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August 24, 2012
Revolution trying to break out of longest slump since dismal 2011

By Adam Burrows
New England Soccer News Contributor

The Revolution’s lack of muscle at midfield has made life difficult for the team’s more creative players, including Lee Nguyen, who is questionable for Saturday’s game against Columbus with an ankle strain.
The Revolution’s lack of muscle at midfield has made life difficult for the team’s more creative players, including Lee Nguyen, who is questionable for Saturday’s game against Columbus with an ankle strain.
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
With ten games left in the New England Revolution’s fast-fading 2012 season, is it too early to start the post-mortem?

After a moderately encouraging 5-7-1 start, the Revolution (6-13-5, 23 points) have won just once in their last 11 outings and take a seven-game winless streak into Saturday night’s match against the Columbus Crew (9-8-6, 33 points) at Crew Stadium (CSN, 7:30 ET).

The winless streak is the team’s longest since last summer, when the Steve Nicol-led Revolution went 0-2-5 from July 23rd through September 7th on their way to a franchise-worst 5-16-13, last place, finish.

Earlier in the 2011 season, New England endured an even more demoralizing nine-game (0-6-3) winless stretch, tying a team record.

During the current barren run, the Revolution have been parched for goals, scoring just three times in the last seven outings and raising to nine the times they’ve been shut out this season.

After last weekend’s 2-1 loss in Chicago, which was not as close as the final score might suggest, New England players said all the right things.

“We just have to keep moving forward and stay positive,” said central defender Stephen McCarthy. “We aren’t going to give up.”

“It’s one of those times when you say, you know what, we have to get on with it,” added the versatile Ryan Guy, who’s been deployed in five different positions in 14 appearances this year. “Let’s test ourselves and come back and really show something of ourselves.”

But the reality may be more challenging.

As coach Jay Heaps has pointed out after each of team’s last three losses, the Revolution are getting pummeled by the physical play of the opposition, surrendering control of the midfield and being forced into costly errors.

And with the unloading of Shalrie Joseph to Chivas USA on August 1st, New England lost their one player capable of putting the hurt on the other side and protecting more creative types like the often-bullied Lee Nguyen, currently hobbled by an ankle strain and questionable for Saturday.

The Revolution have yet to see any return on the Joseph trade, as Blair Gavin, who is listed as doubtful for the Crew match, has been out with hamstring problems, and the front office has been silent on the transfer front.

Columbus, meanwhile, will be playing their fourth game in ten days, a busy stretch that has seen the Crew in good form, drawing against LA and Houston, then topping Toronto 2-1 at home on Wednesday.

With the departures of Andres Mendoza and Robbie Rogers after last season, the Crew also have struggled for goals, scoring only 25 times in 23 contests, two fewer than New England, but have been bolstered by the recent arrival of designated player Federico Higuain from the Argentine top flight.

In his two games since joining Columbus, the 27-year-old striker has tallied one goal and two assists.

The Crew and the Revolution played to a scoreless draw when the teams met at Gillette Stadium on June 16th as Columbus ‘keeper Andy Gruenebaum recorded six stops, several spectacular, to preserve the clean sheet.

Gruenebaum, who has enjoyed a breakthrough season replacing the injured Will Hesmer, has allowed fewer than 1.1 goals per game and leads all MLS goalkeepers with 86 saves.

The Crew, who snuck into the playoffs last year before getting dispatched in the wildcard round by Colorado, are seventh in the Eastern Conference, seven points behind fifth-place DC United with one game in hand and within striking distance of another postseason appearance.

That’s more than can be said for the reeling Revolution.

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