The Columbus Crew got back in the win column after a thrilling come-from-behind victory against the New York Red Bulls on Tuesday night. Miguel Berry (again) scored what proved to be the game-winning goal to propel the Black & Gold to three points.
Crew fans hope that this victory will help carry Columbus into a crucial stretch of the 2021 campaign. First up in this next stretch of games is a trip to Foxborough to face the New England Revolution. The Revs have set the league alight so far in 2021 and find themselves comfortably atop both the Eastern Conference and the Supporters’ Shield standings with no signs of slowing down.
Despite New England being heavy favorites in this match, the Crew has shown the ability to compete with the Revolution during their 2-2 draw at the Lower.com Field opener this summer. This match will present a chance for the Black & Gold to steal three points from a side that not many teams have had success against.
Here’s what to look for in this matchup.
New England Revolution at a Glance:
Record: 17-4-4 , 55 points
League Form: W-W-L-W-W
Leading Scorer: Gustavo Bou (12)
Assist Leader: Carles Gil (12)
Player to Watch: Carles Gil
Gil is a huge favorite to win MLS MVP award this season thanks to his scintillating performance thus far in the campaign. The 28-year-old Spaniard has terrorized opposing defenses with his ability to find space between defensive lines, his vision and passing ability in the final third. This passing ability has helped Gil accumulate a league-leading 12 assists so far this year.
The playmaker has profited from an incredible number of attacking threats around him including Gustavo Bou, Tajon Buchanan, Adam Buksa and others. As teams are distracted by these attacking threats, Gil excels at finding time and space on the ball before delivering the final pass. If Columbus is going to take three points in this match, the team will need to stop the Revolution attack right at its source in Gil.
How New England Revolution play:
As mentioned, New England is without a doubt one of the best sides in the league this season and is certainly a team built to win at the highest levels in MLS. The Revolution play an entertaining and fast-paced type of soccer that captivated audiences for and against them.
The Revs attack feasts in transition and attack in moments when the opponent’s defense is unorganized. Crew fans will need to look no further than the two sides' last meeting where New England struck twice early on when the Black & Gold backline was out of its defensive structure.
In addition to their ability to attack quickly upon winning the ball back, the Revolution have proven capable of breaking down opponents with extended periods of possession as well. Defensively, New England is solid, featuring the likes of U.S. Men’s National Team breakout star Matt Turner and Generation Adidas player Henry Kessler. The Revs have been at or near the top of the defensive statistics for the majority of this season and show no signs of a dip in defensive form.
How the Crew can win:
The Crew looks to win the team’s second in a row and send a powerful statement to the rest of the league. More importantly, every match from this point until the end of the regular season could be crucial as Columbus looks to climb the table in the Eastern Conference and return to the playoffs to defend the MLS Cup crown. Thus, a win against the league leaders would go a long way towards that goal.
Here are a few things for the Black & Gold to focus on to win this match.
First, and most importantly, the Crew needs to dominate the wide areas of the field. Head coach Caleb Porter spoke extensively about the threat that New England poses in wide areas with the likes of Tajon Buchanan, DeJuan Jones, Gil and more. Indeed, all three goals the Black & Gold have given up to the Revoluition this year have been created in the wide areas of the field.
Columbus needs to have an increased focus, especially on the defensive side of the ball, in these wide areas in order to limit the Revs’ attack and force them to look for other ways to break Columbus down.
In addition, The Crew is going to have to be solid in transition defense. The Revolution are incredibly adept at taking advantage of disorganized and unbalanced opposing defenses due to the team’s speed and quality in wide areas. If the Black & Gold are going to limit the Revs’ attack, they will need to effectively stop New England in transition. In doing so, Columbus will force the Revs to threaten the goal from possession, which is not their strong suit.
Though certainly capable of doing so, the Revolution have done significantly less damage from these sorts of moments so far in 2021. If the Crew is solid in defensive transition, it will make the New England attack more predictable and easier to defend.
Lastly, Columbus needs to score first. It seems very simple, but the fact of the matter is that the Black & Gold have consistently been forced to play from behind and try and catch up with its opponents in 2021. The Crew is not a team that’s ideally suited to do this and even if the team is successful in catching up, it may only lead to a singular point rather than the preferred three.
In addition, if Columbus is able to take a lead in this match, it will enable the team to focus more on defensive responsibilities as the game goes on. To be clear, the Crew doesn’t need to go out and “park the bus” if leading. However, the Black & Gold taking the lead allows them to take a more pragmatic approach to secure three points, rather than chasing those points from behind.