New England Revolution visits Red Bull Arena for the first time this season hoping to knock the New York Red Bulls out of the top six of the MLS Eastern Conference.
The Bent Musket's Jake Catanese is here to help Once A Metro understand the plans Revs' head coach Jay Heaps might be making to see his team to three points on May 27.
Once A Metro: Looks like the Revs drew the short straw and got this week's decision that makes us question why DisCo exists at all. With Farrell already out, what does Angoua's suspension mean for the team? What will the back line look like for this one?
Jake Catanese, The Bent Musket: There is both good news and bad news for the Revs on the back line. The good news is that fourth round draft pick Joshua Smith has started several games this year and looked really solid at times. It's probably a lock that he plays against RBNY and given the short week the Revs have with NYCFC midweek on Wednesday, Heaps was likely going to have some rotation in the team anyway. It's not an ideal situation to be forced into the switch with a really odd DisCo decision, but stuff happens.
The interesting move will be at right-back. Chris Tierney has shaken off some early season issues and a minor hip injury to reclaim the starting left-back spot and Antonio Delamea has been a rock at one of the center-back positions. With Josh Smith slotting it at the other center-back, replacing Farrell will be a far more interesting decision. Je-Vaughn Watson seems the most logical choice but he's been a little volatile as a starter for the Revs in recent times, picking up two first-half yellows in Chicago. Kelyn Rowe deputized well at left back this season and it wouldn't shock me to see him at least start the game there or at right-back before moving up into the midfield. London Woodberry hasn't played yet in 2017 but would also be an option to make the spot start.
My best guess: Tierney-Smith-Delamea-Rowe with Watson as a second-half sub.
OaM: The Revs have lost two of their last 10 and once in the last month. And yet they're under the red line in the East and therefore perhaps under the radar. Is their glass half full or half empty? And what's behind the recent run of wins?
TBM: That's a kind way of saying it, since most of New England would probably see a two-game losing streak, three-game unbeaten streak, five-game winless streak and then a two-game winning streak on the MLS Form page. But the Revs haven't had a lot of really bad performances this year, at least not entirely. Yes, losing 3-0 at Chicago with ten players wasn't great. Nor was giving up a 3-0 lead at Seattle to draw that game, but the Revs don't have a ton of games against the West any more - most of those are out of the way. As to whether the glass is half full vs. half empty, I think a lot of that depends on this road trip.
The Revs' most recent winning streak is basically just taking care of business at home, in particular the win against a very depleted RSL side. The win last week against Columbus helped a lot as well because, while it wasn't the Revs best game, it did show they can come from behind and hold a lead late. Also, Diego Fagundez is scoring goals. Fagundez was playing really well before that homestand but didn't have any goals to show for it. Now he's scored three times in the last two games and is officially en fuego, which is bad news for the rest of the East.
OaM: Is this a team that sets up to neutralize an opponent or that just tries to play the way it knows best? What should we expect from the Revs at RBA?
TBM: I'd like to say that it's a little bit of both, but that implies the Revs always play the way that they're good at. Ideally, the Revs should be a countering team: see the first 75 minutes in Seattle, which were great. New England on the ball driving at a defense on the counter are ruthless, but they don't always do it. Late in Seattle, the Revs took their foot off the gas, never relieved pressure in the back and conceded three goals in what really should've been a sure win. When the Revs are on the front foot, they're one of the best teams in MLS as far as I'm concerned. When they sit back and try to bunker, well...maybe not so much. And some of this has been dictated by the opponent and some seems self-inflicted. It's a mixed bag: when it works, it works well; when it doesn't it usually does so in a spectacular failing fashion.
This year, however, Jay Heaps has been playing the match-ups a little bit more than usual and some of the adjustments have paid off very well. There was some early rotation between Angoua and Smith at centerback that seemed to be match-up related, getting the big 6'4" Smith in defense to help deal with more aerial focused teams. Jay Heaps has swapped around the midfield a lot, with Scott Caldwell, Fagundez, Daigo Kobayashi and Rowe all getting time in the shuttling role. And with Juan Agudelo out, Lee Nguyen has been lining up at striker but dropping back with Kei Kamara up top. The diamond midfield with Xavier Kouassi has had a lot of success, and now with Gershon Koffie back, the Revs can go with two holding midfielders quite easily if they want to late in games.
The big question for the Revs is whether or not Juan Agudelo is healthy enough to start the game. If he is, then the Revs probably stick both him and Kei up top with Lee at the top of the diamond. If Agudelo starts, that increases the chances Rowe could start at right back since that will be one less midfield spot for the Revs regulars. There's not really a wrong answer for how the Revs line up, it's just a matter of getting it to work on the field.
Injuries/Suspensions: Benjamin Angoua (SUSP), Andrew Farrell (SUSP)
Projected Lineup: Cropper; Tierney, J Smith, Delamea, Rowe; Kouassi, Kobayashi, Caldwell, Fagundez; Kamara, Nguyen
I know Agudelo is back but I'd rather see him off the bench late to maybe help close this game out and work back into game shape a bit slower. There's a couple of ways Heaps can deploy this midfield and even a 4-2-3-1 wouldn't shock me, to help shield a more make shift back line this week. I have this lineup in the diamond set-up but I'm sure something will change during the game.
Final Score: I think RBNY has a lot of issues defensively and going up against a red-hot Diego Fagundez will not help that. 2-1 Revs.