It may seem like a distant memory now, but Columbus Crew SC defeated the New England Revolution in the middle game of the most recent homestand. The Revolution provided the only three points for Columbus during that stretch.
Since the previous meeting with Crew SC, New England picked up a decisive victory against a depleted Real Salt Lake winning 4-0. The Revs got production from four different goal scorers in that victory.
New England also welcomed back Designated Player forward Kei Kamara who had a whirlwind 36 hours, welcoming a healthy baby boy into the world. He found his way onto the score sheet off a Lee Nguyen assist against RSL.
The Revolution seems to be turning fortunes around on the season. Let’s take a look at how they will stack up in their second meeting with Crew SC.
New England at a Glance:
Record: 3-4-4, 7th in Eastern Conference, 1.18 points-per-game
Leading Goal Scorer: Juan Agudelo (6)
What to watch for:
Lee Nguyen has been sublime for New England. According to Opta Statistics, the Revs have created 103 chances, sixth-best in Major League Soccer. 21 of those have been classified as “big chances” and Nguyen has created six of those. The Revolution have scored 18 goals this season and Nguyen has been directly involved in nine of those.
The attacking midfielder recently spoke of his recent run of form: “Those games are fun because I’m able to get more touches on the ball.” Whether he is tracking back or starting the attack, Nguyen has been influential in the Revolution attack.
Tony Dellemea and Joshua Smith are both young and talented players at the back for New England. Both have looked stout in their appearances this season.
Even with all their promise; both players still have their issues. Smith has a terrible disciplinary record, recording at least one foul in every match he has played in this season.
Dellemea also leaves himself vulnerable at times as he isn’t afraid to play aggressive. He recorded a season-high six fouls in the match against RSL last week. With dynamic players like Justin Meram and Ola Kamara for Columbus, it will be intriguing to see if the cards fly in Foxborough on Sunday afternoon.
Life of Kei
With an injury to Juan Agudelo, New England welcomed back Kamara to the starting lineup last week against RSL. The forward missed the previous two weeks against Seattle and Columbus while he was awaiting the birth of his second child. He scored in the 41st minute of Saturday’s match off a beautiful assist by Nguyen to make the match 4-0.
Outside of the one scoring opportunity in that match, Kamara has been largely ineffective for New England. He has tallied only 10 goals since being traded from Crew SC last May.
By comparison, Ola Kamara has scored 22 times within that span.
New England fans have long debated how Kamara should be utilized in the team’s system. Our colleagues at the Bent Musket released an article this week asking how fans would grade the trade a year later.
Many gave Kamara a C rating, attributing that to the lack of proper utilization from head coach Jay Heaps and the lack of confidence in the Revolution system.
Kamara is quick to admit that he is struggling to find a role within the Revolution. He spoke on this subject earlier this spring: “I’m still developing a role to be honest.” Acknowledging that this past preseason has helped him gain chemistry with his Revs teammates. Whether it parlays into goals, only time will tell.
Top of the Crop
Columbus fans have enjoyed watching goalkeeper Zack Steffen grow and mature this season. The Revolution also have a great young goalkeeper in Cody Cropper.
Steffen and Cropper were teammates for the United States U-23s , and recently played together during Olympic qualifying cycle for the Rio Olympic games. Both were pitted against one another during that time to see who would claim the starting goalkeeper spot.
Cropper has enjoyed limited success this season. So far this campaign he has 26 saves and three shutouts. By contrast, Steffen has 38 saves and three shutouts this season. Both upstart goalkeepers look to give their team the advantage Sunday. The keeper that best keeps their defensive shape will likely see the way to victory.
How Crew SC Win:
Justin Meram in on a whole different level than the rest of the league. Columbus looked to stretch the field in their last meeting with New England. Despite logging 262 minutes of game time last week, expect Meram to flourish once again. Crew SC will look to stretch the field with long passes and attack the backline head on. Gregg Berhalter will look to utilize his depth and continue to insert players with pace into the game and create chances in the final third.
A complete team game is needed for Columbus to see this match out and gather three points on the road. This means the team needs to come out with a sense of urgency, limit mental errors, and dictate the play. There will be no cause for concern if the Black & Gold sticks to the script on Sunday.
Quick and vertical attacking passes will be key in this one. The Revs demonstrated they can slow down Crew SC if the team is slow on the build up.
If Crew SC contain Nguyen they will see success. New England boasts a star-studded lineup with names like Agudelo, Fagundez, and Kamara, but Nguyen was the biggest threat in the last meeting between Columbus and the Revolution. He could have easily turned the tide of the game numerous times.
Columbus must limit scoring opportunities and look to neutralize Nguyen as much as possible. Berhalter would be wise to contemplate starting Nicolai Naess in the defensive midfield role again as he did in the first meeting. That move really unlocked the potential of Wil Trapp as he seemed to play with greater confidence seeing Crew SC through to the victory.
You can catch the game this Sunday; kickoff is scheduled for 2:30pm.