FC Dallas and the New England Revolution are looking to end long title droughts tonight. Just like before regular season games, we sat down with Jake Catanese of The Bent Musket to get a little more insight on our opponent for tonight’s big US Open Cup final.
BDS: After slipping out of the playoff picture thanks to losing five of six games, the Revs have pulled off two pretty big wins in the last week. Discuss how Jay Heaps has been able to make this turnaround happen?
TBM: Well, there's two answers here. The first is that the Revs have made a slight formation change and installed a 4-4-2 diamond that has pushed a second striker forward for New England. For the most part, it's been Juan Agudelo with an interesting cast of characters up top that has included Kei Kamara, playmaker Lee Nguyen and winger Diego Fagundez. Particularly in the last two games it's been the Revs style of play that has been a tremendous change of pace both figuratively and literally. While the Revs have mostly lumped crosses at Kamara in the box to varying degrees of success, the past two games the Revs have gotten out on the counter more and pressed the attack rather than building from the back. It's been fun to watch.
The second answer has been that well, Juan Agudelo is playing his best soccer for New England since probably 2013 when he was with his first stint with the club after a trade from Chivas USA (RIP Zombie Goats). It hasn't really mattered who he's played with, he's been involved in the attack and is finding the scoresheet along with just about everyone else - Nguyen, Fagundez, Rowe. Even Scotty Caldwell has gotten involved in the attack much to the delight of everyone and especially our esteemed site editor Steve Stoehr. I told Hudson River Blue that playing the Revs when they're having fun is a nightmare matchup, I can only hope that proves accurate tonight.
BDS: Heaps used a lot of starters on Saturday in the win over NYC, is there any concern that with the travel that there won't be a lot of gas in the tank for some players?
TBM: Well they Revs were without Kei Kamara and Je-Vaughn Watson against NYC FC over the weekend, but if you think I'm happy about an 8pm EST game on Saturday followed by a Cup Final three days later at 10pm EST...well, I'm pretty happy, I mean, the Revs are in the final and all...but I'm a little bitter and I blame ESPN for this. Except for Twellman cause he's the best.
Anyway, am I worried about the Revs being able to play possibly 120 minutes of very hard soccer on short rest after flying across half the country? Not entirely, though you would have to think that it is an advantage for FC Dallas the longer the game gets, particularly if it's tied late in regulation and into extra time. But with the Revs trying out a bit of a new formation, keeping the same core group on the field was probably a necessity for Jay Heaps to build up to this match and keep most of his starters in form. Will it backfire? Possibly, but with the way FC Dallas has played this year, if this game goes badly for New England it will likely have more to do with just how good FCD is rather than how tired the Revs may or may not be. You'll never hear that as an excuse.
BDS: New England has one win away from home this season, what do they have to do differently in the USOC final that they haven't been able to do so far this year away from home?
TBM: Well the first was to play both of their road games against NASL teams in the Carolina Railhawks and New York Cosmos in the early rounds before facing the Union and Fire at home in the quarterfinals and semis respectively. But the Revolution's road struggles have really bad this year, and it's not just that they've been losing on the road but usually losing by multiple goals in the process as well. Though recently the Revs have pulled off a 0-0 draw at San Jose though that wasn't exactly a good game of soccer from either side.
What the Revs do have for arguably the first time all year is confidence and good form. They knew prior to the semifinals that if they won the final would be a road game.
Predicted lineup: (4-1-2-1-2) Knighton; Tierney, Goncalves, Watson, Farrell; Koffie; Caldwell, Rowe; Nguyen; Fagundez, Agudelo - I think Kei Kamara starts this game on the bench and if the Revs do find themselves winning this game late, they'll put Kamara and Teal Bunbury on to close out the game. If Watson is still not 100% it will be another former FCD man London Woodberry at centerback for New England and Watson perhaps another late sub at holding midfield to close out the game or just for flat out heroics like he did in the quarters against Philly.
Any other notes? - Yeah, Pat Noonan is walking through that door, Taylor Twellman is walking through that door, and most importantly, someone is joining the Wells Thompson Revs US Open Cup Lifetime Hero Club. 3-2 New England.