What the Hell Am I About to Watch: Maple Syrup Derby

The Montreal Impact come into Gillette Stadium for the third Maple Syrup Derby of the 2020 season. Each team has come away with a victory so far this year, Montreal, on their home turf (or whatever you want to call that nightmare field) and New England down in Orlando for the MLS is Back tournament.

The opening game of the season was in the Olympic Stadium, where the Impact hosted the Revolution. The game ended in a 2 – 1 victory for Montreal, though the turf it was played on was a travesty. Teal Bunbury opened the scoring for the Revolution, with a beautiful volley off a Christian Penilla cross. The joy was short-lived as the Impact answered back with two goals sandwiched between a VAR reviewed disallowed goal for the Revolution.

The two teams lined up again in their opening match of the MLS is Back tournament, this time the Revolution came out with a 1 – 0 victory. Gustavo Bou supplied the goal this time, but the Revolution should have scored more. They completely outplayed the Impact, but a 95th minute save by Matt Turner was needed to hold onto to victory.

The Revolution come into this game off of an excellent performance against NYCFC. While they did not find the back of the net, many things showed potential. Montreal is coming off back to back losses, both of them ended with them down to ten men.

Nguyen’s Influence

Lee Nguyen was instrumental in the performance of the Revolution. His ability to see a pass and control the midfield helped the Revolution control the game. His passing vision also created some fantastic opportunities. With more time working with the attackers, the connection between Nguyen and Gustavo Bou could start to bear fruit for the Revolution. They almost got a goal, but Bou was called back for offsides against NYCFC, and his understanding with Bunbury created two excellent shooting opportunities. They were able to carve apart the Impact in Florida with Gil pulling strings; hopefully, Nguyen can step into those boots and create more of the same.

Polster Returns

Matt Polster returns from his one-game suspension from his red card. While Scott Caldwell filled in admirably, I think his return will give more freedom to whoever is playing the number 8 role or will allow for a formation change. Polster has become a key cog in the Revolution team. His performances have allowed for a more attacking threat from the midfield. This is due to his ability to provide cover in front of the backline. He will hopefully allow Nguyen and McNamara more time in the attacking third.

Defensive Solidity

While Matt Turner has continued to be a rock at goalkeeper, the defense has also improved. Though some of the recent score lines may not show it (mainly the two against Philadelphia), the Revolution defense is better than it has been in recent years. It has allowed this team to continue to be in games while struggling to find the back of the net. Henry Kessler has had a rookie fo the year performance this season and is on track to become one of the best defenders in MLS. If they can continue to gel and improve, this can only mean good things for the Revolution.

Expected Eleven

I do not expect wholesale changes from the squad that started on Saturday. The main difference I foresee is Matt Polster to come in for Scott Caldwell.

4-2-3-1

One Final Note

Our Maple Syrup is Better than Yours, and don’t forget it.

What The Hell Did I Watch Redux

Twenty days ago, New York City FC came up to Gillette Stadium and ran the Revolution off the pitch (if you want to see the fallout from that, see my previous post). Today, the complete opposite happened. While the result is a frustrating 0 – 0 draw between the two clubs, there was a marked improvement seen by the Revolution.

Forwards, Take What Improvement You Can?

In one game, the Revolution increased their shots on goal by 30%. They put 7 of their 14 shots on frame, converting to a 50%. This marked an improvement over their season average going into this game of 27.33% or 41 out of their 150 shots. While the goals were not there, sometimes we need to take the victories where we can. They also had three goals called back for offsides, putting the totals to 10 for 17. Sean Johnson did make a couple of good saves to keep his shutout, but there were times when you could feel them coming together.

Gustavo Bou seemed to enjoy the freedom of not feeling like the entire offensive creation was on his shoulders. You can tell that he is more comfortable with Lee Nguyen on the field, helping to provide passes over the top and into the channels for him to run onto. While the timing was slightly off, you could already see the forming idea that should lead to goals. He did find the back on the net twice, both from an offside position, but catching the ball in the net for those was reassuring since, in recent times, those shots have been wide.

Teal Bunbury was back where he provides more strength for the Revolution, out wide either left or right, in this case, left. His pace and work rate on the left-hand side, combined with the overlapping runs of Alex Buttner, gave the Revolution a robust attacking threat down that side. He also wen 2/2 for his shots being on goal. While this does end his streak of converting whenever he put a shot on target, he forced two good saves from Johnson, converted for an offside goal. He also had a 24 for 28 passing accuracies with the majority of those being medium passes. It also was good to see that he and Nguyen still have the connection they had back from their playing days together.

Tajon Buchanan seemed to find his confidence after scoring his first professional goal against Philadelphia. It made me very happy that Arena gave him the start, and he rewarded that confidence with a fantastic performance. His pace and power tormented the left side of the New York City defense, allowing to get off four shots, three of which were on target. He also had a goal called back for offsides, and his lone shot off-target was an audacious volley after chipping the ball up to himself. He also chipped in on the defensive side, working back hard for the team and helping Brandon Bye. The potential everyone saw when he was drafted 9th overall may finally be coming to bear.

