Sunday will be one of the highlight matches on the Columbus Crew’s calendar that will conclude this tough stretch of the season. The sixth game for Columbus in 19 days is over in New England against the Revolution in a rematch of last year’s Eastern Conference Final. It’s the first time in two years the Black & Gold will play the Revs at Gillette Stadium.
Head coach Bruce Arena and New England have started the season off very strong as expected by fans and media surrounding the MLS. Despite a loss to Nashville SC and a recent midweek draw with the Philadelphia Union, the Revs have still been playing some of the best soccer in the league to begin this 2021 season.
The squad’s attacking players with last name’s nearly all ending in the letter “B” perform in big situations with beyond great chemistry. Here is a look at the New England Revolution, a team that will near the top of the table throughout 2021.
New England Revolution at a Glance:
Record: 2-1-2, 8 points
League Form: D-L-W-W-D
Leading Scorer: Adam Buksa, Brandon Bye, Gustavo Bou, Teal Bunbury, Carles Gil (1)
Assist Leader: Carles Gil (2)
Player to Watch: Carles Gil
Gil is the catalyst for success offensively and for the final scoreline for the Revs. The Spaniard already has three goal contributions in five MLS games from his center attacking midfield spot and is averaging a xG (expected goals) of 1.33 this season. Anytime the ball is at his feet, a key pass or key chance seems imminent for himself, Buksa, Bunbury, Bou, or anyone else in the frontline.
Gil was one of the Revolution’s most ambitious signings with the 28-year old having previous experience in the Premier League with Aston Villa and in La Liga with Deportivo La Coruna. That experience and his efficient play for New England is the reason Gil is making approximately $2.2 million, which makes him one of the 15 highest-paid players for this Major League Soccer season.
How New England Revolution play:
The usual formation for the Revolution is a 4-2-3-1, exactly like the Crew. The similarities don’t end there for Arena’s side when comparing them to Caleb Porter’s Columbus squad. The style of play is similar and the quality is close to identical in key positional areas. New England has one of the top goalkeepers in MLS in Matt Turner, attacking-minded fullbacks in DaJuan Jones and Brandon Bye, a true central defensive midfielder in Thomas McNamara, a speedy right winger Tajon Buchanan and a whole set of strikers in Buksa, Bou, and Bunbury.
As far as the style of play, the Revs are all about getting shots off and its passing efficiency in the middle third of the field helps to create plenty of big chances. In fact, New England currently leads the league in big chances created with 12, with six goals scored. You can expect to see plenty of shots from outside the six with the Revolution taking 95 percent of its shots from outside the six-yard box. It could be a busy day for Eloy Room.
While we see the Crew utilize the right side players a whole bunch, the Revolution keeps the flanks pretty evenly distributed. The right and left side are nearly equally used in the attack to help make space for Gil to get shots off from the middle of the field or for the Spaniard to create for his striker. The attack is strong, the goalkeeping is strong and the defense is underrated.
How the Crew can win:
Step one, get Carles Gil out of the game. While this doesn’t fully obliterate the other attacking options for the Revolution, keeping someone near Gil and getting him away from space will lower the amount of chances New England will create. The center midfielders and center backs will need to press on Gil to get the ball off him quickly and generate a counter attack.
The Revolution is great at creating chances and doing it with slow build up. It will be important for the Columbus front line and midfielders to pressure the defense and midfielders of New England rather than sit back and wait to counter. You can’t allow a team like New England that is so good at creating chances to have time on the ball to see all the options available.
This game plan of stopping shot attempts is tough to execute, especially when the Black & Gold is on its sixth game in 19 days. The defense will have to play its part and will need to have one of its best games to get out of Foxborough with at least a point. Eloy Room will be forced to make big saves, Jonathan Mensah and his center back partner on the day will need to make big blocks and the fullbacks will have to stay disciplined in their positioning and contain the wingers so passes to Gil and the striker will be that much harder.