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Deep dive: Three questions on the New England Revolution

Time to learn more about our weekend opponent.

MLS: Montreal Impact at New England Revolution Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

The weekend is here as FC Dallas is in Boston to take on the New England Revolution.

Today we welcome in Jake Catanese from The Bent Musket to help preview the game.

1. New England has seemed to come alive in recent weeks under Brad Friedel, what is it about his system that has worked for this team? And what do they still need to do to improve?

The high press has been the staple of the Brad Friedel system operating under a familiar 4-2-3-1 that the Revs have used under Jay Heaps. The good thing about the press is that the Revs are forcing turnovers in their opponent’s defensive half and turning them very quickly into shots on target and goals. The Revs have always been a fantastic counter-attacking team in recent years and this style of play certainly plays into that strength. The Revs ability to get possession and quickly start going upfield also gave them a man advantage against Houston a few weeks ago (the red card vs. Montreal was a different situation) and New England has done what teams should do with 11 vs 10 and that is be dominant. This wasn’t always the case under Jay Heaps when the Revs had a man advantage.

The downside is, when the high press is broken it’s just like basketball - you’re going to give up a layup on the other end. This was clearly the case against New York City FC last month and in the season opener in Philly when Antonio Delamea had to pull down a Union attack for a DOGSO red card. The defense is still a little bit of a work in progress despite keeper Matt Turner’s sudden and successful ascendancy to the starting role. Also, the Revs are still not big on possession when it’s 11 vs 11 and I’m not a fan of that. At times, they’re too direct on the counter, forcing the ball forward rather than trying to build up through possession. Diego Fagundez might be scoring goals as the CAM in this formation, but he’s not the playmaker I think the Revs need at that spot.

2. These two sides met in a preseason scrimmage in Arizona a couple months ago. Despite that, help give Dallas fans a couple new faces that we need to be on the look out for this weekend.

Well there’s this Cristian Penilla guy who plays out on the left wing who was featured on ESPNFC/Ale Moreno’s MLS Filth of the Week segment for his goal against Houston a couple weeks ago. There is always a skepticism when New England signs players on the international market for a variety of reasons but Penilla put all of them to rest very quickly and has settled in with the Revs starting lineup right from preseason and hasn’t looked back. Penilla is on loan from LigaMX side Pachuca and while it’s very early to say this, I fully expect that buy option to be picked up.

Wilfried Zahibo is the next man up to attempt to replace Jermaine Jones at CDM and while matching the expectations and production from JJ’s 2014 season with the Revs is pretty much impossible, Zahibo is doing a really solid job. The high press allows him to get involved in the attacking end and turn recoveries into assists. Both Penilla and Zahibo have a goal and three assists to their names already and each have started all five games with Zahibo playing all 450 minutes so far in 2018.

Other newcomers include leftback Gabriel Somi and midfielder Luis Caicedo, who have combined for three assists this season.

3. Lastly, we’d be remised if we didn’t ask about our local boy Lee Ngyuen. What is his current status? And do you all expect to see him anytime soon on the field?

*Sighs heavily* *chugs bottle of asprin*

I will die on the hill that Lee Nguyen is still the best playmaking #10/CAM on the New England Revolution. As far as I’m concerned, Diego Fagundez is third on that depth chart behind Kelyn Rowe yet it’s Fagundez who’s in the starting lineup, Rowe on the subs bench and Nguyen somewhere else entirely. This isn’t a knock on Fagundez who leads the Revs with three goals so far this year, but rather Diego’s playmaking ability when compared to his teammates. Rowe is by far a better passer than Diego and Nguyen is a former league MVP candidate and while Fagundez has proven he’s still a finisher, his only assist so far this year is a failed trap that Andrew Farrell fired in for his first career goal against Montreal last week. However, with the Revs winning and Fagundez producing in a lineup where he a Penilla clearly have a lot of chemistry, I don’t expect Friedel to fix what isn’t broken.

As far as when Lee Nguyen will see the field if at all, your guess is as good as mine. Some point in the coming weeks the MLS spring roster freeze will happen and if Nguyen still isn’t cracking the starting lineup I’d expect him to be traded by that point at worst. Even if a trade happens, the Revs will likely have to replace Nguyen’s production by committee, something they’re already doing this year. Trade assets in MLS as far as draft picks/GAM/TAM/etc., won’t replace Lee Nguyen and while Penilla is a wonderful addition as a winger it will be interesting to see if New England goes out and gets true DP caliber player to replace Nguyen at CAM or at another position entirely like say at striker.

Lineup prediction:

4-2-3-1: Matt Turner; Gabriel Somi, Claude Dielna, Jalil Anibaba, Andrew Farrell; Wilfried Zahibo, Scott Caldwell; Cristian Penilla, Diego Fagundez, Kelyn Rowe; Teal Bunbury

Just one change and that’s Rowe for Caicedo but it’s entirely possible Friedel trots out the exact same lineup as last week. Bunbury has been a force up top and the press really lets him just out work players at just about everything. The subs bench will include names like Nguyen, Agudelo, Nemeth, Caicedo and Delamea, which is a lot of high priced contracts not getting starting minutes under Brad Friedel.

It has been a long, long time since the Revs knocked off FC Dallas, it was 2011 and I was there in person at Gillette making fun of Brek Shea’s haircut. I think the Revs pull this one out, 3-1.