It’s been a rough few weeks for Orlando City, and the team is badly in need of some points if it wants to avoid sinking beneath the waves in the Eastern Conference standings.
Unfortunately for the Lions, a weekend trip to the Northeast looms large, with Orlando set to take on the New England Revolution tomorrow night. Ahead of this one, I spoke to Jake Catanese, senior editor for SBNation’s The Bent Musket. As usual, he gave us a fantastic update on how the Revolution have been since we last saw them. I also answered a few of his questions which you can find over at their place.
Diego Fagundez left the Revolution in the off-season after making a boatload of appearances with the team. What was the reaction to his departure and who has filled his role in the team?
Jake Catanese: I think there was a lot of disappointment but also a lot of understanding in Diego moving on. I think he’s found a solid home in Austin and he’s been getting a lot of playing time and is easily in line for his best season since 2018, which was the last time he was a fulltime starter in New England. Diego is an enigmatic genius, he clearly has talent but I think with the Revs at times he lacked a consistent position or support on the field or any number of things that never got him over the hump into legit league stardom. He’ll always be remembered as one of the great New England Homegrowns and hopefully will have a great career in MLS and beyond as he’s only 26 and clearly has the ability to play overseas.
As for who took his place, look no further than MLS cult hero Tommy McNamara. A versatile midfielder, Tommy Mac is more of a support/defensive type midfielder rather than an attacker and is able to fill just about every role in the Revs’ midfield, whether it’s a 4-2-3-1, a flat four midfield, or the more recently preferred diamond midfield. The fact that a talented TAM-filled midfield roster in New England can’t keep Tommy Mac off the field just adds to his legend in the league and perhaps some silverware for the Cult of McNamara. Andrew Farrell also just surpassed the club record for most games played with the team after being the number one overall pick back in 2013.
The Revolution have quite obviously been stellar this season. What do you believe is the biggest reason for the team’s success?
JC: Team depth. This is one of the deepest rosters in the league from three stellar DP signings, a stable of TAM-level midfielders to rotate around, MLS veterans, and a starting back line of defenders from the SuperDraft. Oh, and Matt Turner, who was an undrafted rookie free agent signing.
But if you look at the best teams in the league, the path to success is paved by hitting at all of the levels of roster building. The Revs long struggled with major DP and international signings but the groundwork for a strong roster has been around for years. The Revs nearly broke through in 2014 with this model with just Jermaine Jones as a DP midfielder and an MVP season from Lee Nguyen. But the overall investment in the roster was lacking until the Bruce Arena era officially started and for the first time ever the Revs were able to deploy three Designated Players. This season, when you have the league leader in assists in Carles Gil and two DP strikers in Adam Buksa and Gustavo Bou with double digit goals, you should be one of the top teams in the league. Add in significant contributions from Matt Polster, Tajon Buchanan, McNamara, Turner, and fullbacks Brandon Bye and DeJuan Jones as regular starters, and the recipe for success is finally coming to fruition.
Tajon Buchanan is a hugely exciting young player. How important has his continued growth been this year?
JC: Tajon Buchanan’s calendar year and his rise from his playoff run as a right back last year to breakout star winger for the Revs and Canada was nothing short of meteoric. Buchanan had shown flashes of talent and certainly had the raw speed and ability to play in MLS but it has all come together this year. He is brimming with confidence at both the club and international level and in a few short months will be off to Belgium and Club Brugge. His development is the final piece of the Revs’ entry into the MLS 3.0 era (or whatever we call the three-DP era) as New England has never been a selling club, with only Clint Dempsey as a notable departure from the team abroad. With New England set for a few sales in the near future (Buksa/Turner), the Revs are finally turning the corner and rejoining the league’s top organizations...just need to get the stadium situation sorted.
I have to ask about this rumored rebrand that seems likely to come to pass. What have been the feelings and reactions within the fanbase?
JC: I hate it, and will defend the Crayon Flag to the last. I think overall the feeling is one of indifference — there are certainly a number of fans who dislike the current branding and will take any upgrade but what’s been presented so far is underwhelming. The league already has too many Euro-centric circles/shields/badges and I fear this will only add to the generic-ness of the individual team brands. Right now, we only have the potential badge/logo to look at and perhaps with other branding, and especially jerseys and merchandise at a proper launch event might help boost the perception of the rebrand but I have doubts. At least the team kept the name the same which is the only positive thing I will say about the situation. Long live the Crayon Flag.
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 have a ton of players listed on the injury report: Bou, Jonathan Bell, Emmanuel Boateng, Gil, Edward Kizza, and Maciel. Of that group, four (Bell, Bou, Gil, Kizza) either started or played midweek and only Maciel and Boateng were not listed on the subs bench. Depending on squad rotation, there’s a lot of ways the Revs can deploy against Orlando but a few players like Adam Buksa, Matt Polster, and the back line should be starting on mostly full rest as only Kessler started midweek.
Lineup (4-4-2 Diamond): Matt Turner; DeJuan Jones, Henry Kessler, Andrew Farrell, Brandon Bye; Matt Polster, Tommy McNamara, Tajon Buchanan, Carles Gil; Gustavo Bou, Adam Buksa.
Tajon Buchanan is not the same attacking force as a shuttling center midfielder but he can get the job done. Ideally, this lineup as a 4-2-3-1 with Buksa up top and an attacking midfielder/winger line of Bou-Gil-Buchanan is not impossible either and might fit the personnel a little better. The Revs are rested and coming off an exciting late win on the road, and they’re playing at home. You have to like their chances here, but as always, we must mention the likelihood of a 2-2 draw as a matter of principle.
I’ll take the Revs 3-1, with Bou, Buksa, and Buchanan finding the scoresheet and Gil adding two helpers.
Thank you to Jake for the great information on the Revs. Vamos Orlando!