Substitutes

Christian Penilla came in for Buchanon in the 77th minute to freshen up the legs against a tiring NYCFC backline. While his pace has always been apparent, he has struggled to succeed from the first half of the 2018 season. He is a very one dimensional predictable player at times, and his lack of shots on target 0-1 in this game showed why he had become a substitute. His pace should allow him to attack and create good chances to make a significant impact off the bench, but it was not there against NYCFC.

Adam Buksa had a cameo appearance coming in the 89th minute for Lee Nguyen. His lone shot attempt was blocked. Not much to be said except he put in a shift for the little time on the pitch.

Midfield

The arrivals of Tommy McNamara and Lee Nguyen have transformed the Revolution midfield into a formable attacking threat. This game may have seen a complete midfield performance across the board from the Revolution. Their ability to connect with the forwards while covering their defensive duties allowed for freedom in both the attack and stability in the defensive third. While they did not provide much of a shooting threat, only one total shot and not on goal will come with time and opportunities.

Lee Nguyen was the man of the match for most people, and rightfully so. In his return home to New England, he did not look like a player with a little over a hundred minutes under his belt. In his first start of the season for either club, he filled the void left by Carles Gil admirably. His forward vision allowed for the pressure to come off Gustavo Bou to be the leading creator and let them support each other. With time, the understanding between those two will blossom, but will there be enough of it to get them over the hump.

Tommy McNamara has continued to impress since his debut with the Revolution. His flexibility throughout the midfield has allowed him to rotate and cover where he has been needed. He continued to show his good passing vision and how well he can complement the attack. Playing as a number 8, he moved from box to box, covering most of the turf and trying to help Scott Caldwell as much as possible. His commitment to the team and being a team-first player is apparent since he has one assist and always looks for the pass before the shot.

Scott Caldwell stepped into the void created by the Matt Polster red card against Philadelphia gracefully. He patrolled in-front of the back four with his usual grit and tenacity. Caldwell got stuck in primarily in the defensive third with four successful tackles in 5 attempts, three of which came in the defensive third. His four successful tackles were the most on the team. Caldwell also had the second most completed passes combined with the second-highest competition percentage, which is good to see from the DCM.

Substitutions

Kekuta Manneh is still an enigma to me. It was also a substitution I did not understand but more on that later. This was his second run out as a Revolution player but felt like a slightly more polished version of Christian Penilla at times. His one opportunity came late in the match when he had the chance on a rebound, but instead of corralling and giving himself a second, he lashed out and put it out for a throw-in. While he has limited time, Buchanon’s emergence will limit his time on the pitch, so he needs to maximize his opportunities.

Kelyn Rowe had his typical solid substitute appearance. Coming in for McNamara, he continued to show his evolution into a reliable number 8. He continued in the same vein as McNamara, consistently closing down while trying to get into the attack. Just a solid day at the office for Kelyn.

Defense

The Revolution defense continued to be the bright spot of the Revolution this season. The addition of Alexander Büttner on the left flank has solidified the position while adding attacking flair to the left-back role. Henry Kessler continues to be a rock in the backline, playing well beyond his years. While the Revs have allowed some goals in recent matches, the breakdowns have been far less than we saw the past couple of years.

Alexander Büttner continued to prove he was a worthy investment for the Revolution this offseason. There may have been some who were worried about his acquisition due to his lack of game time in the past year. His crossing and attacking threat have added to the Revolution, while his defensive prowess has helped Kessler and solidified a position that had not felt filled since the ACL injury to Chris Tierney. Also, he is a welcome addition on set pieces offering a viable left-footed threat. Buttner’s class was on display against NYCFC, where most of their more prominent attacks were down the right side of our defense.

Brandon Bye continues to show improvement, completing the most passes against NYCFC. While his accuracy was only 70.3 percent, he provided deadly crosses that need to be attacked. He also had a 100% successful tackle rate, all coming in the defensive third. The more profitable ventures forward for NYCFC did come down his side. His recovery speed to ensure he can track back from any small mistakes made. He and Buchanan combined extremely well both offensively and defensively. I hope this becomes a successful partnership for the Revolution in the years to come.

Andrew Farrell continued to be solid since his move to center back in the middle of last season. While injury’s pressed him into the position, he was drafted as a CB coming out of Louisville. He has developed a very good relationship with Kessler. Also, his movement to center back has made the backline less error-prone than in recent years. Except for the last match against NYCFC, he has not put a foot wrong this season.

Henry Kessler continues to show why he was the first defender taken in the draft. He has also become a rock in-front of Matt Turner, shoring experience beyond his years as a professional. I believe he has learned from the veterans in Delamea and Büttner from the first game in Montreal, he has shown an outstanding ability to read the play. His passing from the back has helped evolve the Revolution. If he does not even get a look in for Rookie of the Year, it is a joke.

