Another Friday means that there’s another Orlando City game right around the corner. Tomorrow the New England Revolution come to town for the second match-up of the season between the two teams.
A visit from the Revs means that I spoke to Jake Catanese, one of the senior editors over at SBNation’s The Bent Musket. As always, Jake did a great job of getting us caught up on the Revs.
I was a little surprised to see the news about Sebastian Lletget being traded to FC Dallas after joining the Revs in the off-season. Can you give us some insight into the reason for his departure? Who will step up to replace him now that he’s gone?
Jake Catanese: The Bruce Arena/USMNT trio of Lletget, Jozy Altidore, and Omar Gonzalez that were signed to bolster the Revs for their CCL campaign in the off-season did not pan out, but Lletget was at least actually good to — at times —great for New England. His late runs and off the ball movement are elite in this league and in a different situation, I think he would have played a few years here, but obviously the Revs and Bruce have other ideas and found him a great landing spot in Dallas and suddenly made that team better. New England was always likely to take a step back in 2022 after their record-setting Shield run last year, but the team has just lacked so much cohesion between turnover and injuries that even someone like Lletget, who featured pretty regularly, just wasn’t going to have the same impact.
Assuming the Revs will stick with their 4-2-3-1, the one name that jumps out as getting more minutes to me is Homegrown Damian Rivera. He’s logged just under 300 league minutes this year between three starts and a handful of cameo appearances off the bench, but an extended run of play for him would be very beneficial for his development and offers another speed option opposite newcomer Dylan Borerro. Otherwise you’ll see a platoon of veterans like Tommy McNamara, Arnor Traustason (if he doesn’t transfer back to Europe this month), and Ema Boateng offer a more box-to-box role rather than attacking mid or true winger on one side of the Revs’ formation.
Like Orlando City, New England has had a shaky run of results lately and hasn’t won since June 19. What do you think the biggest reason is for the current run of form?
JC: Goals, and a lack thereof, specifically. The Revs have notched three 0-0 draws in the last month or so and at times just sit back and fail to generate the big chances we’ve come to expect from them over the years. Carles Gil is still pulling the strings and racking up key passes, but the Revs’ shooting and xG numbers have been woefully bad at times. Obviously losing Adam Buksa midseason hurts a lot and it’s going to take some time for the Revs’ squad to adjust to Giacomo Vrioni up top, but game plan and tactics wise, New England has been too passive for my liking. This is a team that I don’t think counter attacks often enough despite having the opportunities to do so and instead waits for numbers to get forward and allows the defense to get set. That’s been a no-go for the Revs for a while as far as breaking down eight or nine players behind the ball, as they do their best work when there’s a significant amount of chaos going on and someone gets lost in the box. If not for the heroics of Petrovic in goal, the Revs might have a couple more losses from those 0-0 games.
Also like Orlando, the Revs seem to be stalling a bit while teams around them start to figure things out. What needs to change in order for New England to make the playoffs?
Points dropped from winning positions in MLS this season:— Tom Bogert (@tombogert) July 17, 2022
1. LAFC - 0 (!!!)
2- Inter Miami - 2
3. NYCFC - 4
T-27. FC Cincinnati - 15
T-27. FC Dallas - 15
28. New England Revolution - 24
Stop losing leads. New England is great at scoring first, but in the early part of the year especially, was exceptionally bad at holding leads and hasn’t turned that around yet. Now the pendulum has swung too far the other way and the Revs are too cautious going forward and aren’t scoring. There needs to be a balance and if Bruce can figure it out I do think this is a team that can be a threat in the playoffs. Gil is still the reigning MVP, Vrioni will have a couple of months to get up to form, Gustavo Bou can fire in a winner from just about anywhere, and Djordje Petrovic might literally be the Serbian god of goalkeeping. Some luck and staying healthy would do the Revs some good — two things they had a lot of last year, save for the month or so Gil missed in the middle of the year, but this team just can’t grind out a win like they did in 2021. The middle of the Eastern standings is a mess, so all it takes is a couple of wins in a row and you can gain a lot of separation from the pack.
Are any players unavailable to injuries, suspensions, etc.? What is your projected starting lineup and score prediction?
JC: The Revs lost backup/Revs II keeper Jacob Jackson to an ACL injury and brought in Clement Diop as deep cover at that spot with Brad Knighton and Earl Edwards Jr. also available behind Petrovic. Jon Bell and Gustavo Bou are still listed on the injury list, so my guess would be they are still unavailable.
4-2-3-1: Djordje Petrovic; DeJuan Jones, Henry Kessler, Andrew Farrell, Brandon Bye; Wilfrid Kaptoum, Matt Polster; Dylan Borerro, Carles Gil, Arnor Traustason; Giacomo Vrioni.
I think a 1-1 draw is in the cards. The Revs on the road likely will sit back more, but I think they do finish their one big chance in this game — something they did not do against TFC at home last week. If the Revs can steal this game it would be a big three points and would bring New England level with 30 points, with the Revs having a game in hand, but I think New England will spend August still figuring things out.
Big thanks again to Jake for the great update on the Revs. Vamos Orlando!