Pre Season Match 1: LA Galaxy v New England Revolution

Final Score: LA Galaxy 2 – New England Revolution 1

Major Talking Points:

8′ Goal – Ethan Zuback (Cristian Pavon)

Jeremy – Kessler and Sinovic both looked like they missed the mark on the goal. Kessler miss timed his jump and Sinovic was somewhat caught in no man’s land between two attackers. Penilla also did not track back, and if you listen closely, you can hear Bye yelling for Penilla to help cover. If Penilla gets back, that cross may not get through. I understand Turner not coming for it but his positioning could have been slightly better, if he comes out a bit to challenge Zuback, he may have been able to cut down the angle.

Chris C- There’s too many poor defensive plays on this goal. Bye and Penilla are unable to switch man-marking fluently. As Jeremy touched on, Bye calls on Penilla who doesn’t track back to allow Bye to cover on the second player, Danilo Acosta, causing a hesitation from Bye closing down Pavon. Pavon gets the well-placed cross off to Ethan’s waiting head, who merely had to nod due to superb placement. The second issue lies between Kessler and Sinovic. Sinovic needs to believe that Kessler can handle his own with Zubak in this instance, because if he doesn’t, Katai is also looming behind him. Sinovic notices the mistimed jump by Kessler and wants to help out, but in a true pace/ effort game, if Zubak knows he can’t do it, Katai’s got free range when Sinovic goes to save the day. Kessler needs to have his jumps on time if he’s going to be one of our CBs. That ball was well placed, but putting a body back against Zubak would’ve thrown him off. And finally, Turner could have definitely gotten himself positioned better due to no immediate threats besides Zubak.

34′ Goal – Cristian Pavon (Sebastian Lletget)

Jeremy – Sinovic got beat over the top and Turner was off balance not allowing for a good plant or push off to attempt a save. The run was good by Pavon but Sinvoic was somewhat exposed for not having as much pace. Turner’s backpeddling did not help with his balance, which can either be he just was not expecting the ball over the top or just misread the flight of the ball. Either of these two options is a little concerning.

Chris C – The pass from Lletget allows Pavon to decide how he wanted to beat Sinovic. Sinovic’s run to follow the ball was very poor and allowed Cristian the time to think about how he wanted to beat Turner. Turner wasn’t correctly shutting down the angles. He misstepped to allow himself to be beaten far side, since he was back-pedaling to try and cover the angle better.

42′ Goal – Gustavo Bou (Adam Buska)

Jeremy – Buska dragged his shot wide and Bou was there to poach it in on the back post. While it may have been close to offside, it is good to see that Bou is looking at the back post for scraps. Penilla does make a good run into the box in order to get to the ball to Buska, but again, I would like to see fluidity in the attack.

Chris P. – OH MY GOD DO WE ACTUALLY HAVE SOMEBODY THAT IS GOING TO FEED OFF REBOUNDS/POACH MISSED SHOTS?!?!?! Overall great to see Bou with the heads up play to draw back within one. Hopefully we see more of this in the regular season, as it could increase our goal output.

Overall

Jeremy – I thought that the first half was disjointed at times. Penilla looked disinterested in the entire affair, and while he would get the secondary assist on Bou’s goal, he did not trackback on the first goal, and just had this walk about the park feel to his game. Similarly, Fagudez on the other flank looked both out of shape and honestly not that great in both getting forward and tracking back. He also missed a couple of simple passes but, that may have just been some cobwebs. Bou looked like he was fooling around for a bit, and eventually, he and Buska started getting a feel for how each other play. Bye made good runs forward and tracked back, yes he got beat on for the cross, although it was a two v one situation. Sinovic got beat on both goals, the first one stuck in a who do I cover, but the second one got exposed for pace and positioning. I hate to admit this, but Turner showed why he did not get named in the 18 for the USMNT game; his positioning on the second goal was below expectations. Getting caught off balance and backpedaling did not allow him to have a chance to attempt to make a save.
Jeremy (cont) – I think Jones had a banger of a second half. Playing at both right and left-back, he got up and down the wing well, covered his defensive duties while taking on defenders and getting in some good crosses. Will be honest, and he looked gassed at the end of the second half, but it is the first preseason game. Teal and Buchanon both had very poor misses in the final ten minutes of the match, which again first preseason game but would have been nice to see them bulge the old onion bag. The kids looked good and full of energy and had some cohesion over the last 90 minutes, and in my opinion, due to both those missed chances, they should have at least gotten one goal, if not more. I think there are more positives than negatives, and with the team still missing Gil, Delamea, and Büttner, I still have the same optimism I have had this offseason.

Chris – I have to believe this game was at 70%. Bou was making turns that he wouldn’t normally take during a regular season game. He seemed like he was having fun out there. He had a few times where his pressure up top almost created problems at the back for LA.

As Jeremy pointed out, the outside mids were slow to move. Fagundez was a good problem when he applied himself to the situation, for the rest of the time he seemed to be invisible. Penilla was caught out all game leaving Bye to clean up the mess.

An important positive was the passing out of the back was mostly on point. I’d like to see the analytics for it, but it looks like they’ve got the skill. A few mis-timed passes or someone didn’t make the run they looked like they were going to make. I think those instances could have turned into more goals.

New England Revolution Roster Part IV

When looking at the Revolution 2020 roster as it stands, there are not many changes from the team that made the playoffs in 2019. Here are some big questions the I have going into the season about this roster.