Goalkeeper

Not much to say, except Matt Turner being Matt Turner.

Matt Turner continued his excellent season with a four save shutout. If there is one complaint, it is that his distribution was not up to his new standard. But that’s nitpicking.

Manager

Bruce Arena has shown that he has the knowledge to set up a team. some of his substitutions have not made sense this season. I do not get why he brought in Manneh over Buksa when needing a goal. While I understand the frustration with Buksa he still should have been given more time on the pitch. With the crosses that Bye was putting in and Lee Nguyen being able to thread balls through the lines, it would have been nice to give him a shot. Hopefully, Arena also saw Rennick’s movement and goal for Revs II.

What The Hell Am I Going to Watch Revs NYCFC Edition

New England Revolution v NYC FC

NYCFC comes back into Gillette stadium 18 days after embarrassing the Revolution up and down the pitch. NYCFC outplayed them in every facet of the game and left Revs fans wondering what this team was made of. Not only is this a measuring stick for the Revolution and a proving point to the fans that they are not the team that showed up against NYCFC at home, but this team needs to get some revenge. They need to make a statement of intent to the rest of the east. Getting a victory over NYCFC would go along way to proving they can challenge the larger threats in the East. With Inter Miami’s recent signing of Gonzolo Higuain, they have all the competition they can handle for an eastern conference title. Laying a marker down will be crucial to not only the fans but the rest of the league.

Looking for some Goals

A fair amount has rightfully been saying about the Revolution attack. It has been lackluster at best this season. Since returning from the MLS is back tournament, the Revs have had 75 total shots in 6 games. While that averages out to slightly over 12 shots per game, they have only had 20 shots on target. That is a 26.67% accuracy rate. From those 20 shots, they have scored a total of 6 goals. The 6 goals converts to a 30% conversion rate, which while some may find that comforting if that number gets closer to a 50% conversion, maybe some of those draws turn into wins. Teal Bunbury is your leading scorer with 4 goals, and if they want to compete, they need to get everyone clicking. Tajon Buchanon is coming off an excellent performance against Philadelphia, hoping he gets the start over Penilla.

Adam Buksa has struggled to get off the mark, but when you go back and look at the beginning of the season, he scored on his home debut, and while not scoring a goal in Montreal, he looked more in sync with his teammates. Out of anyone on this team, I think the COVID break hurt his progress the most. He looks out of sorts and needs time to settle. I do believe Rennicks being on loan with Revs II should give him confidence that Bruce Arena believes in him. Buksa needs not only to find his confidence but better service.

As I have said before in a previous post, I believe the acquisition of Lee Nguyen could be the key to unlocking the Revolution attack. In his limited time against Philadelphia, he looked extremely comfortable already and looked like he was trying to command the ball’s play. I think his vision and ability to control the flow of play will not only free up Gustavo Bou but also help Buksa with his ability to get the ball in behind for Buksa to run onto.

Filling the Gap

Matt Polster has been a revelation since coming over from Rangers, and the Revolution will need to fill the void created by his red card from last week’s game against the Union. My thought is that Scott Caldwell will come in for him, and while he has the skill to play the holding midfielder, he needs to show the nerve and get stuck in. NYCFC can be a creative team through the midfield, so he will have to ensure he breaks up the play.

Kelyn Rowe will also most likely be called upon to add the metal to midfield. He has been relishing this role as a box to box number 8, but he will need to sit a little more in this match. Rowe has the speed to cover the runs into the box from NYCFC like he did early against Philadelphia. Looking at the rest of the roster, you could see Tommy McNamara dropping into the 8 role opening up a slot in for Nguyen into the starting line up.

Defensive Stability

The Revs backline has finally had some solid stability this year. There have been some worrying moments in recent weeks, but I expect some astute defending for a full week to prepare. The combination of Buttner, Kessler, Farrell, and Bye has found good communication and resolute defending. Kessler has been everything and then some from what was promised out of the 4th overall pick. Having a rookie of the year campaign, he seems to be the draft class so far. His covering, speed, and reading of the game shows the amount up upside this young defender has, and here is to hoping that he gets cap tied by the US national team soon. They need to show the resoluteness seen in the MLS is Back Tournament again, and without Maxi Moralez, the task should hopefully be more comfortable.

Goalkeeping AKA Best Player on the Pitch

The only place that the Revolution will always have the best player on the field is in the net. Matt Turner is the best goalkeeper in MLS. His reactionary saves and overall reading of the game have always been good, but this year, his area’s distribution and command have grown in leaps and bounds. His height is slightly on the average side for a goalkeeper (I’m as tall as he is, if not a hair taller), his catching ability and command of his box now, through instructions and keeper calls, are louder than ever. Turner is the only week in and week out consistent performer for the full 90 this season for the Revolution, including the previous game against NYCFC.

