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.

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