Defensive Solidity

The backline was the most significant issue for this team last year. The team allowed 57 goals Two new pieces in Buttner and Sinovic have been added to the backline, but the rest of the defense returns. Will these additions sure up the left side, allowing for more prominent stability across the back? Can Bruce Arena get this defense sound? With them playing in front of one of the best keepers in MLS in Matt Turner, it could make for a very successful season. I would like to believe that Farrell and Delemea, who were involved in all six of the clean sheets from 2019, can develop a strong partnership, to help anchor the defense. Experience can always improve, and the growth of Bye and Jones in the offseason coupled with those additions mentioned early, should bring a better defensive record. It still is the most important question facing this team going into 2020.

Matt Turner

It may seem weird to have the star goalkeeper, who is just starting to earn calls ups to the US national team as a question going into 2020. What I am worried about is his ceiling and whether or not he has hit it. His distribution needs some work, and he is possibly the best shot-stopper in MLS with his 2019 stats proving this (see part I). What can he do in 2020 to raise the bar? Personally, while is positioning and reflexes are above average, he does need to improve on his strength in the box. Can he take that next step forward this season?

Defensive Midfield

One of the few areas the Revolution did not adequately address in the off-season the defensive/holding midfielder role. The only midfield addition outside of the homegrown option was Kelyn Rowe, who is more of a number eight than a number 6. Currently, the roster has Scott Caldwell, Luis Caicedo, and Wilfred Zahibo are the three natural players to fill this position. Similar to the questions about the defensive stability going into this year, all three players are returning and were part of the team last year when there was that horrible defensive record. Yes, can Kelyn Rowe slot in and offer an engine and creativity out of a deeper-lying role, as could Diego Fagudez, as seen in a couple of occasions last year. But a true enforcing CDM is absent on this roster, so how will this role be filled?

Carlos Gil and Gustavo Bou

Two of the three standout performers on the Revolution roster last year, teams will be keying their defensive plans on them going into 2020. Similar to Turner and how will he grow, how will these two adjust to the growing focus on them. They looked to be able to make the adjustments towards the end of last season, but teams will have more tape and more time to learn their patterns. Penilla suffered from the league adjusting to him and has not entirely adjusted back. Yes, Adam Buska will take some focus away, but their link-up and connection on the field were apparent from day one. What can these two do when the league fully adjusts to them.

Bruce Arena

Bruce Arena came in and changed the mood around this team. Optimism was suddenly a word that fans were willing to use, and going into this season; there is a large amount of confidence within the fan base. My question here is, was last summer a fluke? The team made the playoffs but largely feasted on a weaker schedule when Arena took charge. You can only play the teams in front of you, but once the schedule got more stringent, the team started missing points and seemed to run out of gas at the end of the campaign. Players are coming through and stating that this is a fantastic pre-season, but that will only get you so far. It remains to be seen if Arena has unlocked the potential of the Revolution, or if it was a quick hit and will be a miss going forward.

Get Over the Hump

I will die on this horse, the New England Revolution, could have and maybe should have won that game in Atlanta. They were the better team throughout the 90 minutes of action. If they had gotten through Atlanta, I think they could have made the MLS Cup final, because there was not a single team remaining that they had not played well against or beaten once Arena took over. Can they get there? Atlanta has owned them in Atlanta, and their road form over previous seasons has not been the greatest. I think on paper, this team can challenge the top of MLS. But in actuality, can they get over the hump and get back to an MLS Cup final and possibly finally lift the most elusive trophy and end a quarter-century of heartbreak.

New England Revolution Roster Part III

Forwards

The last group of players to take a look at are the forwards on the Revolution roster. This group does have potential; between the midseason acquisition of Gustavo Bou and the offseason acquisition of Adam Buksa, there should be more goals amongst this group. Last year’s golden boot winner for the team came out of the midfield. There will be hopes that changes this year.

Gustavo Bou – They say it is crucial to make a good first impression, and Bou made a stunner of a first impression. His first game, he scored a peach of a goal against Vancouver and went on to contribute nine goals and two assists in 14 games, 13 starts with the Revolution. Bou’s link-up play with the other forwards, as well as his connection with Carles Gil, helped to cement his place in the hearts of the fan base. Extrapolated out, Bou could have been close to 20 goals in a full season. With the additions to the top line, defenses can not just put a focus on him, which should free him up for a successful season — one of the few automatic starters going into the preseason, with lofty expectations on his shoulders for 2020.

Tajon Buchanon – The 9th overall pick in the 2019 MLS Superdraft, Buchanon made ten appearances with four starts. During this time on the field, he contributed two assists as well. Buchanon showed a lot of promise going forward and has pace, but an early-season stress fracture caused some issues. I think that he is talented enough to play but needs some development time. Probably trains mainly with the first team and gets good minutes down with Revs II.

Teal Bunbury – Teal Bunbury is entering his 11th season in the MLS, his 6th with the New England Revolution. 2019 started a bit rocky start for him, but with the change in coach, his fortunes changed as well. Teal ended up playing in 32 games with 25 starts and finished with six goals and two assists. While those totals are down from the previous year 11 goals and four assists in 2018, I think his role and not being the focal number 9 as much in 2018 were an advantage. There was a substantial drop in shots on target 33 in 2018 to 21 in 2019, but again I think part of that comes down to a team in the early season that struggled mightily under Friedel. His work rate and willingness to track back defensively have endeared him to the fan base. I think with the additions and more time getting to gel with Bou and Gil will mean a very productive year in 2020 for Teal. Personally think he will get the starting nod due to his hold up play and tracking.