What the Hell Did I Just Watch P.R.O Edition

Let me preface this by saying I may come across as an asshat and a sore supporter, but sometimes you need to say what’s on your mind.

I wanted to give myself some time before writing about the New England Revolution game on Saturday. I hoped there would be a sense of calm towards the refereeing with some time and distance from the match. Alas, there is still frustration. At this point, I’m not even upset with Matt Polster’s second yellow, however soft it was. The frustrations come down to the referee’s overall performance, who set a precedent and did not adhere to his guidelines.

The farce that was the second half referee display by Guido Gonzales Jr. would have any supporter infuriated by the inconsistency for what warranted a card. Starting with the second yellow to Matt Polster, it is a yellow, and I can concede that. Was it drawn by the Philadelphia player flopping down like a Halloween decoration losing air (credit Chris Creighton for the analogy), probably, but the dark arts are a part of soccer. Sometimes officials will give a player on a yellow a break in this situation, a final warning to ensure the game can continue with even numbers. Gonzales Jr. did not, and carded Polster. A clear break and a soft foul but a foul and a yellow card offense by the book. Queue the animosity from those in the New England corner saying it was too soft for a yellow since it was in his half and there were covering defenders. Queue the Philadelphia’s response saying no matter what, that was a yellow card offense; he should get the yellow. Now though Gonzales Jr. has set a precedent for what is a second yellow card, and this is where my problems begin.

63rd Minute, Alejandro Bedoya goes in and off the ball blocks off Tommy McNamara, preventing his run into the attacking third after playing the ball down the line to Penilla. Gonzalez Jr. seems to see it as a foul as his arm goes up to play the advantage, the ball turns over, and the game continues. At the next stoppage, Gonzalez Jr. does not go back to show a second yellow. 7 minutes have passed since Matt Polster’s second yellow, 7 minutes have passed since he set a precedent for a second yellow card offense. There are two questions raised by this, did Gonzalez Jr. consider it a foul, and if he did, how is he that inconsistent in such little time? The fact that he did not call the play dead after Panilla turns the ball over has made me think that Gonzalez Jr. was waving play on. I have not heard the Philadelphia broadcast, but the local broadcast brought up the question of whether he will go back to the foul, explicitly mentioning that Bedoya is on a yellow.

65th Minute, Jose Martinez does the same thing that Matt Polster does, and I mean the same thing; the only difference is that it is in the attacking third, and this time Gonzalez Jr. does not even call a foul. This lack of a foul is the one that gets me heated due to what happened 9 minutes prior. A different jersey, further away from goal, is not only a foul but also a yellow card. The inconsistency seen is not only inexcusable but complete bullshit. It is unclear why he chose one over the other, and this is where I get frustrated. He set his standards and did not uphold them. If I seem a loss for words, it is because I am just so baffled. I will again reference the Revolution broadcast because you can hear the exasperation in Charlie Davis’s voice when he goes, ” and he’s on a yellow as well.” A former player for both sides, perhaps somewhat biased since he is on the Revolution broadcast seeing things as unfair.

As a fan, seeing the referee’s inconsistency is infuriating, and you can see why the Revolution players are crowding the ref to ask what is going on. His decisions changed the outcome of the game. Philadelphia’s second goal would have been covered if the Rev’s have eleven men, or the Union is down to ten. Not only does he change the outcome of this game, but he potentially influences the game against NYCFC, since Polster will miss that match.


I hope that somehow PRO reprimands him for this match, but since I have little faith in P.R.O. I doubt anything will come of it. What disappoints me most about this referee organization is that their general manager is Howard Webb, one of the most well-regarded referees in recent history. If he cannot get this organization to have some form of consistency, then who can, and why is MLS still using P.R.O.?

Welcome Back

The New England Revolution has brought back another former player today with Lee Nguyen from Inter Miami. Nguyen is the third former player to return in the 2020 season for the Revolution, joining Kelyn Rowe and Seth Sinovic in returning to Foxborough. While fans may be split on Nguyen’s opinion with how he left the club in 2018, this is a smart signing by the front office from a purely tactical sense.

The loss of Carles Gil has left a large gap in the roster. The Revolution have missed a creative presence at the number 10. They have tried a couple of formational changes and multiple options to find the creativity and chance creation lost due to Gil’s injury. Against the Impact at the MLS is Back Tournament; Gil played his only full 90 of this season, creating 12 chances, which according to OptaJack was, the most in a single game by a Revolution player since they started tracking the MLS. Opportunities have been lacking in recent matches. While finishing has been a problem, having someone setting up people in the right place can go miles to create a stronger offensive side.

