Orlando City returns from a 1-2-1 road trip to host the New England Revolution tonight as the Lions look to bounce back from a rough Sunday night in Portland. The big question of late is whether City can finish the game with 11 players on the field. Let’s hope so.
Our friend Jake Catanese from The Bent Musket returns yet again to provide all the info we need on New England. I also answered his questions, which you can catch over at their place.
Since our teams last played, Jay Heaps was fired in New England. What is the prevailing thought on that among Revs fans and is everyone downplaying the team’s success at home in comparison to the club’s road record?
Jake Catanese: Okay, as for the first part, I don't think anyone is surprised that Jay Heaps is no longer the coach of the Revs. However, even after a disastrous road trip that involved a 7-0 loss with nine men to Atlanta United and a 3-1 loss to Sporting KC with 10 men, most everyone thought the Revs would let Heaps see out the year and dismiss him at the end of the season.
Personally, I think the Revs are trying to salvage what's left of 2017 and I really don't see why. The team is winless on the road, four points back of the New York Red Bulls with only four games to play and RBNY has a game in hand as well. I doubt this team as a sixth seed could go on the road and win a game at Atlanta (maybe they could beat NYCFC at Yankee Stadium, that's about it), so at best New England would be a one and done team this year and that would be failure as far as most of the fan base is concerned. This is a team that is underachieving and even with the organizational problems the Revs have that I don't have time to get into now, I think this is a team that should make the playoffs.
Now, about the horrendous road record. The Revs have problems on the road because they're bad at pure defending or bunkering. Like, really, really bad. They've scored first and blown leads, they were up 3-0 in Seattle late and allowed a tie, and tried to sit back against Atlanta and that plan lasted all of about 90 seconds. This is a team that needs to be attacking, or counter-attacking, at all times to be successful and take pressure off what is still an unsettled back line.
The Revs have a grand total three draws for three points on the road this year and yes, that is essentially the reason why this team will miss the playoffs. The disparity between the Revs’ record at home versus their record at home is beyond staggering to the point of near incomprehensibility. If New England were in the West, they'd have the same number of points at home (35) as Sporting KC, who has the best home record in that conference. I don't think anyone is downplaying how much worse on the road the Revs are, but the question is why? It can't all be tactics. Surely by accident the Revs could've won a game on the road, but yes, Heaps has done some strange tactical subs late in matches that didn't help his cause.
At the end of the day, if the Revs had just two wins on the road they'd be in a playoff race. I'm not sure beating a struggling Orlando City team midweek is any indication things are changing but I'll take what I can get. It's been a long year.
Did anything change in terms of shape or personnel in the wake of the Heaps firing?
JC: No, but the key for New England last week was bringing Lee Nguyen off the bench in the second half and, if we're being honest, that's really, really unfair to the rest of the league. Of course Nguyen had an impact off the bench, scoring once and assisting on the winner. But the basic formations are the same, it's 4-2-3-1/4-4-2 Diamond formation the Revs have played all year. They've been leaning more towards the 4-2-3-1 look without Kelyn Rowe and it was Juan Agudelo who started as the No. 10/CAM role with Nguyen on the bench against Toronto FC.
If we assume that Lee is back and fully healthy, I expect him to start, which leaves one of Kei Kamara, Agudelo, Diego Fagundez and Teal Bunbury on the bench.
With Jonathan Spector out on suspension Wednesday, can we get you to leave Kei Kamara at home?
JC: Absolutely not, you'll just have to find figure out a way to deal with Kamara in the box. I will add that the Revs are usually bad at crosses from the run of play and in regular buildup play, and they can get one dimensional at times. Just feeding Kamara crosses from the wing is not a recipe for success for the New England attack. They really want to counter and have Kei occupy multiple defenders to allow someone else — a Nguyen, Fagundez, etc. — more space to create something.
That being said, Kei still scores goals and apparently likes to score them against OCSC and he's the Revs’ leading scorer this year. I have a feeling he'll start.
Injuries?/Suspensions?/Projected starting XI?/Final score prediction?
JC: Kelyn Rowe is out injured, still on the mend from a knee sprain he suffered a month ago. Lee Nguyen and Xavier Kouassi came off the bench against Toronto but are off the injury report this week. Krisztian Nemeth is back from his red card suspension for the elbow at SKC a week ago.
Starting XI (4-2-3-1): Cody Cropper; Andrew Farrell, Claude Dielna, Antonio Delamea, Benjamin Angoua; Xavier Kouassi, Scott Caldwell; Juan Agudelo, Lee Nguyen, Teal Bunbury; Kei Kamara.
I think the Revs rotate a few positions because of the midweek game but nothing drastically different. Farrell's played a few games at left back already, and the options the Revs have at holding mid and up front give them some luxury but it's also a must-win game I think if the Revs have any shot a keeping the playoffs alive.
Prediction: As always, a 2-2 draw.
Big thanks to Jake from The Bent Musket for stopping by and helping us learn more about this weekend’s opponent.