After last week’s frustrating loss to the New York Red Bulls, the Lions are looking to bounce back and close the gap between themselves and the last playoff spot.
As it would happen this week’s opponent is the New England Revolution, who currently sit in seventh place and occupy the aforementioned last playoff spot. A win would put Orlando on 29 points, while the Revs have 30. Ahead of the game I spoke to Jake Catanese of The Bent Musket, and he was kind enough to give me the lowdown on the Revolution’s 2019 season.
The Revolution have a record of 8-6-8 and going by those numbers have had a pretty even-keeled season, currently holding the last playoff spot. Does the team’s record accurately reflect how the campaign has gone so far?
Jake Catanese: Lol. Nothing in New England has made sense in 2019. The Revs were a dumpster fire in late April/early May, leading to the sacking of Brad Friedel and the hiring of Bruce Arena. Since May 11, the first game under interim head coach Mike Lapper, the Revs are 6-0-4 — 10 games unbeaten with a +11 GD in that span — and now sit above the red line in seventh place in the East. A few weeks ago, including the Revs in any playoff conversation was laughable and now there are conversations as how high the Revs could possibly get in the East. It’s been an amazing turnaround.
Now, as to whether or not the Revs deserve to be near the red line/playoff hunt, I think the answer to that is yes. This clearly is not an untalented team and was undone early on by some horrendous coaching that has been resolved and improved on under Arena. The Revs are a versatile attacking bunch and are now starting to play organized soccer, particularly in defense. In the same 10-game unbeaten stretch, the Revs have allowed just eight goals, as opposed to the 30 goals they gave up in the first 12 games of the year, including 15 goals in Brad Friedel’s last three games.
Speaking of that last playoff spot, what do the Revs need to do in order to keep things going and make a first playoff appearance since 2015?
JC: Just keep getting results, especially on the road. New England has been a dismal road team the last few years, and with matches still at Seattle, Red Bulls, NYCFC, and Atlanta there’s a chance to prove this current stretch hasn’t been a fluke. The Revs have also been horrendous against the Eastern Conference this year — their previous win at Cincy was just their second win against an East team this year.
If New England continues their scoring-by-committee approach and newcomers Carles Gil and Gustavo Bou regularly getting on the scoresheet either with goals or assists, there’s a good chance this can be a playoff team that no one will want to play in November. Do I think the Revs can climb their way into say the fourth seed and a home playoff game in the first round? Probably not, but anything is possible.
Carles Gil arrived in the off-season as the club’s record signing at the time, how has he performed in his first MLS season?
JC: I believe if Carles Gil had been playing for the seventh-place Revs instead of the 11th-place Revs during MLS All-Star Game voting, which ended what seems like forever ago, he’d be on the roster facing Atletico Madrid in Orlando. Gil had a bit of a lull in April/May which we can probably say about the entire team during that stretch, but since June he’s been back into form. In six of his last seven games, Gil has found the scoresheet for a combined three goals and six assists, giving him team leads in both with seven goals and eight assists on the year.
Also, Gustavo Bou now holds the record as the Revs’ record transfer signing when he joined a few weeks ago. Bou’s rocket corner kick goal on his debut against Vancouver was assisted by Gil, so that partnership already seems to be working well. The supporting attacking cast also has improved, with Teal Bunbury on a hot streak, Cristian Penilla beginning to rediscover his form from last year, Juan Agudelo doing well in a central midfield role, and Diego Fagundez with a solid start as a No. 6/CDM against Cincinnati last Saturday. There’s a lot of good happening in New England right now, and Gil is the one in the middle of it all.
Are there any injuries, suspensions, or call-ups that will keep players unavailable for selection on Saturday? What is your projected starting lineup and score prediction?
JC: Center back Michael Mancienne has been out with a foot injury for most of the year, but is back in training and listed as questionable. Even if he’s available, the Revs defense has been working with Andrew Farrell in the middle so I expect back line of the starting lineup to stay the same. I’m not thrilled that this game is going to be played on grass on top of turf...and I’d like to think the Revs should be able to deal with a pesky OCSC team at home while keeping the big names off that surface for the most part.
Lineup (4-2-3-1): Matt Turner; DeJuan Jones, Antonio Delamea, Andrew Farrell, Brandon Bye; Scott Caldwell, Luis Caicedo; Juan Agudelo, Diego Fagundez, Teal Bunbury; Juan Fernando Caicedo.
Arena has been going with a lot of fluid attacking groups and the three guys around Fagundez in the middle are all fairly interchangeable. If you need to, late in the game you can add on Penilla/Gil/Bou in some combination, but I think you can go the distance and take three points without using them on a meh surface.
Prediction: Revs 2, Orlando 0.
Thanks again to Jake for all of the info on the Revolution.