Lee Nguyen, as a player, fils this role and helps improve the team as a whole. While Tommy McNamara has been working had to help with creativity, it is not a natural position. Nguyen’s best years in the league were all with the Revolution. In 208 games with the Revolution, he produced 54 goals and 35 assists, including his MVP nominated year (still should have won that) of 2014 of 18 goals and 4 assists. He has had a significant drop in his minutes since moving to LAFC in 2018 and seen very little of the pitch in 2020 with Inter Miami. His vision and drive into the attacking third is something that should help free up Gustavo Bou and Adam Buska. His service will also help the Revolution on free kicks, which will hopefully bode well for Adam Buska and others. A small side note is that Nguyen has played in Gillette on the turf, making acclimation time to the surface lower. The only downside is that he will need to get match sharp as he has played minimal minutes this season.

His time at LAFC and Inter Miami will only provide a chip on Nguyen’s shoulder to prove that he can still cut it in the MLS. This deal is a low-risk deal for the Revolution with a high ceiling if he can find some good form.

One final note. Yes, the way he left was not what the fanbase would have liked, and I know some who most likely will not forgive him. Everything he is saying is correct and may be scripted, but he genuinely seems to care about the New England fanbase, so give him a shot.

What The Hell Did I Watch

New England Revolution Recap

Of all the games we have seen under Bruce Arena, this is the most lackluster, disappointing shitshow I have seen. From the starting eleven to the bench, nothing seemed to make sense for the Revolution. This performance is raising many questions for me, none of them pretty, anyways, here we fucking go.

In the past year, Revs fans have started believing in the mantra, “In Bruce we Trust,” personally for the first time, I seriously find myself doubting the team he decided to put out on the pitch, tactics, and substitutions.

Forwards

Let’s start with the conundrum upfront. Adam Buksa has not found his footing since the MLS is Back tournament, and even there, he was off. I have faith he will come good, but I also know he needs more around him and time to adjust to the league and surface. So you bench him, then where was Justin Rennicks in the eleven or even on the bench. This team, while they may not want to admit it needs a focal point up top without playmaker Carles Gil. Again when you have a promising young player who is craving minutes and the fanbase will support, where is he. There was so much drama about him leaving and going back to college and the Revs losing him, and here they are needing a striker and not even giving him a look. I would not be surprised if he told them to stick it and left or went to play with Revs II because he’ll get minutes there.

Gustavo Bou plays best when he is allowed to play off hold up striker. That being said, this year, he has looked lost in the wilderness at times on the pitch. People will point to his shot conversion rate as a negative, which let us face it, while complete shit, at least he is shooting. Without Carles Gil, it looks to me that he is putting pressure on himself to be the everything for the team, and he needs to let go of that. Suppose he can get better interplay with his teammates by just trusting them and not overplaying, things will improve across the board for the Revolution. You see the movement and the chance creation, but he should have scored late in the game, and that is facts.

Teal Bunbury plays better coming in from the wing and giving ample coverage backtracking or interchanging with a central striker. As a number 9 he can hold up the play, but it is not always consistent. His work rate is excellent and was there, but there were still chances there for him that he missed. I may have a bit of a soft spot for him since his commitment and work rate are high, but even he needs some sharpening. There is a reason that “Dammit Teal” has become a mantra in The Fort.

Chrisitan Panilla was playing as the tip of a diamond, which he should not play. His passing ability, combined with his typical first touch, does not meet the expectations or requirements to play behind the strike partnership. I was hoping he would not be a starter this year at all because his pace is devastating, but I feel like it’s more useful later in the game. Those who are still in love with him from his initial season with the team, get your head out of your ass and look at the player. He is a pacy winger who can not be relied on to do much. His shooting is lackluster at best, most of the time, and if you needed those glasses broken, look at the first balloon last night. Sitter that should be on frame at least goes 30 yards into the stands because instead of realizing he could take a touch and get it on his favored foot, he tried to be fancy and hit it the first time with his left, which is useless. Why he never got substituted in that game boggles my mind.

Midfield

It seemed like Arena has confidence in the pairing of Kelyn Rowe and Matt Polster, but after changing to a diamond instead of a 5 with 2 sitting as cover. The team did not seem to have any real cohesion. It is interesting that while I believe Bruce Arena was trying to make tactical changes, they did not seem to fit the team.

Tommy McNamara in a Revolution kit is an unknown quantity. He cameo again Red Bull looked promising, and he showed some good flashes in his performance against NYCFC, but he did not look like he completely understood the positioning at times. McNamara is still learning the system, and I get Bruce wanting to get him on the pitch. Hopefully, he comes good, but I feel like he is a stop-gap and not a long term solution. I would have preferred giving Tajon Buchannon more time as he is still a developing talent and let McNamara come on as a sub as he did against Red Bull.

Kelyn Rowe was one of the few players that I think overall I came away with no real frustration over his performance. While he did not have any outstanding game-changing moments, he moved and tried to keep the pace of play up. Rowe should have taken a shot instead of passing towards the end. His transformation in the bast couple of months from a number 10 into a number 8 has been good, and with the addition on Matt Polster, he seems to be able to find real freedom all over the pitch. His defensive tracking has also improved, and it feels like he is settling and creating a good relationship with Polster.

