one assist. Part of that might come from being more of a wide player this year instead of a forward.

M Daigo Kobayashi — Another midfielder? Why not? The team has been loading up in the middle of the field this season, often leaving a lone forward up top, whether it’s Teal Bunbury or, more recently, rookie Patrick Mullins. When it comes to Kobayashi, many Sounders fans might remember him as a Whitecap, but Vancouver wasn’t interested in bringing him back, eventually trading his rights to the Revs. The central midfielder has been a steady influence in his new environment with a team-leading two assists.

KEY MATCHUPS

Clint Dempsey vs. Andy Dorman — It’s always easy to pick the defensive midfielder on the Sounders’ opponent, but this matchup is particularly interesting because Dorman knows Dempsey well from shared time with the Revs from 2004 to 2006. The defensive assignment won’t be easy since motivation is always high against a former team, plus Dempsey hasn’t scored in two games and lost his lead in the MLS Golden Boot Race on Saturday when New York’s Bradley Wright-Phillips netted a hat trick to take a slim lead (9 to 8).

Andrew Farrell vs. Obafemi Martins — Farrell, the No. 1 overall draft pick last season, has mainly been a right back for New England, but with reigning MLS Defender of the Year Jose Goncalves out injured, he has moved inside to center back. It is there where he’ll meet one of the hottest players in the league, as Martins has either a goal or assist in four straight games. Unlike fellow center back A.J. Soares, the physical attributes seem to align here as both Farrell and Martins are on the shorter end but powerful and extremely quick.

Revs vault at home vs. Sounders offense on the road — New England is the only team in MLS that hasn’t allowed a goal at home this season, boasting a 4-0 goal differential and 2-0-1 record at Gillette Stadium (the last two games were 2-0 wins against tough foes Houston and Kansas City, no less). The Sounders, on the other hand, are unbeaten away from home at 3-0-1, led by a league-best 11 goals in those games. Dempsey, in particular, has five of his eight goals on the road.

PREDICTION

The Revs were slow-starters this season, waiting until Week 4 to score a goal, let alone win a game. But matters have improved significantly, in a short period of time.

In fact, outside of Seattle, no team has been hotter in its past four games than New England at 3-0-1.

I feel rest could be an issue in this one as the Sounders had to play a midweek game and then travel cross-country, while the Revs have been waiting at home for a week leading into this one. I see Seattle starting out strong, but I think the fresher hosts will be able to equalize.

Sounders FC 1, New England 1

SEA — Clint Dempsey (Marco Pappa) 31′
NE — Jerry Bengtson (Lee Nguyen) 77′

How do you see this one playing out?

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| More in Preview and prediction, Sounders FC

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