Shalrie Joseph vs. Kansas City Wizards
Keith Nordstrom

New-look Revs to host Sporting Kansas City

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – The New England Revolution will attempt to snap a brief two-game losing streak when the club hosts Eastern Conference rival Sporting Kansas City on Saturday, April 23, at Gillette Stadium.

Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. and the match will be televised live in high definition on Comcast SportsNet New England, while the radio call will be available on 98.5 The Sports Hub’s HD2 channel.

It will be a night of debuts at Gillette Stadium in more ways than one. The Revs will debut their new jersey with UnitedHealthcare’s logo across the chest after announcing the major sponsorship deal on Friday, while recently-acquired U.S. National Team midfielder Benny Feilhaber will be aiming to make his first MLS appearance after being selected by the Revolution earlier this week in the Allocation Process.

Current Form: Both Revs and Sporting winless in the month of April

April has not been kind to New England or Kansas City.

The Revs (1-2-3, 6 pts.) are winless in four games (0-2-2) this month, most recently suffering back-to-back shutout losses to Real Salt Lake and the Houston Dynamo. Last weekend’s setback at Robertson Stadium came in devastating fashion, as Hunter Freeman’s 86th-minute goal claimed all three points for the Dynamo after the Revs had defended resolutely for much of the game.

Kansas City (1-2-1, 4 pts.) has encountered similar struggles since opening the season with a 3-2 win over Chivas USA on March 19. In three subsequent games – all of which have been on the road as the club awaits completion of LIVESTRONG Sporting Park – SKC has conceded seven goals and amassed a record of 0-2-1, including last weekend’s 1-0 loss to the Columbus Crew.

Past Meetings: Kansas City has been the Revolution’s bogey team in recent years

The Revs have registered just six wins in their last 29 meetings with Kansas City dating back to 2000, including a pair of winless stretches spanning seven games (2005-07) and six games (2008-10) in recent years. Playing amidst the comforts of home hasn’t helped the Revolution’s cause, as the club has almost identical records both at home (6-10-5) and on the road (6-10-3) against SKC.

New England bucked the trend in the most recent meeting with Kansas City, however, claiming a 1-0 win on the strength of Shalrie Joseph’s 31st-minute goal on Oct. 16, 2010.

Injury Report: Revs healthiest they’ve been all season; Bravo missing for SKC

Revolution head coach Steve Nicol will have a wealth of options on Saturday night, as his side is near full strength after struggling with injuries through the early part of the season.

In addition to the availability of Feilhaber and the return of Joseph and Pat Phelan from suspension, left back Didier Domi is set to reclaim his spot in the starting lineup after missing last weekend’s loss to the Dynamo with a left hamstring strain. Fellow Frenchman Ousmane Dabo (R quad strain) – who has missed the first six games of the season – will feature in next Tuesday’s U.S. Open Cup play-in game against D.C. United as he builds up his fitness.

Sporting could have midfielder Ryan Smith (L knee inflammation) available for the first time this season, while recently-signed central defender Aurelien Collin is prepared to make his MLS debut after receiving his International Transfer Certificate this week. Forward – and Designated Player – Omar Bravo will be unavailable, however, as he continues his recovery from sports hernia surgery.

Key Player: Revolution central midfielder Shalrie Joseph

All eyes will be on Feilhaber after his high-profile move from Europe to the Revolution earlier this week, but the key to the Revolution’s performance on Saturday night rests on the shoulders of Joseph, the influential central midfielder who is returning from suspension.

The Revs had difficulty maintaining possession and subsequently struggled to generate scoring chances without Joseph last weekend in Houston, and his steady presence in the middle of the field should rectify some of those issues against SKC.

Final Thoughts: Improved possession critical both offensively and defensively

“They’ll certainly leave some guys high,” Nicol said of Kansas City’s attacking approach. “Defensively, they don’t all get behind the ball, tuck in and squeeze like normal teams will do. They’ll take some chances and leave people up front, which obviously means that we have to be good on the ball and not turn it over. If we do, they’re going to be at us quickly.”