1.) First place in the MLS Power Rankings, first place in the Supporters’ Shield race, New England is the team to beat out of the whole of MLS. They’ve won four straight prior to the 0-0 draw against Nashville, but outside of Miami, the score lines have been close. What’s gotten New England just over the line in the last few matches?
A variety of things, but mostly just determination and constant pressure on offense and solid defense in the back. I am not thrilled that the Revs have won 9 of their 11 games by a single goal because it means they’re either not scoring a late insurance goal or giving one up late at times. However, unlike in past years, the Revs have had a knack for scoring late goals to turn draws into wins so while there are a few games where the Revs should have added more goals, some of these games are just close and New England is finding ways to win.
During the Gold Cup without Buchanan available as a winger, the Revs adjusted the midfield to a diamond shape, and aside from a rough 30-minute start against Toronto, that formation did really well and the Revs didn’t miss a beat even with Henry Kessler out of the lineup for a few games either. The Revs have an incredibly deep roster and have been able to rotate players, especially in the midfield to support the DP’s up front in Bou and Buksa and Carles Gil in the playmaking role.
2.) Matt Turner and Tajon Buchanan have recently returned from Gold Cup ventures for New England, what does it mean for the Revolution to have them back?
I think it’s always great to add two Gold Cup Best XI players to your roster. Matt Turner is the best goalkeeper in the league with apologies to noted UConn Husky legend Andre Blake. The big return right now is Buchanan, who filled in at the #10 role for Gil against Nashville midweek and did pretty well. It’s been a whirlwind campaign for the Canadian winger and with so many reports of transfer offers coming in for Tajon that New England fans are expected to see him overseas by the winter. It’s been a fun ride this year to see the rise of Turner and Buchanan internationally and we’re enjoying the time we have left with them in Revolution Navy.
3.) What’s New England’s greatest weakness on the field? How should Union fans expect to see Philly exploit that?
Set pieces are still something the Revs struggle with, and while I think New England has gotten better it’s still a weakness that teams at the top of the East can take advantage of. New England gives away a lot of cheap fouls in the final third which puts extra pressure on the backline and Turner’s goal. While Matt Turner is tremendous, the Revs backline is not exactly tall, and while Jon Bell’s athleticism has been an asset for the Revs this year, he is still learning at the MLS level and there’s only so much Andrew Farrell’s weekly bicycle kick clearances can do.
But as we talked about earlier, if you can get the Revs on the back foot they can give up goals. In New England’s 3-2 wins over RBNY, at home in late June they gave up a late goal to make the final 15 minutes really interesting as a 3-0 Revs lead became a one-goal win. Then a week ago the Revs were on the front foot despite going down a goal twice before a late winner from Adam Buksa. It’s rare to get the Revs on the backfoot with their ability to counterattack but when it happens teams have done well against them.
4.) What are your score predictions, lineups, injuries, etc?
Injuries: Luis Caicedo (OUT - Lower Body), Jon Bell (OUT - Lower Body), Carles Gil (DOUBTFUL - Sports Hernia)
Gil isn’t on the official injury list but The Bent Musket’s own Seth Macomber is reporting Gil is expected to miss 2-3 weeks with a sports hernia injury. Last week the Revs stuck with their new diamond midfield against Nashville SC and had Tajon Buchanan play the #10 role in place of Gil. I suspect the Revs might start in the diamond but transition out of it around halftime if they can’t get it to work.
Lineup 4-4-2 Diamond — Turner; Mafla, Kessler, Farrell, Bye; Polster, McNamara, Traustason, Buchanan; Bou, Buksa
With this personnel, the Revs can easily transition into a 4-2-3-1 and drop Bou into a withdrawn striker/#10 role with Buchanan out wide and any number of players off the bench to partner with Polster at holding mid and combine with Buksa up front as the wingers. I think playing fairly well against a strong defensive team like Nashville in their first game without Gil all-season should benefit them greatly. This is an important homestand for the Revs and a good chance to separate themselves at the top of the East. I think they do it, another close one 2-1 with the obligatory long-range rocket from La Pantera.