For the seventh time in two seasons, the Philadelphia Union and New England Revolution will be meeting tonight in an Eastern Conference battle at Subaru Park. This gives us another reason to connect with our friend Jake Catanese at The Bent Musket.
New England is currently sitting with seven points in second place in the Eastern Conference. Are they expected to stay at the top?
I’d like to think so. Through four games the Revs offense has really yet to reach its full potential as far as finishing but otherwise have looked strong in 3 of their 4 first games. Obviously a few days ago there was a stinker 0-2 loss against Nashville but you have to give their defense a lot of credit and there was a bad 15 minutes to open the season in Chicago but that was quickly corrected for a 2-2 draw.
I think the expectations for the Revolution are to be at the top of the Eastern Conference. This is a huge double match week, going to Philadelphia and then returning home to face Columbus for the weekend. I believe New England is playing two of the best teams in the East this week and a couple of results with at least four points added to the standings will really cement the Revs place as one of the contenders in the East.
Which player should Union fans pay close attention to? Who can make or break the game?
Everything the Revs do runs through Carles Gil on offense. If he stays healthy he should be an MLS Best XI contender but we are very biased about this. Gil is a walking chance creator and proves it just about every week. The problem is finishing those chances which is where the Revs are struggling right now.
DP strikers Gustavo Bou and Adam Buksa each have one goal to their names so far in 2021 and that number is just not high enough. Bou missed the match two weeks ago at home versus Atlanta and while he returned against Nashville he was ineffective. Buksa is far more active than he was while Gil was out injured in 2020 but gets unlucky and hits a lot of posts. Gil is going to create chances every week, that’s what he does. The Revs need to figure out the best way to deploy their two strikers between a 4-4-2 that didn’t really work in Nashville or a more traditional 4-2-3-1 and key is figuring out where to place Bou tactically. I believe in keeping Gil in the middle of the field and not play him as an in-cutting right midfielder/winger but that means stranding Bou out wide where he’s further from goal. It’s an interesting dilemma but if New England does figure it out that will be bad news for the rest of the league.
Where’s New England’s weak point right now, and how can the Union exploit it?
Set pieces. Set pieces. Set pieces. The Revs are bad at defending them, bad at clearing their lines from them, and probably give up too many of them close to the box as well. Nashville’s first goal last week is a perfect example, when a recycled cross goes back into the mixer and Walker Zimmerman heads it back across goal for any of THREE of his teammates to basically head into an open net. If you have a set piece specialist, going straight on goal against Matt Turner might be difficult but you’re likely to get good chances from close range free kicks in particular.
Part of this issue comes from being on the back foot, the Revs don’t always possess the ball well which leads to turnovers (see the second Nashville goal last week) in their own half. After four games I still think the Revs are searching for a true identity or style besides Carles Gil is a damn magician and is good at soccer. The Revs don’t need to be great at possession or a dominant countering team since they have the versatility I think to win in a variety of ways but they can’t be bad at both of those things in particular on the same day. Counter-attacking and losing the ball on the other side of the field is fine, you have 80 yards to set up and recover and defend...screwing up 30 yards from goal leads to problems and an unhappy Matt Turner. And we don’t like an unhappy Matt Turner.
What’s your score prediction and why?
I’m going with a 1-1 draw. I think the Revs will be a little bit conservative on the road midweek and while we know they can win on a cold day in Chester from last postseason, I will never say no to a point on the road, especially midweek. I think New England has too many little things to correct from the Nashville game but if there was a game for the offense to break out and gain some confidence, this would be a great time, but I’ll settle for just the one point.