Matt Polster – for someone who has not had much game time due to the COVID break, has looked the part as a defensive midfielder. He has added some much-needed steel and resolve to the Revolution midfield. Again like Rowe, I do not think his first-half performance was terrible, and it may be a comparison to the others on the pitch or some tinted glasses saying that. I do think he looked tired, and the substitution at the half made sense. I will say the defense did not look as stable with him off in the second half.

Defense

Defensively there were two massive calls in the starting eleven. Michael Mancienne was brought in for Andrew Farrell, and DeJuan Jones came in for Alexander Buttner. To say Mancienne starting was a head-scratcher would be an understatement. Since his arrival in mid-2018, he has never really looked the part, so replacing a stable partnership that had been very solid was interesting. Jones was an understandable start with Buttner having played so little since last year, and giving him some rest made sense.

Brandon Bye had a performance that I can not complain about. He was very aware in the defensive third, ensuring corners and tried to keep his side under control. While his crosses were finding decent places, there was no target man in the 18 to attack them. I do not get why he was substituted for Manneh. It became more of the square pegs in round wholes, instead of keeping your right back on, and perhaps substituting an underperforming 10. He and Buchanan were combining well before his removal.

DeJuan Jones was yanked at half time, and it did not feel that he made any noticeable contributions. His typical speed runs bombing up the left flank were missing, which either comes down to tactics or the simple fact that the Revolution could not possess the ball for long enough in the first half. As he is a converted winger, perhaps a different substitution could have been made at the half to allow for more speed to attack NYCFCs left in the second half and provide defensive cover for Buttner when making his foraging runs.

Henry Kessler is having a rookie of the year season. You can see why the Revolution selected him 4th overall in the draft this year. He continues to be stable and a force in the back. He has added a sense of calm to the backline that one would not always expect from his first professional year. He may be getting a bit of a pass since he is a rookie, but his performances have been consistent, and he did not cause any of the leaks in the back.

Michael Mancienne should not have been on the pitch from the opening whistle. Why you drop Andrew Farrell for Mancienne is an absolute joke. Yes, Farrell’s touch was not the greatest against Red Bull, but if you look at that game across the board, passes were missed, and touches were not the greatest. Mancienne got beat on both goals for NYCFC. He could not clear the cross and end up with an own goal, as well as losing his marker for the second goal and allowing a free header. He had some ok moments, mainly clearing out for corners, but there was a connection missing between him and Kessler.

Goalkeeper

Matt Turner, there is nothing you can say wrong about his performance. He kept the Revs in the game with his shot-stopping and shows why he is one of if not the best goalkeeper in the MLS. Maybe you say he could have gotten a hand on the first goal to attempt to tip it round the post, but that is me nitpicking for the sake of nitpicking. His distribution and command of the area have grown vastly over the past year. Here’s to hoping there is at least one more season after this one in New England. If he is subject to the current bailing out the team for long periods of the game, he may be tempted to leave for Europe sooner rather than later, and who can blame him.

Substitutions

These have been a sore spot in recent games. It feels like they always come too late in the match to make any difference. This game, the halftime substitutions, which did make sense, did not affect the game in the way Arena probably hoped. The remainder of the

Diego Fagundez coming off his one good pass of the previous start against Red Bull, Fagundez came in for Polster at the half and hit the 250 game milestone. In my opinion, that is just a couple too many games. As a 15-year-old, he broke into the first team and had a high ceiling, which he has not achieved. Perhaps t was a stunted development due to the managerial change after Heaps left. But he has become stagnant. He still will score the occasional goal or hit a wonder-ball, but his vision and movement were lacking against NYCFC.

Alex Buttner has some good moments and tried to get forward to supply crosses, but similar to Jones, outside of some work in the attacking third, he was mostly non-existent in the attack. He was somewhat at fault for the cross leading to the opening goal from NYCFC. It came from his side, and he does occasionally get caught upfield (see above, I had a solution).

Tajon Buchanon looked solid going forward until he moved to right back. Then became a square peg in a round hole. Didn’t put a step wrong in the defensive half, but going forward lacked just a bit of finishing (a theme?????). I still want him to get more game time, and I think he will come good with time. He needs more time on the field, so maybe a shuffle up might find him on the pitch more.

Kakuta Manneh more of a cameo appearance for the new man, who got forward and combined well enough. Will save judgment for a bit more time, but looked like he lacked match sharpness. Worried, he may be similar to Panilla in the long run, but if he keeps Panilla off the field for a bit, I’m good with that.

Adam Buska was brought on eventually, and due to the circumstances, there was more room for him to work with, but he still looked more at home up top than anyone else had for the entirety of the match. He was making good runs and was having more players see them in the later stages of the game. He did have one missed header, which could have been kept on frame, and a tame shot from outside the 18. Again you would hope that one of those would have gone in, but I feel like he is still trying to get settled.