Christian Penilla – Entering his 3rd season with the New England Revolution, Christian Penilla had a very successful season in 2019. While his goal total was down from the 12 he scored in 2018; he did record one more assist in almost 900 fewer minutes played. He featured in 30 games, 18 starts contributing six goals and eight assists. Overall the numbers look solid from Penilla, but at times he seems one of the more frustrating players to watch. The talent is there, but there are moments it feels that the league has figured him out. There are also times he seems to have made up his mind before seeing the whole picture and also has become predictable. I do think the additions of Buksa will help as it will alleviate some of the attention he garnered, and an offseason and a full preseason to gel with Gil and Bou will be substantial to seeing improvements. I think he will get starting minutes but could see him being an impact sub due to pace.

Justin Rennicks – Rennicks has a high amount of upside, but still seems a little raw. 2019 saw him involved in 2 games with one start, but his selection to the U-20 world, while important, did come at an unfortunate moment. He was away from the team when the regime change happened and never seemed to find his feet. Spend the end of 2019 on loan in North Carolina FC with ten games played with three starts, tallying one assist in 301 minutes of action. I think he gets his chances in the US Open Cup and with Revs II.

Adam Buksa – Big offseason acquisition. There are going to be high expectations on his shoulders to lead the line. The young talented Polish striker has over 100 appearances in his six years in the top Polish league. In that time, he has scored 28 goals and contributed 11 assists. While those totals may not be eye-watering, in the first half of the Polish 2019/20 season, he had seven goals and four assists in 17 appearances, which is improved from the 22 appearances with 11 goals and four assists in 2018/19 full season. There may be an adjustment tie, but the Polish league is known for being a bit more physical, which will suit some of the MLS styles. Preseason is going to be important as well for him to gel with his teammates quickly to settle in for the 2020 season. I am expecting him to be an easy pick to be a starter for the majority of the season.

New England Revolution Roster Part II

Midfielders

There seems to be depth in the midfield for the Revolution going into 2020. But breaking down the positional sense, some concerns show up in the defensive midfielder role. Some role adjustment, similar to what was seen at times with Juan Agudelo last year, may happen.

Issac Anking – Anking is a curious case of unfortunate circumstances over the past two seasons. Signed to a homegrown contract going into the 2018 season, Anking is a highly touted midfield prospect for the Revolution. 2018 got off to a rough start when a non-soccer injury (rumor is that he swallowed a toothpick and had complications). He did end up making three appearances all as a substitute throughout the year. 2019 had a similar disappointment with the youngster needing knee surgery in late March. He never saw the field for the Revolution in 2019, making three appearances in five games on loan with Charlotte in the USL, as well as being on the bench of a game with Hartford Athletic. Honestly, I believe he needs to have an impressive pre-season, or I would expect his minutes to come from Revs II as he still needs some development.

Luis Caicedo – Caicedo followed up his successful 2018 campaign with the Revolution with another solid year as a defensive midfielder for the Revolution. 2019 saw him start 27 games and feature in 31 games. His shooting leaves something to be desired, 22 shots only two on target in 2019. Caicedo’s work rate and engine were evident throughout his time on the field. He may be the purest defensive midfielder on the roster currently. In a position that has some lacking depth, he will most likely get a significant amount of playing time — guessing starting 11 opening day in Montreal.

Scott Caldwell – Second ever homegrown player in Revolution history, continued to be a key piece not only on but off the field in 2019. While only starting 12 games and playing in a total of 20, he still was always a solid defensive midfielder for the club. He is one of the three true defensive midfielders on the roster walking into pre-season this year, so expecting to see him on the field more often. He is a workhorse in the midfield, with a fiery passion for the club. Caldwell did wear the captains’ armband at the start of last season. He is thus showing his importance to the club on and off the pitch. While people do not talk too much about having locker room guys, that is also what Caldwell is for this club. I expect to see him have a similar role, perhaps more this season.

 Diego Fagundez – Entering his 10th season as a member of the Revolution, the team’s first-ever homegrown signing is only 24 and hoping to rediscover his form of years past. 2019 saw Fagundez featuring in 25 games, starting 13 of them and contributing with two goals and three assists. In comparison to 2018, he featured in 33 games, starting 30 of them and added nine goals and ten assists. He did end up functioning at times in more of a defensive holding role, which did provide fewer opportunities for shots, as he shot total dropped from 68 in 2018 to 22 in 2019, and his hots on goal dropped from 30 to 8. I still have a belief that he can find that form again or develop into a holding defensive midfield presence cause he does have good vision and link-up play — thoughts for 2020 mostly bench role player or may be developed into trade bait.

Nicolas Firmino – Firmino was signed as a homegrown prospect that featured in the 18 once in 2019. Mainly still played with the academy side. Most of his minutes on the field at Gillette came in the international friendly against Chelsea, where he played 60 minutes in the loss but showed well. There is talent in front of him, so hopefully, the training not only helps him learn but develops into a future regular in the 1st team. I would hope to see him get at least cup minutes with the MLS side this year but most likely expecting him to get most of his minutes with Revs II. 

