Last week FC Dallas squared off against former USMNT coach Bob Bradley and Toronto FC. This week they face former USMNT coach Bruce Arena and the New England Revolution. Not sure what that means for next week, but last I checked Dave Sarachan was coaching Puerto Rico’s national team and Jurgen Klinnsman is manning a desk.
As for the Revolution, they are among those expected to make noise in this year’s Concacaf Champion’s League. After running away with the MLS Supporter’s Shield last year, reigning MVP Carles Gil and company return to achieve what no MLS side has done before. Yet inter-league competition has frequently caused problems during league play. Arena’s squad received a pass in the opening round of the CCL after their intended opponent Haitian side Cavaly AS withdrew due to visa issues. Thus, New England started the season with only a pair of preseason matches under their belt.
Granted, most of the team returns intact. Future Arsenal backstop Matt Turner missed the opener (and has notably missed practice time this week with a minor foot injury), but Tajon Buchanan (now racing up and down the field for Club Brugge) is the only notable departure from last year’s starting lineup.
To replace the rising Canadian star, Arena did what Arena does – he brought in veterans. Sebastian Llegett is the immediate replacement on the right side, and he repaid Arena’s faith with a goal against Portland with a late-arriving run from midfield – not completely unlike Jonathan Osorio’s goal last week. The build-up was different, but the same runner filling the void after the center-backs had been pulled away. Also, familiar face Omar Gonzalez got the start as Henry Kessler missed the game with an undisclosed injury. Reports from The Bent Musket, however, suggest that Kessler may return this week against Dallas. And finally, Jozy Altidore, who (like Gonzalez) joins New England from Toronto, entered the game for the final ten minutes to make his team debut.
Player Notes for New England:
Carles Gil: (4 goals, 18 assists ‘21) Everything runs through the reigning MVP. At least it did. Expect Edwin Cerillo to be busy attempting to deny the ball to Gil. However, Gil spent the majority of his minutes against Portland on the left side of the pitch opposite Llegett. If the Dallas midfield overcommits to Gil, the USMNT midfielder is capable of making the decisive pass or taking the shot himself.
Adam Buksa: (16 goals, 4 assists ‘21) … Oi.
Gustavo Bou: (15 goals, 9 assists ‘21) In the realm of unfair happenings, New England has two strikers who scored more goals than Ricardo Pepi last season. More than once against the Timbers, the Revs flooded the box on crosses from the fullbacks. Expect Buksa, Bou, Gil, and Llegett to all be looking for the other end of those crosses. Again, Dallas midfielders need to track the runners on the far post.
Matt Polster & Friends: If the Revs are committing so many players to the attack, someone has to mind the shop. Defensive midfielder Matt Polster had 42 interceptions a year ago (for comparison, Sean Davis had 57 for RBNY [Cerrillo had 25 in fewer minutes]). Polster’s not an elite #6. Andrew Farrell had 43 interceptions (Yeimar had 86 [Tafari had 38]). He’s not going to take Zimmerman’s spot on the national team. But the Revs have veteran defenders and Portland had to work to break them down after New England struggled through some early vulnerabilities in transition. Personally, I’m hopeful that Omar Gonzalez starts again and provides opportunities for Dallas in transition. Jones and Bye have enough pace on the outside, but New England looks most vulnerable with attacks running straight up the middle in transition.
Line-Up Prediction: 4-4-2
Gustavo Bou – Adam Buksa
Tommy McNamara – Sebastian Llegett
DeJuan Jones – Omar Gonzalez – Andrew Farrell – Brandon Bye
Rather than platoon his attacking talent, Bruce Arena adopted a two-forward formation with a midfield diamond against Portland. Llegett and McNamara pinched into the middle of the field while outside backs Brandon Bye and DeJuan Jones supplied the width on the outside.
New England will face Pumas UNAM in the CONCACAF Quarterfinals on Wednesday, March 9th. Arena may try to rest players ahead of that tie – or he may see Dallas as a convenient warm-up. Given the relative dearth of pre-season matches, I suspect the latter.
Saturday, March 5
Foxborough, MA – Cloudy w/ a high of 44