The Philadelphia Union are back in action today at Talen Energy Stadium, where they host a team on the opposite end of the table from them in the Eastern Conference in the New England Revolution. I caught up with our friend, University of Connecticut enthusiast and Philadelphia Eagles fan Jake Catanese at fellow SB Nation site The Bent Musket, to get caught up on the Revs.
1. What’s more surprising to you, that the Union are at the top of the table or that the Revs are at the bottom and tied on points with Atlanta United and the Red Bulls? What do you think are the key differences between the teams so far this season that explains the nine point gap?
MLS is dumb and great and stupid and wonderful and nothing, NOTHING, should surprise any of us at this point. This league makes no sense even on a good day. Look, New England is bad and you left out the part where the Revs have played 10 games compared to 8 for the Red Bulls and just 7 for Atlanta. I don’t expect either ATL or RBNY to stick around in the basement for long, and therein lies the problem. Even if teams like Philly or Montreal regress a little bit, the hole the Revs are in right now in the standings is oceanic. New England has already racked up four losses at home, which is two more than Jay Heaps in 2017 and he got sacked (mostly for getting 6 points on the road with a 1-13-3 record, but I digress).
The Revs can’t win at home because they can’t score at home and that’s a bad combination. New England has been shutout in all four of those home losses and needed a wild 4-goal game in SKC to get to 10 goals on the year through 10 games while giving up 19 and yes that minus-9 goal difference is the worst in the East. Even if the Revs make significant additions between now and the end of the year, the damage is already done and at best this is a team that will barely just make the playoffs and that might have been their ceiling/expectation at the start of the year.
2. It’s probably hard to have much good to say about a team in last place, but what have been some positives about the Revs this season and who are the players who are key to pulling off a surprise win or draw on Saturday?
Carles Gil is absolutely fun to watch and the guy goes everywhere. A few weeks ago I was convinced I saw him more often at right back than I did at CAM though I don’t want to go into more tactical detail as to why that is. But the Spanish playmaker has been a very solid signing for the Revs and and if/when the rest of the roster and/or lineup gets sorted Gil could be a very vital yet still underrated DP in the league.
Right now the Revs actually have solid crop of youngsters from both the draft and homegrown ranks that hopefully will get more of a shot as the year goes on if New England is still below the red line. Justin Rennicks was the striker many fans thought they lost after an overseas training saga saw him suspended from the academy his final year. Draft picks Tajon Buchanan and DeJuan Jones have already shown they can start and be effective in the league with Jones netting his first goal in KC. The downside is that most of the players I just mentioned, all play the same positions - along with current Revs Penilla, Agudelo, Fagundez, and even Bunbury.
3. What’s gone wrong with Brad Friedel at the helm and what do you think he has to do to keep his job? Do you see any similarities between him learning the hard lessons of being a former player turned head coach in this league that Jim Curtin has had?
I think Brad Friedel simply thought that he could bring a different sense of professionalism to the locker room and field and that was going to be enough to turn around the Revs. At the beginning of 2018 he had a pressing system that I think caught a few teams off guard but also seemed to suit players like Cristian Penilla out wide and even the scrappy Teal Bunbury up top. But everything tailed off last summer and hasn’t gotten better. The Revs are a mess tactically, especially defensively, and have done a poor job of roster building the past few years to compound the issues Friedel is dealing with now. Do I think the Revs are awful? No I don’t, but I also don’t think in their current state they’re a playoff team. A lot hinges on this rumored “imminent” DP signing that is either coming in a week or in July, my guess is Friedel is safe in 2019 no matter what, but might need a good start to 2020 or he will get the quick hook.
Brad Friedel played for MLS when it was in its infancy, then spent the next decade plus over in England. Meanwhile, Curtin has seen the league evolve since he was drafted in the early 2000s to the current DP era now. While Philly isn’t exactly dominating the standings, the Union do have three USOC runner-ups with Curtin at the helm and he’s been doing with guys who have been mostly MLS lifers leading the way on offense like Sebastian Le Toux, Jack McInerney, CJ Sapong and Chris Pontius. I think Curtin has a lot in common with those guys and is far more relatable that whatever Friedel and the Revs are trying to do. The results might not be all that impressive the past few seasons for Philly, but there’s usually been slight improvement every year with Curtin at the helm and the way Philly builds its roster from the academy, Bethlehem Steel, draft, etc., is far more promising than what the Revs have as well.
Well the only listed injury is HG Issac Angking who’s been out since minor knee surgery a month ago. This is good, because the Revs started their third and final CB on the roster last week in Jalil Anibaba next to starting RB Andrew Farrell. This put second year man Brandon Bye at right back and both he and Anibaba are out this week due to red card suspensions from the SKC game. So let’s assume the Revs backline is at full strength for this starting lineup.
4-2-3-1: Cropper; Castillo, Mancienne, Delamea, Farrell; Zahibo, Caldwell; Penilla, Gil, Bunbury; JF Caicedo
I don’t know what the best Revs lineup is anymore, but I do know the Revs backline depth is a mess and this week is no different. Holding midfielder Luis Caicedo and rookie DeJuan Jones might be the utility defenders this week unless Syria international left back Gabriel Somi is out of the proverbial dog house and makes the bench. I still don’t know who to pair on the other wing with Cristian Penilla and after netting twice in the first half last week, there’s no reason not to play JF Caicedo up front.
I know the Union are banged up as well, but the Revs are bad and could also start a far more defensive lineup than what I have above. I think Friedel will have the Revs playing for a draw from the start and that, as always, is a mistake.
Prediction: Union 2, Revs 1