Manager

Bruce Arena looks lost or disappointed in his side. Four wins in the last 22 is not the record that most people would have been hoping to see. He has inherited a team and is currently working to bring in his side, but this game’s tactics felt off. The team did not have the cohesion that had been building. The choice to play Panilla, both out of position and not have him on the bench after another poor performance against Red Bull. The switch to a diamond midfield also felt a little forced as the strike partnership was both non-traditional number 9s, which meant it was harder for hold up play. Bringing Mancienne has been discussed but breaking up a partnership that has been creating a very stingy defense made little sense. His substitutions fell flat, and while he does need some time, people are already asking if the league has passed him by.

MLS is Back Game 1: Montreal Impact V New England Revolution

Final Score: Montreal Impact 0 – New England Revolution 1

It’s been four months since there was a competitive MLS match for the New England Revolution, and they came out of the blocks firing. While there were some stumbling blocks at times, the Revolution looked like a team that came into this tournament ready for games.

Henry was fair in his assessment of how Montreal played, yet if you look at the overall performance of both clubs, they were just overmatched and outclassed. Stats aside, the eye test showed one side showed up ready to play, and the other was not prepared. The question not only comes down to the players but the coach as well. Bruce Arena has more managerial experience and success as a manager than Thierry Henry. Yes, Henry was a fantastic player, but that does not mean he won’t become a good coach. He looked overmatched and underwhelming, to be frank.

I still stand by the statement that half of the reason the season opener went so poorly for the Revolution was the pitch in Montreal. Yes, Carles Gil was back for the Revolution, but even a blind man can see how the ball moved on the surface, compared to that joke in Montreal. I know most people joke about the surface at Gillette, but I would take that over what I saw in Montreal.

Major Talking Points

New England Goal 56′ – Gustavo Bou (Carles Gil) Mon 0 – NE 1

What a strike. The interplay between the Revolution front four was fantastic, and this goal should have been one of many. The goal started with the work between Brandon Bye and Carles Gil on the wing and just an excellent finish. The link-up connection between Bou and Gil has been in place since the middle of last season. Yes, there was some rust to knock off, but what a strike.

Overall Thoughts

I cannot commend Bruce Arena, and the rest of his staff enough for the work that they did to get this team ready for the MLS is back tournament. They looked a side who was prepared to go from kick-off. You have to look at the Revolution players, through all the matches I’ve watched seem to have the best fitness. Also, getting their injured players back on the field showed the potential this roster has.

Carles Gil’s 12 chances created were needed, and it allowed so much more freedom to the rest of the players on the pitch. You can see a difference in the flow of the Revolution attack when he was on the pitch and earlier this year when he was injured.

It was welcome to see Delamea and Büttner back on the field. Büttner played exceptionally well for someone who has not played a professional game in close to a year. He provided some much-needed leadership on the backline. He and Delamea seemed to be very much on the same wavelength with each other, even though they have had minimal time together on the field. Büttner also seemed to make things calmer at the back. His call outs and just calmness on the ball and with his positioning helped settler the backline. Nothing against Jones, but the experience difference was culpable.

I am going to make this point again, Thierry Henry can only blame his players so much. They looked underprepared and overmatched. He can talk about lack of fight, but it comes down to his staff and himself ensuring the players are ready to go, and they did not.

Man of the Match

Gil, Turner, Bou, Bruce Arena. Take your pick. Each of these individuals played a huge part in the success of the Revolution over the Impact. Gil created, and being back on the field gave Bou more freedom to play. Bou scored a scorcher of a goal, and what a save by Turner. Probably caused a couple of slight heart attacks afterward, but that is what you need from a standout goalkeeper. Finally, I have already impressed upon Bruce’s accomplishments in ensuring the team was prepped and ready to go tactically, mentally, and physically.

IT’S PLAYOFF FOOTBALL TIME!!!!!

Well, here we are! First entry in a while for me and I’m very excited. I will be talking about the upcoming promotion playoffs, focusing mainly on League 2, as their playoffs start on 6/18.

AUTOMATIC PROMITION

First things first: Congratulations to the 3 clubs that earned automatic promotion to League 1:

  1. Swindon Town – Didn’t really have them on my radar at the beginning of the season, but they had a really good campaign (36 played with 21 wins, 6 draws, and 9 losses for 69 points)
  2. Crewe Alexandra – This club was a blast to watch in the FA cup……until they danced with Aston Villa. They had the same amount of points and a better goal differential than Swindon Town, but at 20-9-8, those 3 extra draws is what spots them at #2
  3. Plymouth Argyle- You guys, I got one right!!!!!! One of the first entries I wrote this year, I said to watch out for Plymouth Argyle. They started out strong, but faltered for a stretch and were able pull it back with a strong finish to the campaign. 20-8-9 for 68 points and a +22 goal differential was enough to secure them automatic promotion by 4 points.

PROMOTION PLAYOFF PREDICTIONS

I really love this next part. Promotion and relegation have become an obsession of mine in recent years. The playoff finals last year for all 3 EFL leagues were fun to watch and you could see the passion on the players faces.

