A match-up between the Philadelphia Union and the Revs means another chance to check in with our friends at The Bent Musket that cover the team. Jake Catanese answered questions for us.
1.) What’s New England’s strategy going to look like? What should Union fans expect from the Revolution throughout the match?
New England has been a fairly methodical side so far during the MLS is Back tournament which is a nice way of saying the Revs haven’t been creating a lot of “big” chances. Carles Gil created 12 key passes (passes that lead to shots) against the Montreal Impact in the group opener and while the Revs should have probably netted a second goal, those chances were not the glaring absolute must score kind of goals we’d expect from the Revs attack.
I’d expect more of the same from New England in the Round of 16, which means breaking down a Revs defense that so far has allowed only one goal and that came from an “assist” by Toni Delamea who hit a bad back pass for Federico Higuain to slot home in the 1-1 tie with DC United. This has been a pleasant surprise for the Revs, who didn’t have Andrew Farrell available in the opener and have gotten good minutes from rookie first round draft pick Henry Kessler out of Virginia. If the Revs attack is going to be blunted by Gil’s unavailability, they’re going to have to find different combination play to generate the big chances on offense. Cristian Penilla and Diego Fagundez in particular are going to have to step up and have big games.
2.) Who/what is the Revolution’s biggest threat?
Well that would be Carles Gil, but he’s doubtful for the match and was in a walking boot during the Revs 0-0 draw against TFC.
So without Gil the task will fall to the Revolutions other Designated Players. Yes, we have three of them for the first time ever. Gustavo Bou has been one of the top scorers in MLS since he joined last summer, netting 10 goals in 19 games since coming over from Club Tijuana a year ago. Adam Buksa is the true No. 9 type striker the Revs have lacked in the 4-2-3-1 formation, his big frame scoring the opener against DC United when redirected a deflected cross past Bill Hamid. The Revs should be better on set pieces with Buksa in the mix and expect Bou to roam just about everywhere to try and create things in the attacking half.
3.) Who/what is the Revolution’s biggest weakness?
Holding midfield. The Revs have a lot of good midfielders, but Jermaine Jones is not walking through that door. Wilfried Zahibo came off the bench at halftime against TFC and the Revs immediately started playing significantly better in the second frame. I’d expect him to start but who he starts next to is another story. Luis Caicedo is out for the year with an injury and Matt Polster isn’t eligible for the competition. Scott Caldwell and Kelyn Rowe started against TFC and are both fine players, but were ineffective as a combination and weren’t getting much help from a younger lineup around them as Arena was rotating the squad a bit in the final group game. If it were me, I’d start Rowe and Diego Fagundez and play them on the same side of the field and let the switch between center mid and winger as they see fit to keep the Union defense on their toes.
4.) What’s your lineup and score prediction? Are there any lineup/tactical changes for NE from recent games?
4-1-4-1: Turner; Buttner, Mancienne, Delamea, Farrell; Zahibo; Penilla, Rowe, Bou, Fagundez; Buksa
This is going to really be a 4-2-3-1 with Rowe sitting next to Zahibo and Bou as the No. 10 type but I just wanted to see that hilarity in print. Bou is a wonderful character and at heart is really an off-striker and should be playing next to Buksa but without Gil he’ll just be everywhere. The Revs are going to need production from their wide players, that’s the fullbacks and wingers and that’s been lacking in my opinion so far in this tournament. The Revs have proven they can play defense after the long pandemic break, but we haven’t seen the offense yet really take over games and I don’t think Andre Blake is going to help matters.
I’m going to predict a 1-1 draw and the Revs going through on PKs.