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

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

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

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

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

Nguyen’s Influence

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

Polster Returns

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

Defensive Solidity

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

Expected Eleven

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

4-2-3-1

One Final Note

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

What The Hell Did I Watch Redux

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

Forwards, Take What Improvement You Can?

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

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

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

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

Substitutes

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

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

Midfield

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

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

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

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

Substitutions

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

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

Defense

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

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

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

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

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

Goalkeeper

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

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

Manager

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

What The Hell Am I Going to Watch Revs NYCFC Edition

New England Revolution v NYC FC

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

Looking for some Goals

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

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

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

Filling the Gap

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

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

Defensive Stability

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

Goalkeeping AKA Best Player on the Pitch

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

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.