After a midweek contest on Wednesday, it’s a short week for Orlando City. The Lions only have four games left in the regular season, and with Atlanta and Montreal both breathing down the Lions’ necks, the team needs to finish the year strong. OCSC will have a chance to do just that on Sunday when it welcomes the New England Revolution to Exploria Stadium.
Ahead of this one I once again spoke to Jake Catanese, one of the editors over at SBNation’s The Bent Musket. As usual, Jake gave us some excellent insight into how New England has been since these two teams last met. I also answered some of his questions, which you can find over at their place.
Potentially the only area for concern in New England’s otherwise stellar season is defensive play. The Revs only have one clean sheet in their last seven games, although they’re still undefeated during that stretch. Does the defense worry you at all, or is New England good enough offensively that you aren’t too concerned?
Jake Catanese: Individually, a fairly young back line of all former draft picks in Andrew Farrell, Henry Kessler, DeJuan Jones, and Brandon Bye have been pretty solid this year. As a unit however, there’s been a lot of lapses in concentration that have led to a lot of big chances and were it not for the ridiculous, godlike form of one Matt Turner for most of the year, the Revs might not be having the historical season they’re having now.
Obviously when we are talking about a team with an MVP candidate like Carles Gil and two double-digit DP goal scorers in Adam Buksa and Gustavo Bou, the defense is sometimes going to take a backseat to the headlines. The defense hasn’t been bad. In fact, for the majority of games, a lot of the time it’s stellar. The fullbacks get forward and combine well in the attack, Matt Polster and Andrew Farrell’s experience and knowledge put out a lot of fires, and Kessler’s mastery of the Concacaf Dark Arts has been, at least for Revs fans, spectacular to watch.
Can the Revs win MLS Cup with this squad? Absolutely. Can they win MLS Cup with this defense and Turner in their current form? Yes, but it will be much harder to do so. They have a few weeks and a couple of long rests to sort things out.
Bruce Arena recently said that right back Brandon Bye needs to improve. What have you seen from Bye lately that can be better?
JC: Arena was criticizing Bye in particular on a couple of goals where he got caught ball watching as his mark tucked home a goal. Against Chicago, I think this occurred right after the Revs took the lead for the first time and conceding right after scoring has been an issue for the Revs this year. Going back to Matt Polster’s comments above, this is the mentality he’s talking about — the Revs taking the foot off the gas or getting complacent for a moment is going to cost them in a much bigger match next month.
Overall, Bye has improved considerably this year. His crossing in the final third has been drastically more dangerous, especially the low ones he hits through the box. This was arguably his biggest weakness, but also a surprising one as a former wide midfielder in college. Both he and Jones are still fourth- and third-year pros, respectively, despite their consistent presence in the Revs’ lineup over the last few seasons. Jones has taken the next step as far as being a two-way player and, while Bye has been consistent and has been improving...I think Bruce and Revs fans alike would like to see Brandon make a similar leap into one of MLS’ best right backs.
Orlando and New England were in the same boat with the last international window, and had a two-week gap in between games. Has there been any rust from the layoff or do the Revs look as imperious as ever?
JC: I wouldn’t say the Revs looked great against the Chicago Fire over the weekend, but like Matt Turner, a less-than-stellar day at the office for the Revs is still a pretty darn good day overall this year. With Adam Buksa and Tajon Buchanan returning from international duty, the Revs trotted out their familiar 4-4-2 diamond but just couldn’t get the same impact without both DP strikers up top until Buksa got into the game later.
That being said, their second goal from Gil to Bou was a highlight reel affair, there just weren’t enough of those moments against a Fire team that has given the Revs fits all year. I know Bruce has to rotate the squad based on the fixture congestion and international breaks, but I would have liked to have seen a 4-2-3-1 look from the Revs to stretch the field for Bou up top rather than giving him a true striker partner. We’ll see if Bruce goes with his preferred diamond and a top lineup after a midweek game in DC.
Are there any injuries, suspensions, or call-ups that will keep players unavailable for selection? What is your projected starting lineup and score prediction?
JC: The Revs don’t have anyone on the injury list currently, and the starting lineup will depend heavily on any needed rotation coming off midweek game and also the result. I know Bruce doesn’t want to say it, but I think part of him really, really does want to beat Bob Bradley’s LAFC team points record...but he’s also wise to not force the issue.
Matt Polster is unavailable due to yellow card suspension, which is really interesting because he’s their best ball-winning CDM type. Trying to guess a diamond midfield lineup without Polster is hard but...
Matt Turner; DeJuan Jones, Henry Kessler, Andrew Farrell, A.J. DeLaGarza; Wiflrid Kaptoum, Arnor Traustason, Tajon Buchanan, Carles Gil; Gustavo Bou, Adam Buksa.
(Prediction not provided).
Thanks to Jake for the great information on New England, as always. Vamos Orlando!