Hopefully the Red Bulls purchased a timeshare in the Boston-metro area this summer, because over the next eight days they're really going to need it.
For the first of two back-to-back games against the New England Revolution up in Massachusetts, we spoke to The Bent Musket writer and Samuel Adams Boston Lager connoisseur Jake Catanese to give us some insights into what we can expect from Bob Kraft's second-most successful football team:
1. What kind of personnel and formation changes can we expect to see from the Revolution on just three nights rest - will it be roughly the same unit, or do you expect big changes from Sunday's starting XI?
The biggest player that will be returning for sure will be Diego Fagundez, who was suspended by the DisCo for the Revs game on Sunday against Philly. Fagundez's absence was notable because with the international callups the Revs figured to at least have Fagundez playing both games before the Gold Cup break. The DisCo cracking down, and rightfully so, for a stamp on Sebastian Giovinco in Toronto meant the Revs put out a solid team that lacked a lot of creativity in the attacking half.
Centerback Antonio Delamea is day-to-day after suffering a broken nose in Toronto, he could be an option on the backline for the RBNY match. Chris Tierney was a sub in Philadelphia so there's no reason he can't be available to start as well. Je-Vaughn Watson will likely be with Jamaica for Gold Cup preparations and combined with Kelyn Rowe and Juan Agudelo for the United States, RBNY might see a similar lineup to the one that got skunked 3-0 in Philly. Not by choice, but because that's just who the Revs have available right now with callups and injuries piling up. This team is literally and figuratively limping into the Gold Cup break.
2. The various NY-NE/Boston rivalries in football, basketball, and especially baseball are well-documented. Do the Revolution treat the Red Bulls as a top rival, or is there someone else you consider "the enemy"?
I think largely, that yes, most of the fan base does believe that RBNY are the Revs "chief rival" but this question in New England depends on how long you've followed the team. If you've been around since the start of the league in the 90s, you despise the Chicago Fire because of all the early playoff series with that team. And their pizza isn't really pizza but I digress. The Houston Dynamo and Los Angeles Galaxy were the two teams that kept the Revs from winning an MLS Cup in the 2000s and again in 2014. But that 2014 run will also be remembered as the year the Revs went down to Red Bull Arena and won a game, and it was glorious to witness in person.
The other part to this question is - Does RBNY consider the Revs a rival? Certainly from a geographical standpoint but for the most part, there was no real Metros-Revs rivalry and RBNY's recent success happened during a mostly down Revs side. Rivalries usually have to be a two-way street, and I think most diehard Red Bull/Metro fans would probably point to DC United and the Atlantic Cup as their main rival or even the new Hudson River Derby with NYCFC. There's surely no love lost between the RBNY and New England, but I just don't think the history is there for either side to say it's a rivalry on par with Cascadia or Texas or the CaliClassico.
3. What tactics can we expect Jay Heaps and company to use on Wednesday and what can the Red Bulls do to overcome them and leave with a win?
I want to see the Revs break out on the counter in a big way and force RBNY to be scrambling in their defensive end. The Revs haven't been a great team at breaking down opponents who are set up, packed in and established in the defensive third, so limiting turnovers and dealing with any high press from New England is a good start to controlling the tempo of the game.
The biggest problem for New England right now is finishing, mainly, we're not good at it. The Revs will always create a few good chances a game and it's tough to limit those when they have a full compliment of attacking players. But even the good chances have led to off target shots or easy saves for who ever is in net. With the Revs playing this poorly and on short rest and with a thin bench, this is a game that RBNY can absolutely steal a full three points from or easily a draw if they don't make any major mistakes.
LINEUP (4-4-2 Diamond): Cropper; Tierney, Angoua, J Smith, Farrell; Koffie, Caldwell, Fagundez, Nguyen; Kamara, Bunbury
INJURIES: Xavier Kouassi (OUT-left quad), Daigo Kobayashi (QUEST-hamstring), Antonio Delamea (QUEST-broken nose)
GOLD CUP CALLUPS: Juan Agudelo (USA), Kelyn Rowe (USA), Je-Vaughn Watson (JAM)
This game is a mess, it shouldn't be happening on Wednesday let alone midweek before the Gold Cup break. IF this game is truly a rivalry match it should not be relegated to the Wednesday after Fourth of July. Despite all that, the Revs need this game if they have any hope in my opinion of clawing back into the playoff race. A win against an East rival combined with the return of US internationals Agudelo and Rowe and (maybe....huge, huge maaaaaaaaaaaaybe) a summer allocation signing could jump start the Revs.
They will not get the win however, a 1-1 draw will have to suffice.