The New England Revolution come into MAPFRE Stadium on Saturday off the team’s first win of the season, a 2-1 victory over surging Minnesota United at home. Only their second time in five tries picking up points, it’s starting to look like the Revolution are a mirror-image of the team from last season. Quite simply: they lack clinical finishing. They have the third-most shot attempts in Major League Soccer which is good enough for a mere 16 on goal, fifth fewest in MLS and the lowest conversion in the league.
The Revs at a Glance
Top scorer: Carles Gil, midfielder (3 goals)
Assists leader: 5-way tie (Gil, DeJuan Jones, Jalil Anibaba, Team Bunbury & Antonio Mlinar Delamea)
New England Predicted XI
The lineup that Brad Friedel will decide to go with remains up in the air for Saturday. He made a few tactical adjustments for the Minnesota game, switching to a 4-4-2 defensive formation. He moved Dejuan Jones and Brandon Bye to the outsides leaving Carles Gil and Scott Caldwell covering the middle. This is an interesting switch, considering Gil was brought in to be more of a playmaker. Since the change got the Revs their first three-point haul of the season, let’s assume Freidel is going to give it another go. Here’s what it looked like:
Friedel made five changes since the last time these two teams met. On the March 9 fixture, he went with a 4-2-3-1 formation, with Juan Agudelo playing as a lone striker. The one fix that Friedel has kept the same between Week 1 and last week versus Minnesota United is keeping a two-man deep-lying midfield pairing of Gil and Caldwell.
Gil is the team’s leading scorer out of their midfield. He has three goals through the teams first five contests. Gil signed with New England as a Designated Player back in January from Deportivo de La Coruna. Revolution general manager Michael Burns said in a press release after Gil’s signing that, “He’s very technical on the ball and he’s a creator,” and that’s proven to be true.
It will be interesting to see what formation Friedel goes with. The 4-4-2, which worked last week, could leave the Revs open to getting run out of the midfield, given the Black & Gold will have three players -- sometimes four with Justin Meram and Pedro Santos tucking in from the wings -- to New England’s two. But the 4-2-3-1 did not work the last time these two teams met. Maybe Friedel has something new up his sleeve?
How the Crew Will Win
Quoting New England’s own Bill Belichick, the Crew will win as long as they do their job. The Revolution should pose no huge issues to the Black & Gold offensively, but with their new formation that Friedel experimented with, there’s a possibility the Crew could be held to a counterproductive evening.
Although Columbus will be without right Harrison Afful, expect them to slot in Hector Jimenez in that role. Primarily a left back, Jimenez has the ability to play multiple positions in midfield and across the backline. If Jimenez can step up and help link possession between the defense and the rest of the right flank, they could take advantage of a weaker New England left side of Jones and Edgar Castillo.
It’s worth noting that the Revolution’s last win against the Crew at MAPFRE Stadium came in the 2014 MLS Cup Playoffs nearly four and a half years ago. This is arguably the most talented Crew side since that last loss came at home. Outside of Afful’s absence, the Black & Gold should be fully fit everywhere else on the field. After last week’s showing on a wet surface against the defending MLS Cup champions, it looks like the Crew is back to the side we all expect the team to be.