Orlando City may be officially eliminated from playoff contention, but there are still four more matches left in the 2018 season for Head Coach James O’Connor to build on. This weekend, the Lions fly to New England to take on Brad Friedel’s Revolution in a rematch of their wild 3-3 draw back in August.
Like Orlando, the Revs have struggled to get results, collecting just six points since these teams last met. Returning to provide an update on all things New England is Jake Catanese of SB Nation’s The Bent Musket. You can also find my answers to his questions over at TBM.
Last time we spoke, the Revs were occupying a playoff spot. Since then, New England’s record is 1-5-3. What’s gone wrong?
Jake Catanese: It would be easier to list the things that have gone right if I could actually think of anything. New England is mostly just bad right now. If we go back a month further from that 3-3 draw with Orlando and include the Revs’ results from July as well, New England is on a 1-8-5 stretch since a 3-2 win on June 30 at home vs. D.C. United.
Defensively, the Revs have stabilized a bit with the addition of Michael Mancienne at center back but left back remains a revolving door entered by whoever Brad Friedel thinks is the hottest at the position. Currently that’s the play-making midfielder Kelyn Rowe. The problem is despite the defense being slightly better, it’s still giving up tons of chances and while the Revs have mostly avoided getting blown out they’ve been getting badly outplayed.
The Revs offense has struggled as Freidel tinkers with his starting group in search of answers. Changing around the midfield pairings hasn’t helped as New England continues to give the ball away in possession a lot, which doesn’t relieve pressure from the defense. Goals have dried up from Teal Bunbury and the striker position in general as well, though Cristian Penilla broke double digit goals on the year with two in his last three games. It’s not surprising that the last two games Teal scored in (the previous D.C. win and the last game with Orlando) and Brian Wright’s first MLS goal against NYC (a 1-0 road win) were positive results for the Revs.
Overall, the Revs still lack the Jermaine Jones Designated Player type that got them back to the MLS Cup in 2014. New England also needed another left back in the summer window to replace the injured Chris Tierney and couldn’t even make that addition. The early season success of the high press faded into a repeat of last year’s lackluster season finish and likely another year without a postseason appearance
With 2018 winding down, what’s the general consensus in the Northeast about Brad Friedel’s first year at the helm?
JC: Personally, Brad Friedel has the same issue that his predecessor Jay Heaps had which is an organization and front office that can’t/won’t/doesn’t sign legitimate DP players to make the team better. At best, the Revs are going to be no better than a fifth or sixth placed team until that changes.
Now, how much of the current Revs malaise is on Friedel currently? Certainly he’s not helping the situation with some of the lineups he puts out that don’t feature Diego Fagundez or Kelyn Rowe in the midfield, because the Revs offense looks completely lost without one of those attackers up front. I certainly think Friedel is trying his best but it’s hard to say right now that he’s a net positive for the Revs.
Hopefully he can learn something about the youngsters on the roster in the final month of the year and start figuring out what he needs to do this off-season to get the Revs back on a positive track and into the playoffs.
New England is still technically alive for a playoff spot but would need a lot of help to achieve it. Is there an eye on 2019 or will the Revs field their best until the very end?
JC: I don’t know what the Revs’ best lineup is right now, but certainly I would like to get a look at more of the kids. Brandon Bye has had some solid shifts at fullback and could be a solid depth piece. Homegrown Players Zach Herivaux and Issac Angking deserve as many minutes as they can get for these final games. Angking in particular had a bright debut at Yankee Stadium in that 1-0 win against NYCFC but has been battling an undisclosed illness all year.
Rookies Mark Segbers and Nicolas Samayoa have only USL loan minutes to their name now but certainly could see action when the Revs are mathematically eliminated. Brian Wright getting another start up top would also be fine, especially with the Revs looking to find a positive combination in the attacking group that has struggled in the second half. Perhaps seeing Bunbury return to his winger role with Wright up top is something to try this month.
What injuries/suspensions/call-ups will keep players out this weekend and what is your projected lineup and predicted final score?
JC: Both Chris Tierney (ACL) and Andrew Farrell (hamstring) are listed as out on the injury report, which means more of Bye and Rowe at fullback for sure. Antonio Delamea (Slovenia) and Zach Herivaux (Haiti) are with their respective national teams, which means the Revs are very thin at the back if the exile of fullback Gabriel Somi and center back Claude Dielna continues.
Lineup 4-2-3-1: Matt Turner; Kelyn Rowe, Michael Mancienne, Jalil Anibaba, Brandon Bye; Luis Caicedo, Scott Caldwell; Cristian Penilla, Diego Fagundez, Teal Bunbury; Brian Wright.
You know what, that idea of putting Bunbury on the wing again seems like a fine idea since the Revs have struggled to find a wing partner for Penilla all year. Juan Agudelo could start, but he’s been far better off the bench this year.
As always, I predict a 2-2 draw and chaos because that’s usually what these two teams provide.
Thanks again to Jake for taking the time to give us an update on the Revolution.