Another Orlando City game is nearly upon us, and with the season winding down the Lions need to take advantage of every opportunity available to earn points if they want to make a late playoff push.
This week’s opponents are the New England Revolution, which meant I caught up with Jake Catanese, editor of SBNation’s The Bent Musket, and he gave me some helpful insight at how the Revolution have been doing lately.
It’s starting to get towards the business end of the MLS season. With Orlando currently four points behind the Revolution, who occupy the seventh and final playoff spot, this is a must win game for Orlando if ever there was one. Is the same true for New England or do the Revolution have a little wiggle room?
Jake Catanese: I am of two minds for this question. Personally, I think no matter what the Revolution do this season, everything is a buildup to next year, when Bruce Arena will have a full off-season, draft class, and transfer window to bring in new players. The gigantic hole that the Revs started in with Brad Friedel put a tremendous damper on any expectations the Revs might have had in 2019.
However, despite all of that, the fact the Revs are above the red line now is pretty cool and I wouldn’t say no to a playoff appearance to reward everyone for a tremendous comeback that was June and July for this team. As far as wiggle room in the standings, with the Revs behind on wins and goal difference to a lot of teams around them, a road trip to Orlando is a far more winnable game than travelling to Portland or Atlanta later in the month. With the Revs struggling a bit of late, just one win in six games and six total points in that stretch, to get back on track, yeah, I’d have to say this is a must win for the Revs as well.
Regardless, I do not consider simply making the playoffs to be a successful year, so unless New England goes on a deep run and pulls some upsets in October — something entirely possible with the single game format — it’s hard to judge what 2019 has been for the Revs.
When we last spoke you said that in order for New England to make the playoffs the team would need to get some results on the road. Has that happened or not?
JC: Yes, strangely it’s the Revs performance not just on the road but against the Western Conference in the early part of the year and right after Friedel left that has kept the Revs in contention before their big unbeaten streak. In fact, that streak started in San Jose with a big 2-1 win against the Quakes with Mike Lapper as the interim head coach. The Revs also picked up wins against the LA Galaxy, Houston Dynamo, and Colorado Rapids during that stretch as well.
New England has three wins and 15 total points on the road in 2019, which is their best road year since 2015 when Jermaine Jones was still playing. The Revs had five wins and 17 total points that year and, to the surprise of no one, it was also the last year they made the playoffs. Maybe the two things aren’t related, but the Revs were a dismal road team in 2017 under Jay Heaps and didn’t fare much better under Friedel and it’s no surprise that the way to succeed in the East, is to get as many road results and points as possible.
If you had to pick one thing that could derail the remainder of New England’s season and prevent a playoff appearance, what would it be? What’s your biggest worry for the rest of the regular season?
JC: Any major injuries. New England has been lackluster the past few games without Teal Bunbury on the field and have been thin at center back all year for various reasons. While players like Andrew Farrell in particular have stepped up, there’s still a part of me that thinks the 2019 Bruce Arena era is just a setup for 2020, and a major injury could derail what could be a big jump for next season.
Also, the closing schedule for the Revs is not kind. The two road games to Portland and Atlanta are going to be tough and the Timbers game is a midweek contest as well. New England’s best chances for wins are the next two weeks against Orlando and Real Salt Lake, followed by the home finale on Sept 29 against NYCFC. If the Revs need say 10 points to secure a playoff spot, that means winning both home games, probably Orlando on Saturday, and then getting a point in either Portland or Atlanta. That is not an easy task.
Are there any call-ups, injuries or suspensions that will keep players unavailable for selection on Saturday? What is your projected starting lineup and score prediction?
JC: Edgar Castillo is still out, which means rookie DeJuan Jones remains the starter at left back. He’s had flashes of being great this year but can get exposed or overrun on his flank at times. Teal Bunbury is listed as questionable and New England desperately needs him back, even if it’s just on the bench if needed. Midfielder Wilfred Zahibo and forward Juan Agudelo will miss the match due to yellow card accumulation suspensions.
Projected lineup: 4-2-3-1: Matt Turner; DeJuan Jones, Antonio Delamea, Andrew Farrell, Brandon Bye; Luis Caicedo, Scott Caldwell; Cristian Penilla, Carles Gil, Gustavo Bou; Juan Fernando Caicedo.
This is nearly the same lineup that started last week against NYCFC and was undone by a VAR red card to Delamea in the ninth minute that has since been overturned. With Zahibo unavailable due to suspension, pencil Scott Caldwell into that holding midfield spot next to Luis Caicedo. If Arena opts for a more attacking lineup, you could see Diego Fagundez deployed somewhere out wide and maybe Bou and Juan Fernando Caicedo up top.
Prediction: New England had a good run out against Orlando last time out, I’m going to hope for more of the same. 2-1 Revs.
Thanks again to Jake for a great look at the Revolution.