Carles Gil – MLS Newcomer of the Year for 2019, Carles Gil, made an enormous impact on the Revolution in the 2019 season. The premier acquisition in the winter window, there were massive expectations on his shoulders, and he lived up to the hype. Started and played in all 34 games for the Revolution in 2019, leading them in goals with ten and also contributed 14 assists. Named club captain for the last 23 matches of the regular season, he led the team with a fiery passion on the pitch. While the league eventually focused the majority of their game plan to stop Gil, he still found a way to create for his teammates. I think with the additions this season, and the continued development of the relationship and other impressive season is on the horizon for Gil. Captains Armband and one of the few untouchable people in the starting lineup from last year to this coming season.

Wilfried Zahibo – In his two seasons with the Revolution, Zahibo has become a critical defensive midfielder. Last year he featured in 24 games with 18 starts chipping in one goal and one assist. He continues to confuse me, though. Sometimes his passes are spot on with the tougher diagonals, and then a simple pass will go astray. If he can find that consistency of his passing, he could become a vital cog in this side. I think 2020 is a crucial season for him in terms of longevity with the club. A marked improvement in 2020, and he could become an essential piece as he is coming into his prime. Poor season and he may not be back. I think he will share minutes with Caicedo and Caldwell in the defensive holding position.

Damian Rivera – the newest homegrown signing for the Revolution, having spent the last three years in the development academy. He had a lot of good qualities, but like Firmino, I think he needs to learn from those around him. Will get most of his minutes with Revs II.

Kelyn Rowe – 2019 was almost a lost year for Rowe. He split his time between Sporting KC, Real Salt Lake, and was loaned out to Swope Park Rangers and the Real Monarchs in the USL. Rowe is coming back to the team he spent the majority of his career with and will be looking to rediscover his 2017 form again. I will say I was a bit curious about the signing when it first happened mainly because of struggling to find where he fits in the system. The more I thought about it, though, Arena used him to significant effect out wide during his time with the national team in so it gives him some fluidity in this side. He also had the passing range and engine to fit into the holding midfield role. I expect him to find a substantial amount of playing time either from the start in 2020 or as a critical substitute.

New England Revolution Roster Part I

Pre-season has begun! I decided to look at the current roster, full for one of the first time in years coming into a pre-season and make some comments. I am doing this analysis in segments to make my life easier.

Goaltenders

Goaltending is one area that the Revolution does not have many worries. Depth is reliable, and with the continued development of Turner, the Revolution has one of the best up and coming goalkeepers in MLS who should be challenging for at least the backup spot on the national team.

Matt Turner – One forgets that Matt Turner is heading into his 5th season as a professional. In 2018 Turner came out of nowhere to win the starting job, and in the past two years has proven he deserves to be the number one goalkeeper. In 47 starts, Turner posted a 16-14-16 record with ten shutouts, and 170 saves as well an outstanding -13.94 goals against-expected goals against. Finished 5th in the Goalkeeper of the Year voting, and I will continue to believe he should have won this award. Turner earned his first and second call up the national team in November and January, respectively, and has a bright future. I am expecting him to be the number 1.

Brad Knighton – Entered 2019 as the starter and proceeded to lose his job to Cody Cropper and eventually Matt Turner. Knighton is a good solid MLS keeper, who can make excellent saves. He did well when he needed to come in for Turner rest or fill in due to red card. He ended the season with an overall record of 1-3-4, with 13 goals conceded in 7 starts and eight games. The average of almost two goals a game is not the greatest. Still, when you look at the majority of his time being the goalie for Brad Friedel and a horrendously unmotivated team, it is better than expected. I expect him to be the back up again, or might be a trade piece.

Jeff Caldwell – Enters this season a significant unknown in the Revolution hierarchy of goalkeepers. The former UVA goalkeeper fits the mold as a player Bruce Arena may use as a backup. Coming off a season on loan at Memphis 901, which he started 28 games, I could see him either being the started for the USL Development team or challenging for that backup role for the first team. General states in the USL 28 games started, six shutouts, 42 goals allowed, 1.5 GPG, 79 saves, and a 65.28% save percentage. The numbers are not the greatest, but anything is possible through hard work, as proven by Turner.

Defenders

The Revs brought in three new defenders to add to the most glaring part of the squad last year. I do think injuries helped cause these issues, as continuity was not always there for the backline. I am expecting improvement this year, not only with the new signings but with everyone bought in at the start of the season.

Brendan Bye – Ended last season as the starting right back. Due to injuries early on in the season and issues in central defense, he earned his role when Andrew Farrell moved into a central position. Bye ended up playing and starting 30 games in the regular season. In those games, he produced two goals and two assists. He has the speed for recovery when he overexposes himself by being over-ambitious in a tackle but overall a solid year under his belt. Needs to improve on his crossing, but having more of a target man in the box this season should help. If Farrell stays in a central role, would expect him to be the starter, if Farrell moves back to RB, then anything is possible.

Antonio Mlinar Delamea – 17 games and 16 starts in his third season with the Revolution. Missing a significant amount of time to a hamstring injury, Delamea still helped lead the defense to 6 clean sheets in his 17 games (The team only had six clean sheets). Delamea also contributed with two goals and one assist in his 17 games. For a central defender who is mainly forward on corners and set-pieces, I think this is a good haul, especially since the corners and set-pieces last season. While at times he lacks closing speed, he was the best reader of the game in the backline last year. I feel like he should get a shot at the starting CB role going into this season, but again that might be my personal choice.

