It has been a minute since we’ve been able to do a long-standing series with our fellow network blogs but today that changes. We welcome Jake Catanese from the New England Revolution blog, The Bent Musket, today to preview tomorrow’s FC Dallas game.
You can find out answers to their questions on their site.
BDS: The Revs were unfortunate not to have their first round of the Concacaf Champions League recently, how did not having those additional two games early on affect the start of their season last week?
TBM: I think everyone was generally just bummed to not play the CCL games. Yes, it’s very likely that the Revs would have had little trouble advancing past Cavaly of Haiti, but the Caribbean champions deserved the chance to play those two games even if both of them were at Gillette Stadium and essentially New England home games. The Revs also had some history to settle with the CCL, as their last appearance did not go so well. We haven’t forgotten about you Joe F Public.
But soccer wise it was really a chance to gain match sharpness in competitive games. I’ll talk about some specifics in the next question, but you just can’t replace that kind of match sharpness with closed-door friendlies against Hartford and El Paso of the USL. The Revs built their preseason schedule and training cap around those early CCL games and not playing them has to be considered a negative.
BDS: Speaking of last week, the Timbers came from behind twice to pick up a draw in Portland. What were some positives to take away from that draw and what are some things the Revs need to improve upon in their home opener?
TBM: The Revs offense looked like it hadn’t missed a beat as a team. The Revs generated a ton of corners and crosses in the final third, had a lot of pressure on the Timbers in the first half in particular, and had a deserved lead at halftime. The two goals the Revs conceded were top class and while there were some individual moments of not great things (some headers from Omar Gonzalez and Andrew Farrell as clearances that went right to the Timbers and started counter attacks) I think the little things are from that lack of sharpness I talked about above. Henry Kessler and Matt Turner missed the game and that’s 40% of your starters from last year in the backline unit and a big part of your defensive communication. Overall, it’s a road point against the defending Western Conference champs and MLS Cup runner ups which is never a bad thing and you learned that Earl Edwards Jr is a solid option in net as well.
What I will say about Bruce Arena is that I think the book is out on the Revs defensively in their diamond midfield shape. Matt Polster constantly has to cover a lot of ground by himself and New England can get exposed on counter attacks which is exactly what Portland did and do so naturally. Arena didn’t use his subs effectively after the Revs went up 2-1 and New England should be pivoting to a 4-2-3-1 like formation more often in the second half to take the workload off Polster in particular and shore up the backline with the extra holding midfielder. The Revs have the personnel to rotate their formation easily and with a congested CCL schedule in the first half of the year, Bruce is going to have to be active with his lineup changes and subs bench to keep everyone fresh in the long run.
BDS: Let’s discuss the transfers a little bit here, it appears Bruce Arena went to the well to “get the band back together” from his LA and USMNT days. What did fans make of those moves? Also, what other moves did the club make this winter that people aren’t talking enough about?
TBM: The additions of Sebastian Lletget, Jozy Altidore, and Omar Gonzalez were clearly additions not just based on familiarity but also experience. Bruce trusts his veterans and there’s nothing wrong with that and I hope at some point we see a few 5-man defensive backlines with Omar as the anchor center back in the middle. Jozy might be a potential cover for Adam Buska if and when all those rumors come true this summer of his departure but add a great option for the CCL run as well. The key move however was Lletget as he slides into the center midfield role to replace Tajon Buchanan and he’s just a more natural fit there. Buchanan was an out-and-out winger moonlighting as a central mid because that’s where the Revs needed him to play and because Tajon is really, really good he succeeded there. But having Lletget there as a natural #8 type the goal is to add a lot more cohesion in the middle of the field and open up more space for Carles Gil to get on the ball and rack up assists.
With Matt Turner’s impending departure to Arsenal this summer, the Revs nabbed GK Jacob Jackson out of Loyola Marymount in the draft and the word out of camp has been very positive about him. It’s going to be a big summer window for the Revs with the definite sale of Turner and potential sale of Buksa, but the odds of the Revs needing to go out and get a big-time star at goalkeeper again seems unlikely. The corps of Edwards Jr, longtime backup Brad Knighton, and rookie Jackson are what the Revs will have in the second half of the year as they build up for a playoff run and the early indications are that’s a pretty solid group. Obviously, a step down from the legendary stuff Matt Turner has been doing the last few years but that’s a historic level of play Turner has been at.
So Matt Turner is still on the injury list with some kind of lower-body injury he picked up on the frozen Minnesota Tundra with the USMNT several weeks ago. Bruce apparently said yesterday Turner is out for another couple of weeks so timeline-wise his first game back at best might be the away leg of the CCL. Edwards Jr will get a second straight start. Otherwise, a full-strength Revs lineup is available but with the looming CCL games in the next couple of weeks, you might see Bruce rotate a lot here. I’d still go with the main defensive group though but pull fullbacks DeJuan Jones and Brandon Bye at some point for Ryan Spaulding and AJ DeLaGarza.
4-2-3-1: Turner; D Jones, Kessler, Farrell, Bye; Polster, Kaptoum; Boateng, Gil, Lletget; Buksa
I’m not sure how weird this actually is and I’m sure the Revs will start in the diamond but I’m being hopeful. Tommy McNamara could start as a winger here as well or even Gustavo Bou. My guess is Jozy gets far more minutes against Dallas than the 10-minute cameo he got in Portland as the Revs try to give as much rest as possible.
Regardless, I think the Revs get out to a fast start at home and then get to focus on their defense late and take a 2-1 win and hopefully a lot of confidence going into a CCL quarterfinal.