4) Cheltenham Town v 7) Northamptom Town

Even with the shortened season, these two clubs got to play each other twice. Cheltenham won 2-1 when they hosted and the two sides played to a 1-1 draw when Northampton hosted. Expect this to be a tightly contested semi-final. Cheltenham, in my opinion, are the better club and it will go in their favor after the 2 legs are played out. They will end up 4-2 on aggregate and advance to the promotion playoff final.

5) Exeter City v 6) Colchester United

I’m pulling for Colchester United here. Why? They pulled off a David v Goliath style win during the FA cup when they offed Tottenham. Not much separates the two sides, as they played to two draws this year (2-2 at Colchester and 0-0 at Exeter). I’ll be looking for a 3-2 aggregate in Colchester’s favor. The first game will go 2-1 and a 1-1 tie for the second leg.

League 2 promotion playoff final prediction – Cheltenham v Colchester

Colchester is the under dog in their semi-final and would be the under dog here as well. If they play to their full potential, they have just as much of a chance to win at Wembley as Cheltenham does. The Robins (Cheltenham) DID best Colchester away 2-0 this year and played to a 1-1 draw at home. Expect Colchester to come out hungry for revenge and get ready for a great final. 2-1 to Colchester with the winner coming after the 80th minute and earning them that much coveted promotion spot to League 1.

My Kit Collection – Part 1

Overview

Covid-19 has continued to change the landscape of our world, and it has given me time to go through my collection. Part one of at least 7 to 8.


With this being MLS 25 season, well somewhat since there have only been two games, I am going to start with the New England Revolution part of my collection. Also, it was the easiest to get to and talk about since my current unicorn kit is a Revs one but more on that later.

One thing I will say is that these are all player issues kits, and while when I first started collecting, I did not care. Now the quality difference in the material, as well as the detailing difference now seen, has brought me only to be interested in the player issues kits.

Not including short sleeve doubles

Home Kits

The first New England Revolution kit I purchased was the 2010/11 home; I bought it before the first game I went to at Gillette in the fall of 2010. At the time, I bought a short sleeve replica yet has since been replaced by a long sleeve authentic (bottom right). I then followed up with 2012 at the next game I went to, sometime in the spring of 2012 during senior week for college. This was another situation where I started with the replica, but have since replaced it in 2016. I did start with an authentic for the 2016/17, but at the same time ended up purchasing long sleeve authentic in 2018 at the same locker room sale I got the Bobby Shuttleworth, and one of the away long sleeve kits. Since then, I have gotten the short sleeves for 2018 and 2020 basically on release, and as they have gone to no more long sleeve options, if I do find 2018 in long sleeves, the short sleeve will be replaced. Something special about the long sleeve 16/17, I have never seen a loss in person wearing that kit at Gillette.

I am also slowly trying to work backward to get every home in the player issue option. One of these is my unicorn kit or current unicorn kit (saying current because my former unicorn has been purchased). An Alexi Lalas 1996 home kit, I came within ten sections of winning an eBay big for it, and I am still bitter (ask the others in this blog)

From old football shirts.com

Away Kits

I do not have as many away kits, as the home ones, mainly because I enjoy the home ones more. Also, I seem to have had bad luck whenever wearing white kits to matches that I have a rooting interest in; this includes the USWNT. Both of the long sleeve kits were purchased through the locker room sales done by the Revolution in the past two years. I recently added the bottom right as it was just too good of a deal to avoid. I love the top right, the use of the flag of New England colors, and having some balance as well. I also personally prefer the shorter cuffs on the sleeves.

Goalkeeper Kits

These are the rarer pieces in my collection for the New England Revolution. Bobby Shuttleworth was a good goalkeeper in the MLS; he did help carry the Revs to the MLS Cup Final in 2014 before the loss in extra time to the Galaxy. The kit is from 2016, purchased at the 1st Revs locker room sale in 2017 right after he was traded to Minnesota. The Brad Knighton jersey is just a bit older than that. Due to the Sierra Mist patches, and when the technology is from, I think it is from 2007, though I could be wrong.

COVID-19 Update

It has taken me time to wrap my head around blogging about soccer and sports during this period of our lives. We are learning about the strength and character of ourselves outside the sports world. We are learning how sports can distract from life, and in our current chaotic environment, they are missed.

I intend to go back and rewatch the first two games for the Revolution this MLS season and do more through breakdowns than initially planned. Give more accurate analyses for each player if possible, not just the big moments and general thoughts. Not only will it give me some sports and writing for distractions but also perhaps give some of you some distractions from the world as well.

Finally, with everyone doing these kits out challenge, I will be doing a breakdown of my extensive jersey collection. I know some people may find this annoying, but there are some fun pieces and others that have some excellent stories attached to them. Hopefully, this will bring some people joy and entertainment during these troubling times.

I hope everyone is staying healthy and as safe as possible.