The New England Revolution are sitting in fourth place in the Eastern Conference and can leap Orlando City with three points at the Citrus Bowl on Sunday. We break down what to expect from the Revolution and their potent attack this weekend.
Base Formation: 4-2-3-1, with 4-5-1 in Defense, 4-3-3 in Attack
New England's formation in defense is a 4-5-1. The outside midfielders will tuck in and stay central to force teams to beat them down the flanks. The Revs have athletic outside midfielders that do well to cover the outside space. The offense will feature one of the most potent attacks Orlando will see all year. New England will attack with lots of movement from the attacking midfielders and center forward. The Revs look to make diagonal runs behind the defense, as these runs take advantage of an unorganized back line or aggressive play from opposing center backs.
Lee Nguyen (24) - MF
Nguyen is the backbone of the Revolution. He is a true No. 10 player. He's great on the dribble and creates his own shots while using outstanding vision to find gaps in the back line to create shots for his teammates. He is the conductor of the Revs' offense, and if he's having a good day, so are the Revolution. He handles physical play well, which makes him a difficult player to take care of. Teams that have been successful in shutting down Nguyen have strong defensive midfielders and a well-organized back line.
Juan Agudelo (17) - F
Agudelo has great pace and is an excellent fit in New England's three-forward system. Agudelo makes dangerous runs and has good 1-v-1 skills. He is a physical player who has no problem using his body to shield and win 50-50 balls. His weakness is a lack of composure inside the box. He often takes two touches within the penalty area when only one is needed. His play is very similar to Orlando City's Kevin Molino, with the exception that Molino is a better passer.
Diego Fagúndez (14) - MF
A shifty winger who exploits the flanks, Fagúndez has great acceleration and can be potent inside the penalty area. He struggles with passing and creating opportunities for his teammates. His crosses are often at the goalkeeper or not driven in. Teams need to allow him to serve balls in, but avoid letting him beat them on the 1-v-1.
Kelyn Rowe (11) - CM
Rowe is one of New England's most versatile players on the roster. He can play in the central midfield or out wide as an attacking midfielder. He scored a nice header goal against Toronto FC last week and he also served many great balls in to the forwards. He is the Revs' workhorse in the midfield, as he tracks back well on defense and is effective on the attack. Rowe exploits the weak side and can catch a ball-watching outside back that isn't paying attention to that weak side.
Starting Center Forward
The Revolution has rotated its starting forward position, playing Teal Bunbury, Agudelo, and Charlie Davies up top so far. Bunbury and Davies bring similar styles of play -- they both look to get beyond the back four by making runs for balls that are played through. Davies has better technical skills, as he is dangerous with his ball on his feet. Davies is more likely to drop back into the midfield to keep the possession whereas Bunbury will look a bit more for the penetrating runs. Davies might get the start if New England plans to play a counter-attacking type of game that was successful for Chicago against Orlando earlier in the year.
Keys to Victory
Organize the Back Line
New England's offense is based on spreading out the back four with the three forwards and finding space between center backs and outside backs. The central defenders can't be too aggressive and pull the back four out of shape. Nguyen will take advantage of the space and the other forwards will make diagonal runs into dangerous areas. The outside backs will need to check their spacing, as balls that are crossed in will find the far post. There is a match-up problem between Rowe and Rafael Ramos: Ramos is not strong in the air, and Rowe and the Revolution will try to take advantage of it.
Strong Play in the Defensive Midfield
There isn't a stronger defensive midfield than the duo of Darwin Cerén and Cristian Higuita. If Higuita returns from his injury, this will be the key match-up of the game. Orlando City's defensive midfield has to limit Nguyen's touches and time on the ball. If Nguyen is given the time to see the field, he will find the holes in any MLS back line. Cerén and Higuita (or Servando Carrasco, if Higuita can't go) need to ensure that the attack comes from somewhere else.
Watch the Counter, Create on the Counter
New England has been caught multiple times this year on the counter attack and is very vulnerable in that area. Toronto caught the Revs last week on the counter, as New England sometimes put too many players forward in the attack. Orlando City will need Cyle Larin or some speed up top to help break out the counter attack. On the flip side, New England might sit back on the road and look to counter using its speed as a weapon. The Citrus Bowl is not a friendly place to play, and many teams have been successful sitting back and looking to counter. Orlando City needs to make sure it's not caught like it was against Chicago.
The New England Revolution were one of the preseason favorites to win the conference. Orlando will need to find points against teams in the conference, especially after dropping last week's match in Philadelphia. This is the first of two meetings against the Revolution in a span of three weeks, so the two matches against New England will be a good litmus test on how Orlando City will fare in the race to the playoffs.