The good thing about having an unbeaten streak snapped is that the next game presents an opportunity to start a new one. Orlando City will try to do just that when the New England Revolution visit the Citrus Bowl tomorrow afternoon. The Lions have yet to beat the Revs, so it'll take a full team effort for 90+ minutes to get it done.
New England is off to a 1-1-4 start, with those four draws helping the Revolution sit just one point behind Orlando in the Eastern Conference table. A draw is the best that the Lions have done so far against the Revs. The teams met twice last season, with Orlando City rallying from a 2-0 deficit in the final 17 minutes to draw 2-2 at the Citrus Bowl last April, getting goals from Cyle Larin and Aurelien Collin. New England won the return leg 3-0 against a depleted Lions side missing Kaká, Larin, Brek Shea and Darwin Ceren -- in addition to having lost Kevin Molino early in the year.
Who are New England's key off-season additions and subtractions that we should know about and how have they affected Jay Heaps' team and approach so far in 2016?
Jake Catanese: Gershon Koffie and Je-Vaughn Watson are the two big additions that have made a major impact for the Revs already. Yes, both Koffie and Watson have served red card suspensions but the depth of the Revs at right back and holding midfield allowed them to overcome those absences. Koffie has effectively replaced Jermaine Jones as the starting CDM next to Scott Caldwell and, while the Revs offense isn't clicking like it was with Jones in 2014, the Revs have been playing fairly well. They just don't have the results yet to show for it. Koffie in particular was stellar last week against Toronto, completing over 90% of his passes and, for the most part, keeping Giovinco out of dangerous areas to limit his chances on the field
Watson has come in and solidified a right back position that was a revolving door last season with a platoon of London Woodberry, Kevin Alston and Jeremy Hall covering for the long-term injury to utility defender Darrius Barnes. Alston is now with Orlando (jerks) while Hall is with the NASL's Tampa Bay Rowdies. Woodberry filled in well for the two games Watson missed for international duty with Jamaica and his suspension and Barnes is back from injury but has yet to feature for the Revs, though he is a regular on the subs bench.
New England has four draws in six matches to stay in the race early but only one win so far this season. Why haven't the Revs been able to get over the hump in these close games early in the season?
JC: The easy answer is that the Revs haven't been finishing well to start the season. They've created good chances but have either fired them wide or straight at the opposing keepers. Part of this could be due to the inconsistency of the starting striker up front, where Juan Agudelo, Charlie Davies, and Teal Bunbury have all seen time, with a minor knock keeping Agudelo out last week and Davies welcoming twins into the world. But the group as a whole hasn't been capitalizing on chances.
On the flip side, they haven't been getting much help from the referees on the offensive end either. The two (deserved) red cards aside, the Revs had multiple penalty shouts against Houston and Toronto go unnoticed, as well as a legitimate goal disallowed in stoppage time last week. While the Revs were able to battle to a draw with 10 men against NYCFC, it's hard to get over the hump when three or four chances from the penalty spot aren't awarded to you. Referees aside, the Revs just have to finish better, plain and simple. They've played well enough in most of the draws to scrape out wins and just haven't been able to do it and, as we've seen this year, you can't rely on the referees to bail you out.
What kind of formation and tactics can we expect from the Revolution against Orlando City, and what do you view as the game's key match-up?
JC: Basically, the Revs use a standard 4-2-3-1, with fullbacks Chris Tierney and Watson providing service, and Caldwell and Koffie recycling the ball around to the advanced midfielders. I want to see the Revs break out on the counter more but it seems like MLS is figuring out that you don't want to see Diego Fagundez, Lee Nguyen, and Kelyn Rowe running unopposed downfield. While the Revs' build-up play has improved, they have struggled at times to get shots and chances against a packed defense.
Last week, the Revs scored a wonderful goal from Watson sending in a cross to Kelyn Rowe unmarked on a back-post run, so, while shutting down Lee Nguyen in the middle of the field is a must, taking away the second chances and service from the fullbacks in particular will go a long way to Orlando keeping the Revs off the score sheet.
What is your anticipated starting XI, key injuries/suspensions, and score prediction for Sunday?
JC: No suspensions, but Juan Agudelo missed last week with a minor knock, and while he could likely feature off the bench on Sunday, I'll play it safe and keep him out of the starting lineup.
Bobby Shuttleworth; Chris Tierney, Jose Goncalves, Andrew Farrell, Je-Vaughn Watson; Gershon Koffie, Scott Caldwell; Diego Fagundez, Lee Nguyen, Kelyn Rowe; Charlie Davies
Just one change, as the Revs put Davies back up front, though it wouldn't shock me if Teal Bunbury starts the game at striker or at right wing coming off a solid game against Toronto, especially with the hold-up play that Davies is more known for. The Revs desperately need a win, but the draw train continues, 1-1 in Orlando.
* * *
Big thanks to Jake from The Bent Musket for giving us some insight on the New England Revolution.