1. New England Revolution isn’t where it would like to be right now, but in terms of its placement on the table and GA. Obviously, Matt Turner’s absence will have a lot to do with the latter, but what is the issue with the former?
The Revs had around zero luck to start the season and just about every centerback has seen time on the injury list so far this year, except for Omar Gonzalez who in his elevated playing time as a starter has...let’s just say not done all that well. Obviously missing Matt Turner did not help although veteran Brad Knighton, backup Earl Edwards Jr, and newcomer Djordje Petrovic have all seen minutes this year and for various reasons all had positives to speak about. The Revs are, in theory, back on the front foot; Adam Buksa can’t stop scoring, and with three wins and 11 points from their last six games I feel confident that the Revs will eventually cement themselves in the middle order of the playoffs but it will be a very long climb back to the top of the East or the Shield. So much went right for New England last year, among them staying relatively healthy save for a couple of months of Carles Gil being out, and once you’re out of that kind of rhythm it is incredibly difficult to get back to that kind of consistency.
Aside from the injuries, Bruce Arena has had to deal with a tactical failing - basically Matt Polster as a lone CDM at the bottom of a diamond was getting exposed and outnumbered and New England has started to drop an extra midfielder back there to partner with the Revs workhorse and unsung hero. The real problems will begin in the summer when Matt Turner leaves potentially along with Adam Buksa as well. Turner’s deal with Arsenal is done and Buksa has been getting offers from a couple of big teams in Turkey but if we are to believe the silly season rumors, those offers for Buksa don’t even cover the Revs original transfer fee.
Petrovic is the heir apparent to the starting keeper spot and when Gustavo Bou is healthy it will be interesting to see how and where the Revs deploy their other DP striker. It’s clear the Revs need more help in the midfield but perhaps the extra threat of Bou up top might help tactically. Sebastian Lletget is not the same player as Tajon Buchanan but he does a lot of little things right that open up space for others and in time will prove to be a very good addition for New England. Dylan Borrero, a U22 initiative signing from Colombia could be the answer to the other starting CM spot between Polster and Carles Gil rather than the Tommy McNamara-led platoon that has held down that spot since last year.
2. The Revs had a tough extratime loss against our mutual enemy last night. Did New England put its best foot forward in that match? What went wrong?
New England started very few regulars atop St. John’s fabled parking garage known as Belson Stadium, Matt Polster coming off suspension being the only true starter although veterans Ema Boateng and AJ DeLaGarza featured from the start as well. New England used their previous Open Cup match at home to Cincy to start a near first-choice lineup and get them out of a funk and it worked as the Revs piled up the goals and have been in better form since. The big performance of the night was Djordje Petrovic in goal who had a tremendous double save to keep things scoreless and force extra time but the Revs were under pressure throughout the match and eventually they got caught. Andrew Farrell off the bench had a giveaway in his own half and NYCFC converted which was a huge bummer but in the grand scheme of things, the Revs have kind of already been submarined by one extra competition this year and facing at least one more road game at RBNY, perhaps it was best they bowed out at this stage with their struggles in league play.
As for what went wrong, the Revs started 17-year-old homegrown Esmir Bajraktarevic in place of Carles Gil and they struggled to get the ball forward into NYC’s attacking third. Justin Rennicks had an equalizer rightly canceled out for offside just minutes after NYC’s opener in extra time but he was largely starved for service as a lone striker but that’s more to the credit of NYC’s smothering pressing and possession style that wore down the Revs. Overall, the Revs forcing extra time and limiting NYC for much of the night from big chances, I think they did really well given the circumstances.
3. Carles Gil isn’t getting as much MVP hype this season. All the same, he’s had a good year. Is he still the player to watch, or is there someone new who MLS fans should look to this season?
Carles Gil is one of the best players in this league and he still has seven assists to go along with three goals (all from the PK spot) and is worth the price of admission to any MLS game or checking in on ESPN+ to watch the Revs for any length of time. Obviously, Mihailovic and others are having great seasons for good teams and Gil likely will still have a shot at First Team All-MLS or whatever it is...but the race to watch might be Adam Buksa and the Golden Boot. This is of course assuming he stays in MLS for the entire year and doesn’t depart in the summer but while we praise his ridiculously talented forehead for routinely finding the back of the net...if Buksa is going to score from spots like this the top of the scoring chart is in trouble:
Okay, the backheel is showing off but we know Buksa can score in the air. If he’s also scoring on the ground on near post runs, the Revs are going to be inherently more dangerous because his presence will draw a lot of attention in the box, opening up the back post for someone like Bou and the top of the box for trailing runs from Gil, Lletget and others. If Buksa does depart, it will be very difficult for New England to replace him and have said replacement be in the kind of form Buksa’s in right now which I think is among the top strikers in the league. Another shoutout to Dylan Borrero who simply hasn’t gotten enough minutes yet but certainly the Revs are hoping could be a big factor down the stretch and into next year. It will be interesting to see if the Revs pivot their long-term roster-building strategy from 3 DPs to 3 U22 Initiative signings if and when Buksa departs.
4. Starting lineups, notable absences and score predictions against the Philadelphia Union.
Henry Kessler is the only player listed on the injury report and is questionable with a leg injury, which means the Revs might have to find a partner for Andrew Farrell in central defense. Gustavo Bou is off the injury list and came on in the second half of the Revs Open Cup game midweek and it would seem logical that he would feature in some capacity this weekend.
Starting XI: Turner; Jones, Bell, Farrell, Bye; Borrero, Polster; Bou, Gil, Lletget; Buksa
Aside from Jon Bell deputizing for Kessler in the backline, this could be the Revs best starting lineup. Bou and Lletget won’t be out and out wingers with Jones and Bye providing most of the width from fullback, but even if Bou is a second striker and Borrero is more of a true shuttling center mid, the Revs have been able to score goals this year. The key for Bruce Arena is knowing when to switch into a more defensive formation and getting those substitutions and tactical changes to work.
Philadelphia has been drawing a lot lately, I would very much like to see them lose but I think the Revs are going to be a bit cautious here with some of their new and/or returning players like Bou in particular. I think a 1-1 draw against the East leaders before the international break is fine.