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The Other Guys: New England Revolution (again)

Jake from The Bent Musket makes a quick return visit to the pages of OaM

SOCCER: MAY 22 MLS - New York Red Bulls at New England Revolution
Tajon Buchanan has been having a breakout season so far for New England
Photo by Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

With the Red Bulls right back in Foxboro a month after a 3-1 loss, we spoke again with Jake Catanese of sibling site The Bent Musket to find out what, if anything, has changed about tonight’s opponents, New England Revolution.

It’s been a whole four weeks since we last saw the Revs. What, if anything, has changed about the team’s form and their trajectory for the rest of the season?

Well in the past month the Revs have played all of two games since that 3-1 win against RBNY almost a month ago to the day back in May. The Revs knocked off Cincy on the road 1-0 and then claimed a solid 3-2 win over NYCFC at your place (because reasons) thanks to some late heroics from Jon Bell and Tommy McNamara. So both teams have claimed a full 6 points out of 6 since our last meeting but I don’t think much has changed for the Revs. New England is still in first place in the East and yet I don’t think we’ve seen the Revs put in a dominant performance so far in 2021 despite various players having standout individual performances at times. The Revs win a lot of one goal games, which is not a bad thing, but they’ve played several games in which they probably should have scored earlier and/or more often. The 1-0 wins against Cincy and Columbus come to mind for me, where the Revs were largely on the front foot but waited until the final 15 minutes or later to get the winner. Some of this is good defense, but some is also meh finishing combined with slow starts in the first half.

The good news is a great keeper in Matt Turner can hide a lot of those finishing woes by simply not giving up a lot of goals. Turner absolutely earned his Player of the Week nod for his seven save performance (including a PK) against NYCFC. Adam Buksa and Gustavo Bon continue to produce up top despite platooning the starting lone striker position, Carles Gil probably should win MVP if he plays like he is for another month let alone the rest of the season, and the Revs supporting cast is also jumping in with big moments. This is a team that a lot of people thought could compete for a top spot in the East and that’s exactly what they’re doing and I think they can get better too. The last two wins for RBNY I think were much more important for them, getting back to a .500 record and back above the playoff line.

Tajon Buchanan was perhaps the standout in the last game with his individual effort for the second goal. What has been the secret to his emergence under Bruce Arena and what are his prospects for the future including a potential transfer?

The secret is simply to just play your kids. The Revs have long been the best team as far as getting significant talent out of the MLS SuperDraft and with an entire backline of draftees (D. Jones, Farrell, Kessler, Bell - via SJ, Bye) along with Buchanan that have really propelled them up the standings under Bruce Arena. What started as an emergency right back experiment in the playoffs last year turned into a revelation - Buchanan is pretty good at this soccer thing. His speed alone causes havoc, as RBNY learned with that solo run in right before halftime last month, but his vision is really where his growth as a player can be seen as he gets into a lot of really good spots to either send in a cross or draw a foul. He does a lot of little things very well and has great chemistry working off of Carles Gil in the middle whether he’s out wide or overlapping from fullback.

Buchanan’s stock with the Canada MNT is also on the rise and I hope he gets the nod for the Gold Cup in a few weeks. Between that and his U23 Olympic campaign, it wouldn’t shock me to see a lot of teams in Europe interested in him. The question would be if he plays at fullback or winger abroad and I’d lean towards fullback is where he could have a bigger impact and we’ve seen he can absolutely handle himself on the defensive end 1v1 as well. What the time frame for that transfer is might depend on Canada’s qualification status for the World Cup as well as any trophies the Revs pick up this year, but I wouldn’t expect to see Buchanan (or Matt Turner) in New England past the 2022 season.

Are there any injuries or big lineup/formation changes we should expect from the way the team looked last month?

On the injury front, left back Christian Mafla suffered a minor setback last week and was listed as out for the RBNY game. Center mid Luis Caicedo has also had staggered availability and has missed time as he works back from a season ending injury that kept him out for 2020.

Bruce Arena has really settled into a 4-2-3-1 formation with Carles Gil in the middle (something I was absolutely begging this team to do) and it’s really paid off as far as wins go. There might be a few like for like changes however: Henry Kessler for Jon Bell at centerback, any number of the Revs holding mids to partner with Matt Polster after Maciel got the start against NYC, and probably Buchanan or maybe Teal Bunbury at RM/RW after Tommy Mac’s start and game winner over the weekend. The Revs have tremendous depth across their roster and being able to rotate the squad during midweek games and not have to worry about a drop off in overall team performance is a tremendous asset I hope Arena utilizes properly throughout the season.