Revs look to counter Orlando City's technical skill

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Friday's match at the Citrus Bowl will mark the first time the Revolution face expansion side Orlando City, but winger Juan Agudelo is already quite familiar with the Sunshine State team.

After his contract with EPL outfit Stoke City fell through last June, Agudelo linked up with Orlando City -- which at the time was competing in USL-PRO -- for training in late July. And what he saw at the time gave him a special appreciation for coach Adrian Heath's squad.

"The team's really good," Agudelo said. "They're probably one of the most underrated teams in the league because of the way they've been playing. They just haven't gotten results. But it's a very quality team."

The 2-4-2 (8 points) record may not suggest it, but Orlando City is one of the league's most technically sound squads. Nearly a quarter of the way through its debut season, the club resides at the top of the MLS passing accuracy chart (82.5 percent). Not surprisingly, opponents have struggled to keep pace, and as a result, the squad is also ranked first in average fouls suffered per game (15.3).

One of the reasons why the Lions are so keen to rely on sound passing and technical skill can be traced to none other than the face of their franchise: Kaka, the club's first designated player, not to mention the 2007 Ballon d'Or winner.

The Brazilian midfielder, who leads the club with three goals through seven games, has put his imprint since he signed last summer. Donning the No. 10 shirt, Kaka has commandeered an offense that has a created a number of chances even though the goals haven't quite arrived.

"They have some elusiveness in Kaka, and where he lines up on the field," Revolution coach Jay Heaps said. "They move him around quite a bit, and so you can't really pigeonhole him, and say, 'This is where he's going to be.' You have to be smart with what he's going to do."

To that end, Heaps is going to need his squad to get on the same page early defensively to thwart Orlando City's primary weapon. Unlike in last week's match against the possession-oriented Red Bulls, the Revolution know they cannot muscle their way to a win against a multilayered attack that features offense-minded fullbacks Brek Shea and Rafael Ramos.

Nor can they lean on their backline alone. Agudelo says he believes that the attack -- which has scored eight goals in its last three matches -- must do its part to lessen the load for the defense.

"I feel like our job is to take the pressure off our defense," Agudelo said. "Our defense has done extremely well, and we don't want to let them down during the games. Once we score, I know our defenders are very relieved."

The good news for the locals is that the front three of Agudelo, Charlie Davies and Teal Bunbury have found their stride in recent weeks. And, according to the Revolution winger, that's no happy accident, either.

"It's fun," Agudelo said of partnering with Davies and Bunbury. "It feels as though when one of us scores, it feels like it's your goal, and i'’s great because we get along really well off the field."

Although the Revolution enter Friday's match unbeaten in their last seven (5-0-2) thanks to that attacking chemistry, Heaps won't overlook the threats posed by their hard-luck adversaries.

"We have to prepare ourselves for what they can bring," Heaps said, "and also build parts of our game plan that are going to bring out are strengths."