TFC in tough against Revolution

STEVEN SANDOR, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:41 PM ET

No team in MLS has struggled through more injury woes over the past couple of seasons as the New England Revolution.

But somehow, despite the fact he was forced to use players out of position last season to fill in for injuries, coach Steve Nicol nursed the Revs into the playoffs.

Just two games into this season, it’s the same old for the Revs — who play host to Toronto FC on Saturday in Foxboro, Mass.

Shalrie Joseph, who finished second to Landon Donovan in 2009 MVP voting, has yet to play this season because of a hip-flexor problem. Darrius Barnes, one of the most promising defenders in the league, also has a hip flexor problem. No. 1 keeper Matt Reis and key striker Taylor Twellman are in long-term rehab.

Despite the injuries, the Revs haven’t been easy to play against. They won at RFK this past weekend and lost 1-0 to the Los Angeles Galaxy in the season opener.

“The last 18 months have been wretched as far as injuries have been concerned,” Nicol said. “But to say we are ‘coping’ with injuries, that’s the wrong word. At the present time, we have a lot of young guys who are playing who wouldn’t normally be playing. These guys are getting experience and it will make the squad stronger down the road.”

Case in point: Kenny Mansally, a 21-old prospect, who came off the subs’ bench and scored two highlight-reel goals over D.C. United last weekend in a 2-0 win. Mansally was named MLS player of the week.

New England has given up just one goal in its first two games, even though the Revs back line is populated with rookies and second-year players.

Nicol said rookie left back Seth Sinovic has taken his opportunity and ran with it. And Zack Schilawski is making a name for himself as an offensive threat.

Injuries

While Barnes will play against TFC, and Joseph is probable to take his post in the middle of the park, the Revs’ youth movement will be the key to Saturday’s game — and the season.

And, with it being so early in the 2010 campaign, Nicol really has no read on how TFC, a team that has never won in Massachusetts and has only beaten the Revs once in seven previous tries, will approach this game. He only knows that, after the opening loss to Columbus, that the Reds are hurting and will want to make amends.

“They’re not going to sit back and let us come at them,” he said.

The Red Patch Boys and other Toronto FC supporters’ groups are sending about 300 fans down to Foxboro this weekend.

The group is much smaller than originally planned, but many of the supporters cancelled over fears that the players were going to go on strike. When the Collective Bargaining Agreement was signed less than a week before the season began, RPB members rushed to get tickets, said president Boris Aguilar.

“We would have had more if not for the CBA distraction.”

And, if things go wrong for the Reds as they have done in the past on the Foxboro FieldTurf, those road supporters will see some history. One more win gives Nicol 100 in his MLS coaching career.

steven.sandor@sunmedia.ca


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