From the other side: Breaking down the New England Revs

Graphic by Johnny Colesi with photos by Gene Peters.

Ahead of FC Cincinnati’s match at New England tonight in Foxborough, Mass., The Bent Musket senior editor Jake Catanese and I exchanged some notes on the respective teams we cover.

FC Cincinnati (7-7-3, 24 points) heads into the match, set to kick off at 7:38 p.m., in sixth place in the Eastern Conference and coming off a wild 4-4 draw against New York City FC. New England, sitting in seventh at 6-5-6 with 24 points, already beat FCC twice this year, including a U.S. Open Cup fourth-round game. The Revs are unbeaten in nine straight games, including five since a 3-2 win in Cincinnati.

Here are some of Catanese’s thoughts going into the match from the perspective of someone covering the Revolution.

How different is the team after the departures of Matt Turner and Adam Buksa?

Offensively, very different but if the rumors about the Revs signing Albanian international Giacomo Vrioni from Juventus are true the Revs might have a more traditional target man up top again to replace Buksa. But in the last few weeks, the Revs have really struggled to create and finish big chances. They’re still getting results, which is always a positive thing, and late winners from Tommy McNamara in Cincinnati and Ema Boateng in Kansas City have made up for a couple of home matches the Revs failed to close out earlier in the year. So there has been a drop off without Adam Buksa to aim for inside the area, and the Revs are coping as best they can with Gustavo Bou being asked to play as a lone striker which is not really his thing. Bou likes to roam around and shoot from just about anywhere which is total contrast to having a backline deal with a true number nine looking for aerial crosses.

In net, Djordje Petrovic looks like the real deal so far as a shot stopper to replace Matt Turner. In four MLS games in June, Petrovic went unbeaten with two wins and two draws, one shutout, and only three goals allowed while never giving up more than one goal in a match. Also, the Revs have been short handed defensively again, with centerback Henry Kessler, right back Brandon Bye, and holding mid Matt Polster all missing time due to injury. Matt Turner in 2021 was on another planet as far as being in form, but Petrovic has done very well to acclimate with the Revs, who did very well to sign him before the end of the primary window and get him extra minutes ahead of Turner’s departure.

Bou and Carles Gil are obviously still key players and Bye played really well against FCC last time. Who are some other players that might be stepping up? Anyone that’s surprised you?

The Revs are dealing with another round of the injury bug, so there’s been a few players rotating in to cover the gaps. Wilfrid Kaptoum and Arnor Traustason started last week in the midfield and could feature again with Polster and Tommy McNamara (yellow card accumulation) unavailable. AJ DeLaGarza has started the last couple of games at right back and has done very well especially joining into the Revs attack on late overlaps. Jon Bell has reclaimed the third centerback spot on the depth chart and has regained his form from last year after he and just about everyone else struggled on the Revs backline early in the year. The backline in particular has really improved and should continue to improve once Kessler and Bye are able to start again.

Dylan Borrero has come right into the starting lineup as a U22 Initiative signing and has had an immediate impact in the Tajon Buchanan role of being very fast and taking on people to wreak havoc. His presence couldn’t have come at a better time as the Revs sorely missed that skillset on the field and he has been a real handful for opponents so far. He scored his first MLS goal against Minnesota two weeks ago and if the Revs brought their shooting boots to Vancouver likely would have been involved in the breakthrough goal there but alas the Revs settled for a 0-0 draw. But like Petrovic in goal, the Revs front office appears to have done their homework and gotten this signing right as well.

As far as surprises, homegrown midfielder Damian Rivera has been very good at times this year, which is why I’m a little surprised we haven’t seen more of him in the last month to help cover Sebastian Lletget’s injury absence aside from a late cameo off the bench in Vancouver last week. The Revs have been using a 4-2-3-1 with a slightly narrower profile than using out and out wingers in the attack and Rivera fits right into that formation. New England I think ideally wants to start Lletget and Borrero on either side of Carles Gil in the attacking midfield but with Lletget injured the bulk of those minutes have fallen to a platoon led by Ema Boateng but there should be more than enough minutes to get Rivera more involved than he has been. While the Revs are still getting results, the injury absences aren’t helping the overall cohesion in the attack which might cause a game like last week where nothing works.

Has there been any talk about how long Bruce Arena plans to keep coaching? It’s impressive what he’s done there, but I got the impression he would transition into more of just the front office role at some point.

No, and even if we were to ask him, we wouldn’t get a straight answer out of him anyway. I will say that even if Bruce doesn’t win an MLS Cup with the Revs, he’s still the most important and impactful coach in league history. He’s been successful in multiple different eras of the league and with multiple different teams and at long last dragged the Revs into the Designated Player era and turned them into a legitimate selling club in three years in charge during a global pandemic. I don’t think any other coach in the world could have done this with the Revs from where they were in mid-2019 when they sacked Brad Friedel.

However, Bruce knows he can’t do this forever and I think his eventual replacement is already on the staff and that is Shalrie Joseph. The former Revs stalwart and MLS Best XI midfielder from the vaunted haydays of the Steve Nicol era, Shalrie already has experience internationally leading his home country Grenada and at the academy level with the Revs, and having that knowledge from all levels of the game should help him lead the Revs in the post-Arena era if that is the direction the are in fact heading in. When this happens depends on a combination of additional Revs trophies and on-field success as well as Shalrie’s growth as a coach but I think Bruce riding off into the sunset with another MLS Cup would be the storybook ending.


Lineup 4-2-3-1: Petrovic; D Jones, Bye, Farrell, DeLaGarza; Kaptoum, Maciel; Borrero, Gil, Boateng; Bou

It wouldn’t shock me to see Lletget back in the lineup either as a starter or off the bench but we’ll leave anyone on the injured list out of the starting lineup. The center midfield spots are the real challenge this week but Kaptoum did pretty well there last week and I think Maciel is a better fit as a holding mid so he gets the nod over Traustason.

With Cincinnati coming off a midweek game against a very good NYCFC team, I think the Revs have a big advantage in this home game and will pick up a much needed three points before a brutal road stretch at NYC, Philly, and Columbus. But it won’t be an overly convincing win, not after last’s week shooting debacle in Vancouver, I’ll say a 2-1 win with Bou and Borrero on the scoresheet for the Revs cancelling out a Brenner goal.

Follow Jake Catanese’s work @JCatanese43 / @TheBentMusket

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