Andrew Farrell – 29 games played and started in 2019, covering both right back and center back. After starting the year at the right-back position, Farrell ended up being needed back in his original position (seriously look it up, he was a converted right back). He helped the team to 6 clean and contributed 132 clearances and 37 interceptions. He chipped in on the offensive side with one assist. Farrell was a rock in the center of defense for the Revolution. Due to injuries to the central defenders, he was moved over and formed multiple solid partnerships with both the departed Anibaba and Delamea. He may be moved back to RB but has earned a spot in the starting eleven.

DeJuan Jones – In his rookie season with the Revolution, Jones became a surprise left-back starter. He did share time between left midfield and left-back though out the season. Playing in a total of 20 games with 14 of them being starts, contributed one goal and one assist throughout the regular season. While his forays into the offensive third were not always fruitful, another player who needs work on his crossing, his defensive work needs growth. His speed was one of his greatest assets and will continue to serve him well. While he was a starter in the playoff game and had a good match, I think he ends up either being pushed into the midfield or right-back coverage.

Michael Mancienne – 2019 was marred with a foot injury that never seemed to escape him. Mancienne played in 16 matches, starting 13 of those, and part of me wants to give him a clean start. The more significant issue is the 26 game sample over two years has yet to be the greatest for him. He looked like Again, maybe it was injury issues that sidelined him for the majority of the season, and this will be a different player this year. He has the experience to be a good defender in MLS, but I am still looking for that to be realized. I expect him to be in the 18 week in and week out and challenging for a starting spot.

Alexander Büttner – One of the notable additions to this squad and a welcome one. Experienced left-back who looks up for the challenge of the MLS. I am looking forward to seeing what he can produce down the left flank for the Revolution. While he did not play much for Vitesse in recent seasons, but in the past has shown a willingness to work, and again the experience in the different league will be a blessing in the long run. I think he will be starting the left-back opening day.

Seth Sinovic – MLS veteran, left-back. Comes in from Sporting KC, where he has had a very successful nine seasons. Sinovic has four titles to his name, one MLS Cup and 3 US Open Cups. The playoff and MLS experience will be a nice additional piece to not only help teach the young developing defenders’ backs but having the knowledge and experience to come in and cover and know what is expected of him. I think he will make the 18 most weeks but is mainly going to be a cup and rotational player.

Henry Kessler – 6th overall draft pick in the 2020 MLS Superdraft. He was the player the Revolution wanted. Rumors were around that they were trying to trade up to get him, and as it never happened, we won’t know. Coming into camp, I put him at the bottom of the depth chart for CB, but with the Samba news from earlier this week, I expect him to see good minutes with the 1st team this year. UVA grad and coming through a program with a coach that Arena trust to develop talent. Another plus is he is listed at 6’4″ which makes him the tallest defender on the squad. While I have not seen much tape on him, there are high expectations. I expect him to be with the 1st team most of the time, but if he needs minutes, there is always the option of going and playing with Revs II every once and awhile.

What A Year

2019 has been an exciting year. Through the soccer world that I live in supporting two clubs (Chelsea FC and New England Revolution), mainly, there have been highs and lows. The emotional roller-coasters are enough to remind you why sports can have a stranglehold on your life.

New England Revolution

I am going to start with the New England Revolution. February rolled around, and with incoming DP Carles Gil, things were looking optimistic. The Revolution added a target number 9 on loan, and players were coming in off up and down preseason. The results, while not always fantastic, seemed to have the team looking to be on the correct path. But things ended up going downhill fast. They started looking well with a draw against FC Dallas, given the Revs away record over the last couple of years, but home form was nonexistent.

It is a struggle to watch your team when they are playing like trash and seemingly do not want to listen to the coach. Four points in their first five games, with two home losses in there, brought a cautious optimism down to a mundane feeling. Even the 2-1 victory over Minnesota did not do much to improve spirits. As March turned to April, things continued to spiral downward. With only four more points entering May, a timely victory over New Jersey (whoops York) Red Bull when they were struggling, combined with dropped points against Sporting KC, put everyone on edge. Looking in the mirror, the players seemed to finally have hit the tipping point of being done with the manager. One cannot blame them, rumors swirl about making them run sprints after poor performances, and just creating a dressing room that did not respect him.

May was the tipping point for fans and ownership alike, with back to back five-goal drubbings (6-1 in Chicago and 5-0 in Philadelphia) left the Revolution sitting at 2-8-2 through the first 14 games of the season. Brad Friedal was sacked, and there was slight happiness as Mike Burns was still in charge of bringing in the next manager. The match, May 11, 2019, was something interesting in the supporter’s section. There was belief behind the team, but outrage for not enough changes. I will say roughly 90% off the traditional chants included wording towards firing Mike Burns. Again timing may have helped; the Revs won the match 3-1, and the following week, Burns was gone. Bruce Arena was brought in as Sporting Director and Coach. There were celebrations and shots in the parking lot before the charity match against Chelsea, and spirits were high again.

What followed was nothing less than brilliance. Freed from the shackles of Friedel’s tactics, the team flourished and went on an unprecedented (especially for the summer) point streak. A special note to Mike Lapper, who guided the team from the Friedel sacking to Arena, fully taking the reigns at the end of May. He brought the team together and got them playing free expressive soccer again before Arena came in and brought his philosophies across. People will point to the quality of appointment as part of the reason for the resurgence, but you can only play the teams in front of you.

