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The Other Guys: New England Revolution

Jake Catanese of The Bent Musket gives us an insider scouting report

MLS: New England Revolution at Sporting Kansas City
Tell your friends and family Bruce Arena is coming to town.
Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Tonight the New York Red Bulls face a New England Revolution side slogging through a difficult season but still with a glimmer of playoff hopes. To get an idea of what to expect from tonight’s opponents, we turned to our friend Jake Catanese of sibling site The Bent Musket.

1. Seems like it’s been a weird one in New England. After a Shield-winning 2021 campaign, the Revs are struggling to make the playoffs in the season’s final weeks this season. Generally speaking — what is the diagnosis for what’s gone wrong this year?

Mostly the Revs season has been derailed by two different spells of significant injuries. At the start of the season the Revs backline and Matt Turner were in constant flux having to rely on backups during a congested CCL schedule and the Revs bowed out in the quarterfinals to Pumas. While the Revs stabilized in the middle of the season, they did so by getting a lot of results but perhaps not a lot of wins. Now the Revs front line is hamstrung with a rash of leg injuries, with DP strikers Gustavo Bou Giacomo Vrioni missing time as well as new signing Dylan Borrero. This has seen homegrowns Justin Rennicks and Noel Buck see significant playing time and the kids have shown they’re all right.

If this is going to be a playoff team they need to get healthy fast. At full strength this team has the potential to be a problem in the playoffs but with only five games remaining to build up health and chemistry, it’s hard to believe the Revs would be anything other than a one and done team if they make the postseason unless Djordje Petrovic continues to be the second coming of Matt Turner.

2. The Revs seem like a squad in something of a flux. Are there any new faces from the summer that other teams and their fans should be aware of?

Yeah, there was no way a team replacing Tajon Buchanan, Adam Buksa, and Matt Turner (nearly $25 Million in outgoing transfer sales) wasn’t going to have some kind of struggle. Unfortunately the Revs dual season task of the CCL and MLS Playoffs has not gone well, but the group brought in to replace those stars looks pretty good. Giacomo Vrioni is from the Juventus system and had a loan spell where he led the Austrian Bundesliga in scoring last season and his resume suggests he can absolutely be a force in MLS. Dylan Borrero seemed to be growing into his speedster role with a knack for taking on defenders 1v1 before his injury. Petrovic is quite literally God and is putting up numbers ASA has never seen before for keepers in the half season he’s been here

Bruce Arena tapped into the well of the long list of players he’s coached to bring in Jozy Altidore, Sebastian Lletget, and Omar Gonzalez. Jozy spent a lot of time building up fitness and then going on loan to LigaMX. Omar Gonzalez ideally had a great role off the bench as an extra defender/closer but was forced into extended minutes early on and struggled mightily but has rebounded slightly as the season went on. Lletget was good at soccer here and his off the ball movement was so good but he was essentially forced into a wider role than he would have liked and the Revs decided to ship him to Dallas and make FCD really, really good. It’s been a very strange year and the Revs have been fairly proactive at building their roster but it’s very hard to do it in the middle of the regular season and be successful.

3. If the Revs beat the Red Bulls in Harrison on Saturday, how will they do it? What needs to go right for New England and wrong for the other team to find success in these situations?

Honestly the Revs just need to take their chances in front of goal: shots from distance, set piece chances, counters - all of it. This is a team that I have criticized at times for being too patient in the build up and not generating enough big chances. In their recent 3-0 win against NYCFC, New England generated a grand total of 0.4 xG with goals from a set piece, a shot outside the box, and a Tommy Mac hustle play. The Revs shooting at times has been woefully bad this year because they don’t put enough shots on target, compounded with the occasional they don’t shoot often enough. I don’t think the Revs need to be a high volume shooting team with Carles Gil pulling the strings they should be able to generate plenty of big chances, but this is also a team that should be able to get the ball forward quickly and into space to force opponents into tough decisions and I don’t see that often enough.

Defensively, the Revs are fine. Petrovic has been amazing this year, the center back pairing of Farrell and Kessler has finally stabilized and DeJuan Jones and Brandon Bye are one of the best fullback pairings in the league with Bye in particular having a bit of a breakout season. The Revs know how they want to play, but I think they are too cautious in picking their spots to “GO” rather than throwing a bit more caution to the wind, especially on the counter. A giveaway in your attacking third while being aggressive will never be as bad as a bad midfield giveaway and the Revs are in a position in the season now where they really need to force the issue and grab some wins.

Lineup/score prediction

The injury report is rather extensive, but Gustavo Bou is back so that counts for something.

4-2-3-1: Petrovic; Bell, Kessler, Farrell, Jones; Makoun, Polster; McNamara, Gil, Buck; Bou

Brandon Bye missed last week and saw center back Jon Bell deputized at left back which worked fairly well so we’ll stick with that. I do want some added cover for him so Christian Makoun and Tommy Mac will be there to help out. Noel Buck has been solid since his MLS debut and coming off his first goal I have no reason to not start him. It wouldn’t shock me to see Justin Rennicks in this game, possibly from the start, to help counter the RBNY press.

As much as I’d like to steal one at RBA, cause the Energy Drinks don’t have a good home record this year. I think a 1-1 draw will suffice.