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 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.

Pre-Season Match 3: Minnesota United FC v New England Revolution

Final Score: Minnesota United FC 2 – New England Revolution 2

Major Talking Points

23′ Goal – Luis Amarilla (Kevin Molino) Min 1 – NE 0

Jeremy – I will not be the only one saying this, but the center backs both got caught out on this goal. Farrell got his head to the ball, but Mancienne completely missed it at the second asking, allowing it through to Amarilla. Zahibo does not get tight to Molino, allowing the cross to happen, but the additional problem is that Penilla wasn’t tracking back out wide. Penilla’s lack of backtracking caused the two of them to be in the reverse positions one would expect. Farrel’s header does seem to slightly wrong foot Mancienne, but a defender of his experience should be able to make those adjustments. Finally, Matt Turner, in my opinion, could have come and claimed the ball, but he still gets left dead footed by the goal. Feel like it is a similar goal to the first one conceded against LA Galaxy, which has some worries. Also don’t take anything away from Am

Creighton – The major worry from this play for me, was the inability of either center back to make a play on the well-placed pass. Amarilla had the perfect run, and continued his run to be able to make this happen. If one of the “attempts” on the ball actually was fully committed, this ball does not make it to Amarilla. For me, the major fail is from Mancienne, a small change like that, definitely means that you need a heavier commit with the body to make sure that the ball is cleared. He slightly raises his leg higher, instead of just moving his body through the ball to clear it. Even so, if he gets a tip to it towards goal, Turner is there to make the stop, and he should know where Turner is located. Turner is definitely to blame here too, as usually everyone is communicating heavily enough to not allow a crazy occurence like this to happen.

28′ Goal – Adam Buska (Teal Bunbury, Cristian Penilla) Min 1 – NE 1

Jeremy – Buska gets his first goal in a Revolution uniform. The goal came from some lovely interplay by the Revolution forwards. Bou wins the ball back up high against the right side of the Minnesota defense. This gives the Revs a good counter. Penilla’s cross to Bunbury was exquisit and while Bunbury’s touch back to Buska was slightly off, if we are being nit picky, the finish by Buska was clinical. The attack looks like it is slowly coming together, and should start to scare the rest of the league. Bou’s work rate off the ball continues to be high, and Bunbury’s run was really well executed. Small note, Brandon Bye made a very good overlapping run that made the right back unable to fully commit to Penilla, giving him more freedom for the cross. Buska’s finish was clinical and good to see, hoping to see more of this going forward.

Creighton – 100% of this goal goes to Penilla’s perfect cross to Teal. Teal for once was not selfish and saw Buksa being wide open. He laid it off and Buksa, as had been seen in training, slotted the ball lower corners. We need more players to try these simple shots to get the ball on frame.

35′ Goal – Luis Amarilla (PK) Min 2 – NE 1

Jeremy – Farrell at fault here. He got beat over the top, and in an attempt to recover, run the player over from behind. No complaints on the penalty, and if this were not a pre-season game, he would most likely have seen a yellow card for the foul. Turner guessed wrong, but nothing against him for that.

Creighton – I absolutely abhor this play from Farrell. He allows a player to get in behind and cause problems. His poor positioning also leads him to stumble over himself and cause the foul for the penalty. Let’s just move on from this, because if we see this in the regular season, I will personally start “Bench Farrell” chants.

71′ Goal – Gustavo Bou (Unassisted) Min 2 – NE 2

Jeremy – Bou continues to be a scoring machine for the Revolution. Yes, it was a mistake by the Minnesota defense, but you still need to put it away. He annoyed and was a force in getting the ball turned over.

Creighton – I will love these goals over and over and over. Bou’s pressure during the preseason thus far has been on point. If he continues into the regular season, I forsee that we’ll see a few more of these pressure-caused giveaways in the back.

Overall Thoughts

Jeremy – I get this is pre-season, but Penilla needs a reality check. His lack of work on the defensive end through three pre-season games gives me doubts about the season. His lack of backtracking has directly resulted in two goals, this pre-season. His crossing has been a bright spot, but if he is a liability on the defensive end, he may need to be relegated to substitute. DeJuan Jones has earned a starting spot on either the right or left flank going into this season, in my opinion. With Büttner still having a niggling injury, he may get the start on the left, but even thinking of a combination of him and Bye on the right, with the pace and defensive awareness the two of them have, it could become a strength of this team. He also has had an excellent attacking presence, providing a number of good crosses, something he needed to improve upon this off-season. Overall, the attack looks like it is starting to come together. Buska and Bou are getting closer to being on the same wavelength, and without Gil orchestrating from the middle, the team has still looked sharp. The youth seemed extremely fluid against the Rapids, and at times, this group was running Minnesota off the pitch. Defensively I have worries. I think Delamea is a big miss so far, and after the issues, Mancienne had this past game, right now I am leaning towards Kessler and Farrell opening day if Delamea is not fit. Turner was quite vocal, which was good to see and rebounded nicely from the opening day against LA when he looked out of position at times. He made several good reflex saves, but I still think he needs to improve his presence in the air and the box.

Creighton – The major take from this game for me are Jones’ continued proving of his skill as a defensive power and an offensive support. His speed and foot skills continue to shine in each game leaving him as a young star who should see a serious uptick in time out. At this point, with players out with injury, we may see him as a starter in Montreal.

Penilla continues to make amazing offensive plays, but ends up a problem on the back end. His inability to get back and provide support creates a problem when the back is double teamed. Let’s hope in the next games that we see Arena correct this problem.

I hope to see the 2nd string that hasn’t been getting starts against Vancouver, I think it’s one last hurrah to try and prove they belong in the first team.

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.