Possibly the biggest surprise of the season was the signing of Gustavo Bou. His signing showed an intent that had not been seen in recent years. FOr those who will bring up Jermain Jones, he went to New England because of a coin flip, therefore sorry but not sorry he does not count. The bringing back of now USMNT goalie Matt Turner into the starting line up helped create situations where the Revs could have 3 of the best players on the field at any given time. Friedel does deserve some credit for starting him in 2018.

Making the playoffs was a significant step in the right direction, and yes, this is going to be a biased thought, but the Revolution gave Atlanta everything they could handle and then some. I went into the playoff game, hoping they kept it close and came out of the playoff game feeling that the Revolution could have won the match.

This offseason continues to perplex me, with new signings and the training facility finally opening. 2019may has started rough but has ended with some more optimism than I have felt in a long time for this team going into 2020.

Chelsea v Manchester City

This is not an error, there is a Chelsea v Manchester City game this weekend, just not in the EPL. Then Barclay’s FA Women’s Super League’s match of the weekend is Chelsea v Manchester City. Over the past couple of years, these two sides have been the powerhouses of English women’s football. Chelsea and Manchester City have won the 3 of the last four league titles. Manchester City has either won the league or been the runner up in the previous four seasons. Chelsea’s only time finishing outside the top 2 the past four years was their third-place finish last season. Whenever two powerhouses of women’s football are on display, I would always suggest trying to catch the game. With the FA Player App, I can watch it for free, so that’s what I am watching Sunday morning (I swear I’m not sponsored, just some random in the US. Seriously, why would I be sponsored) and I would suggest the rest of you tune in.

Chelsea

Form

Chelsea has been the cream of the Barclay’s FA Women’s Super League this season. They are the only undefeated team left in the division. While they have played one less game than City and Arsenal (frozen pitch last weekend against Everton), they still sit 3rd in the table. The start of the season has been accomplished without Fran Kirby being 100 percent fit, someone who has been a critical cog for this team over the past three years. Incoming in January is Sam Kerr to reinforce the attack. They have found their legs defensively, and the last real challenge they had in the league was the match against Arsenal. They did look stretched at times, making this the next challenge to their title credentials.

Last time out Chelsea defeated Birmingham City 6-0. The goals were shared around with 4 different scorers. Leading scorer from last season Beth England contributed 2, with Drew Spence chipping in 2 and individuals from Millie Bright and Ji So-Yun. This should continue to grow their confidence in their own ability to find goals when they are needed from multiple fronts. It also gives the oppositions more to worry about when defending.

Tactics

Last time against Birmingham, Chelsea came out in a 4-3-3. In this formation, it gives Cuthbert, Reiten, and Bachmann the ability to stay wide and support England through the middle. When England is starting, a 4-3-3 helps as she is a better header of the ball. If England and Kirby are both starting, you would almost prefer a 4-2-3-1 as it would allow for Kirby to as a mixture of a supportive striker and creative outlet in the midfield. Chelsea, when starting both Kirby and England go 4-4-2 to have the secondary striker. England and Kirby have seemed to have an excellent understanding of when to interchange sides and make life confusing for the opposition. The different systems that Chelsea can use also showcase their flexibility to adapt throughout a match. It makes life harder for the opposition to prepare for the match.

Team News

This is extremely hard to find, but the biggest miss is the possibility of Kirby being out. She has missed the past couple of matches so could be on the shelf again. Outside of that and waiting for Kerr to be eligable, Chelsea seem to be working with a full squad.

Player to Watch

If Kirby plays, I always say she is one of the most important players on the pitch as she can change a match on her own. If she is not, I think Ji So-Yun is the key player. She controls the midfield for Chelsea and everything can run through her. She has the ability to score and create, which against a stingy Manchester City side is going to be key.

Manchester City

Form

Manchester City boasts the best defensive record in the top flight. They have surrendered one goal throughout the entire league campaign, and it cost them their only loss. They have scored as many as a Chelsea has this season but not with as many spurts. They rebounded from their loss to Arsenal with three consecutive wins. So they should be full of considered walking into Kingsmeadow. Last time out, they squeaked by bottom feeders Liverpool, in a 1-0 win. While they did control possession, they were not clinical with their shots having 4 of 13 be on target. That could cost them in this match against Chelsea.

Tactics

Against Liverpool, Manchester City debuted a 4-2-2-2 formation. It is an unusual formation to think of conceptually. While the backline is traditional, having the three banks of 2 players makes it feel like multiple layers of balanced attack and defense. It is also something that most people do not come up against in play. Until teams adapt to the new system, it makes sense to keep working with it. They have been playing a 4-4-1-1 most of the season, with the second striker given a bit more freedom to roam. The 4-2-2-2 can convert back into a 4-4-1-1 pretty seamlessly. It can also become a 4-2-3-1 and 4-3-3, which again allows for multiple tactical options throughout the match.

Team News

Again, finding it hard to find injury news, so whoops, no team news……

Player to Watch

Elli Roebuck is going to have a busier day than what she is used to behind her backline. I think she is going to need to have a standout performance to keep her team in the match. Yes, Chelsea has as many goals and Manchester City, but they have plaid one less game. They almost put Arsenal to the sword but did not due to fantastic goalkeeping. This might end up in a similar situation.

Prediction

These two teams typically play close affairs. I expect it to be the same but I think the extra rest gives Chelsea an advantage and am going for a 3-1 victory to continue their undefeated start to the season.

