Saturday should brings an interesting game as the Columbus Crew takes on the Supporters’ Shield-leading New England Revolution outside of Boston. The meeting is the third and final in the regular season, with the Revs winning in May and a Crew comeback sealing a draw in July. The Revolution is one of just three clubs the Black & Gold play on the road to close out the year.
We talked to New England writer Jake Catanese of SB Nation’s The Bent Musket to understand what has gone into New England's amazing regular season campaign and if the fanbase is confident the team can win the MLS Cup the first time.
Massive Report: New England has virtually guaranteed the Supporters’ Shield barring a dramatic collapse. Will Bruce Arena and his squad let up here in the final games?
The Bent Musket: We certainly hope not. Arena has been masterful this year at managing his squad rotation between international tournaments and call-ups and Carles Gil’s injury in particular though there have been others unavailable at times during the year. We lauded the depth on this roster at the beginning of the year and it has shined during 2021. Backup centerback Jon Bell had some great moments early, DeJuan Jones solidified the starting role at left back, Matt Polster has been tremendous and in my opinion should be in the conversation for MLS Best XI but I doubt he gets that honor.
No one has been able to knock Tommy McNamara out of the starting lineup of late and he and Polster were mid-summer signings last year to stabilize a midfield ravaged by injuries and despite everyone being healthy and reinforcements to the center midfield corps, both players are staples in Bruce Arena’s lineups. Teal Bunbury and Ema Boateng have both had solid shifts out wide and up top during the year and recently Boateng in particular has been an absolute force on the left hand side opposite where Tajon usually is.Then you have the DP’s who have just been tremendous.
The Revs have never truly hit on their big time international signings and this trio has flipped that script on it’s head. Carles Gil is likely the leader for the league MVP race and Gustavo Bou and Adam Buksa are double-digit scorers for the Revs and in the Top 10 in MLS in that category. The Revs might not always win via blow out (of their 17 wins, 14 of them have been by a single goal) but their goal scoring prowess comes in many different forms.
Oh, and I almost forgot Matt Turner who is a god.
MR: Since the Crew’s 2-2 draw with the Revs on July 3, one player that seems to continue to rise is Tajon Buchanon. How important has he been for the Revs success this season?
TBM: Tajon Buchanan rise from playoff hero last year to legit league Superstar and Canadian wonderkid was nothing short of meteoric. Looking at the Revs in preseason it was entirely possible the Revs might have kept him at right back but Bruce Arena wanted him as a winger, I think Tajon prefers that position, and he’s been torching people on the flanks ever since. But his game winner last week against NYC showed he’s also a complete attacker as he waited patiently at the top of the box for a Carles Gil layoff to rocket into the far post.Tajon’s performance during Olympic qualifying mirrored his success with the Revs and he just never stopped playing well for Canada getting his first Gold Cup and World Cup qualifying appearances. If the Revs are destined for the CONCACAF Champion’s League next year it’s a shame Tajon won’t be there as he’ll be with Club Brugge in the UEFA Champion’s League because otherwise New England would be a legitimate threat to win the whole thing. And they still might be, but we’ll enjoy watching Tajon in Belgium.
MR: An MLS Cup seems like a real possibility again for New England fans. Are fans confident this is the season the drought finally ends or is there hesitancy based on the previous history?
TBM: Listen, no one understands how difficult it is to win MLS Cup than New England fans. The greatest rivalry in the league is the Revs vs. MLS Cup, this is always in the back of our minds. But Bruce Arena’s team obviously feels different, and if Arena can win an MLS Cup win another MLS franchise it basically solidifies him as the greatest coach in league history. I think the goals right now are very clear and presented in a very clear order - wrap up the Shield, get home field, make the playoff run. It’s actually last year’s run that gave this squad the experience and I think belief that they are one of the best teams in the league. But the number one seed in the playoffs is a perilous position and everyone is after you in November. But it would be fitting for New England to exorcise all their trophy demons in one go this year.