Well I will be up in less than 6 hours to ensure I won’t miss any of this match….why not join.

Week 14: Can Silva Survive?

Week 13: Well I got the result and United’s formation wrong. But there is always room to learn.

Leicester City v Everton

I picked this game because my gut is telling me that Silva is heading for the chopping block and this game could be the the tipping point. Brendon Rodgers has come back to the EPL and brought Leicester back to glory. They are in their best form since their title winning season and playing some amazing football. Everton are three points above the drop, and with their form could be looking at a rough season if they can not turn things around in a hurry.

Leicester City

Form

Leicester City comes into this match on the back of six consecutive wins in all competitions. Last time out, they beat an in-form Brighton and Hove Albion side quite soundly. They continue to get contributions from their front 5, with goals from Vardy (leading goal scorer in the EPL) and Ayoze Perez (been reborn in a Leicester kit). They continue to impress in the back, coming on four consecutive clean sheets, and giving up 2+ goals only once this season, to Liverpool.

Tactics

Brandon Rodgers has brought a 4-1-4-1 formation to Leicester City. It has been highly effective in bringing out the best form from their attackers. Having the four attacking midfielders behind Vardy has allowed him to focus on running the channels, rather than hold up play. The midfield four has the freedom to be fluid and interchange positions. For the most part, James Maddison stays in one of the two central positions, allowing for his range of passing to be effective and enhance the offense. The vital cog to this entire formation is that one defensive midfielder. You need someone who can cover enough ground, and break up play efficiently, allowing the attacking midfielders to continue to push up. Finally, the backs provide extra width, overlapping the outside midfielders. The overlaps open up channels for Vardy to get into and create two on one situation for easier time crossing the ball.

Team News

The big news for Leicester City is that defender Johnny Evans is healthy are should be ready for the full 90 after being withdrawn early due to fatigue last week. This means Brandon Rodgers is going into the match with no injury concerns to his major stars.

Players to Watch

Might seem a bit lazy picking James Maddison, but with how Everton looked last week, I think he is due for a big game. His vision to thread passes into the channels for the wider midfielders, and Jamie Vardy should expose the flaws that Everton have had this season. After watching Norwich use those channels to get after Everton’s back four think Maddison is going to rip them open.

Everton

Form

Not much has gone right for Everton this season so far. Last week they lost to a struggling Norwich side, who has looked lost in the previous weeks. There are many questions to be answered this weekend. The biggest one to me is can Marco Silva get the players believing in what he is saying. If it seems he has loss the dressing room then he needs to be sacked. This is a good weekend to judge, since you should be able to motivate your side to go against the second place team in the league.

Tactics

They play a 4-2-3-1 but at times I don’d think the players want to do this so overall, who the hell knows whats going to happen.

Team News

Everton will be without Coleman, Schneiderlin, Walcott, and Delph for this coming weekend. And while Marco Silva keeps stating that injuries are not the reason for his sides poor form, they have started to mount. Missing this experienced group, will leave him with a younger side. Even one of their youngster Beni Baningime picked up a mid week knock in U-21 action, leaving them quite short in the midfield. Jean-Philippe Gbamin and Andre Gomes are still out with long term injuries, not helping to the situation either. Bernard has been back in training but is not match fit.

Player to Watch

This my feel like a cop out but the person to watch is Marco Silva. Can he get these players to finally respond for him. Can he get the tactics right. Can he get the team selection right. His job is on the line and he needs to perform

Didn’t get this up in time

If this had been posted in time I would have gone for a Leicester victory around 3-0. As it was, Everton put up a very good display, probably giving Silva another week. Let’s see if he survives the chop as the holiday fixture congestion begins.

Week 13: Trying Something New

It’s been a slog trying to get through all of the games per week recently. This week while I’ll still post score predictions for all the matches, I am going to focus on one game that interests me for some reason. Might not always be the game you’re expecting, so cheers to the surprises coming.

Sheffield United v Manchester United

I am picking this game because while Chelsea v Manchester City is probably the “big” game this weekend, I think this game is the one I am looking forward to the most. From a Chelsea fan too…….FYI it is 5th v 7th. I think you have two teams in good runs of form. Manchester United has found some rhythm in the recent weeks, while Sheffield has been one of the best surprises of the season. This match has the potential to be a barn burner and could reverberate intent from either club to storm after the top 4.

Sheffield United

I will be the first to admit I thought Sheffield was up for the drop this year. I was not sure if they had both the talent and the tactics to survive the top division. What they have accomplished through the first 12 weeks has been brilliant. Currently sitting in 5th place, their season has had some excellent results. The draw away at Chelsea was the first one that opened some people’s eyed, though the own goal was lucky. Still, their win over Arsenal and what should have been a win over Spurs (come at me), they are a team that is giving people fits.

Tactics

Sheffield United has continued to play with the 3-5-2 system that got them promoted. What is different than you typical 3-5-2 is that Chris Wilder has implemented an adjustment of using overlapping center backs. What this system does is allow for good width in the attack, while still being able to overload the midfield. Looking at the diagram below you can see how the width can force the oppositions left and right backs to stay wide. I can also cause more 2v1 situations in the flanks and allow for easier crossing. With the wing backs coming in, it can also allow for more fee runners through the channels. This can not only cause chaos in the box but better scoring opportunities. While it does seem to be susceptible to being countered easily when broken due to the extra defenders pushed high. You can also put added pressure on the ball upfield creating a system that causes more passing errors and pressure on the opposition. The league seemingly has yet to fully adapt to them so it will be interesting to see how this tactic and formation continue throughout the season.

Team News

The biggest loss for Sheffield this weekend has to standout goalkeeper Dean Henderson. He is on loan from Manchester United which means that he is unable to play against his parent club. I still believe that he should have won the player of the month for October. He had been a revelation in net and should be getting consideration for either playing tome at United going forward or a substantial move elsewhere. I would hope Sheffield could good into him but I am doubtful as they will be out priced by his success this year. The only other big news is that John Egan might be a kiss due to a head injury on international duty. He would be deputized by Phil Jagielka, who has plenty of experience and confidence from his manager.

Players to Watch

While Lys Mousset has been the standout on attack this campaign, I think the man to watch is David McGoldrick. His hold up play has been instrumental this season so far. He will relish the chance to go up agains Harry Maguire. He is still looking for his first goal in the top fight after last weekends intervention. Think there will be a fire in his belly to get on board.

Manchester United

They had a nice rebound win over Brighton and Hove Albion 3-1 after the loss to Bournemouth. It was an important victory since there was worry that after the draw against Liverpool it was back to the United we had seen most of this season. Their away form this year had not been the greatest taking 5 points from an available 18. That is against them going into a very tough away match.

Tactics

Manchester United have set up in a 4-2-3-1 for the majority of the season. They do try a mixture of high press and sitting back to counter. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer does like keeping his midfielders in the wide to give United a substantial width in the attack. Extra width could help prevent some of the overlaps from the center backs at bay with them occupied with the attacks. Their left and right backs will be trying to get up and provide extra width in the attack too. All of this will be a hope to contain the wing-backs and center backs. I do expect United to try to leave one of the defensive midfielders slightly further back to help against the hold-up play from Sheffield. Leaving the one striker high, should also be enough with a one v one match up against the middle non overlapping venter back,

Team News

United gets 4 players back this week. Ashley Young is back after his suspension last week, but Williams’s performance may keep him out of the eleven. Luke Shaw, Nemanja Matic, and Axel Tuanzebe returned to full team training on Wednesday, binging reinforcements for selection. Scott McTominay picked you an ankle knock on international duty, and will not have recover in time for the match. That is a massive loss because his work rate is fantastic. Matic can fill to void but doesn’t offer the same going forward. The rest of the injured list is the same, with the significant losses being Rojo and Pogba.

Players to Watch

I think that Aaron Wan-Bissaka and whoever starts at left-back, be it Shaw, Williams, or Young. The wide areas are where Sheffield has found joy, and the containment of those situations will make the most substantial difference in the outcome of the match

Predicted Line Ups

Going with my gut that Williams looked good against BHA

Score

Sheffield United 2 Manchester United 1

Another International Break means more Women’s football

There is an international break this weekend for the EPL. With that, it should not come as a surprise anymore, but I will be tuning into the Barclay’s FA Women’s Super League this weekend. While I do try to catch all of Chelsea’s matches, it does not always happen. This Sunday, however, they are playing in the match of the weekend, and I will take the time to watch.

Chelsea v Manchester United

Chelsea had some huge news this week announcing the signing of Sam Kerr, prolific Australian forward who will be available in the second half of the season. That may put some added pressure on Beth England, Fran Kirby, and Ramona Bachmann as they all tend to play through the middle, which is Kerr’s preference. I feel like this team is primed for a run on the title this year. Without the women’s champions league fixtures to contend with, there are minimal distractions. They have good depth across the board to contend with any injury concerns. I still think that Frank Kirby is the key for this team. She can link play, play as a pure second striker that roams, and play as the focal point. With her health getting back and her form rounding back into shape, I’m expecting big things for the rest of the season. Bachmann scores a hat trick during their international break, and Erin Cuthbert scores two for Scotland over the break, giving the attack more confidence. The win over Arsenal was huge, and a statement piece as they bossed most of the game, so confidence should be high throughout the club.

Manchester United is a surprise; currently, they are fourth in the table, due to an excellent run of form for a team that is in their first season of top-flight women’s football. They began the season with matches against Manchester City and Arsenal and lost both since then, they have gone undefeated in all competitions. This recent form includes knocking Manchester City out of the Women’s League cup. Again this is the league cup versus the Super League, but confidence can breed success. They have not given up a goal since the loss to Arsenal, meaning the backline has a good base and has shown consistency. Lauren James and Katie Zelem have been the focal points upfront, while not providing all the goals, creating the majority of the opportunities. Coming in following the 3-0 win over Everton, which had goals from both James and Zelem, should be the ground they look to build on. I think this is just an ask too far. Chelsea should be a measuring stick for their growth, not expecting to win. Come into the match as a fan with the openness that this Chelsea side might be something special this season and see where you compare. The talent is coming into United, and they should be looking forward to this season.

I believe this game will break down to be close for the opening 15/20 minutes before Chelsea will assert their dominance. Their talent and strength in the midfield and forward lines are just too much for almost anyone in Europe, let alone England. I think this is going to be entertaining, though, so I will be up to watch. You may ask how, but that is simple; the FA Player App is a free app that once you register for a free account will allow you to stream any women’s game. And for another time, I am not sponsored to remind people about it, though if they somehow read this and want to sponsor a weekly breakdown post, I will not say no……..(someone wants to make that happen?????). Final Score: Chelsea 3 United 0.