On Saturday, the Columbus Crew hopes to continue the team’s unbeaten run of two matches, heading to Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts. The Black & Gold’s opponent this weekend is the 2021 Supporters’ Shield winning New England Revolution.
Since 2021 though, the Revolution has gone through changes and sits in 10th place in the Eastern Conference. To learn more about this year’s New England, Massive Report spoke with Jake Catanese of The Bent Musket to find out more about what we can expect from the opponent.
Massive Report: The Revolution entered the season off a fantastic 2021. That season led to winger Tajon Buchanan’s transfer. How has the loss of Buchanan impacted New England this season?
The Bent Musket: Buchanan had a tremendous 2021 and fully deserved his transfer to Club Brugge in Belgium. Replacing Buchanan’s speed and 1v1 ability outside on the wing was not as high a priority since the Revs switched to a diamond midfield formation and deployed Buchanan slightly more central though he still covered a lot of ground.
The downside to losing Buchanan is that now there’s a lot more focus back on midfielder Carles Gil as the main playmaking threat where Buchanan was able to create on his own and take a lot of pressure off Gil because of it. The goal was to have midfielder Sebastian Lletget take over that central midfield spot but the real key for New England’s width now comes from their fullbacks in DeJuan Jones and Brandon Bye.
Jones has been more of a known quantity getting a call up into the United States National Team in January, but didn’t make the roster for qualifications. The left back has been prolific at times for the Revs in the final third and already has three assists in eight games after totaling five last season.
Bye has been a slow and steady player as far as development but could be primed for a possible breakout year. More of a defense first fullback as compared to Jones, Bye has tremendously improved his crossing and has become more of a threat in the box with two goals already to tie match his career/season high totals from 2021 and 2019.
With the Revs centerbacks Henry Kessler and Andrew Farrell back at full strength after some injuries and heavy fixture congestion, the fullbacks should have more confidence going forward and that’s a good thing for the Revs.
MR: Head coach Bruce Arena added big MLS veterans with Lletget, Jozy Altidore and Omar Gonzalez this offseason. Also, goalkeeper Matt Turner just returned to play before he leaves for England this summer. Is this a team that can overcome such a high turnover and continue to compete at a high level?
TBM: 2021 was always going to be a strange year because of the World Cup cycle and compressed league schedule, but losing two major starters (possibly three if forward Adam Buksa gets sold at some point) at different times of the year is definitely an interesting problem.
The slow start to 2022 forced the Revs hand a little bit by adding keeper Djordje Petrovic and U22 initiative midfielder Dylan Borrero before the primary window closed. Backup keepers Brad Knighton and Carl Edwards Jr. both saw significant action in Turner’s absence at the start of the year and at times both showed well but the Revs were always likely to add a keeper. The talented Serbian Petrovic could be the long term answer and either through urgency or by being proactive the Revs have bolstered the roster.
As far as the veteran United States trio the Revs signed in the offseason, Lletget was a solid option to upgrade the midfield but not for Buchanan’s starting role but rather the other central midfield spot that was platooned by Tommy McNamara, Arnor Traustason, and Maciel among others.
New England utilized McNamara as a true No. 6 type next to midfielder Matt Polster last week and it made an immediate difference and that holding midfield role was a spot the Revs did not address with Scott Caldwell leaving for Real Salt Lake this offseason.
Altidore will get his minutes up top or even as a wider/wing option and that’s fine. Gonzalez however has not performed well and his days as a starting center back in a standard four-man backline might be over but I think utilizing him as a late closer sub and going five at the back late is still a viable option though Arena hasn’t really had the chance to use Gonzalez in this role due to injuries.
MR: Gustavo Bou is also out for this match with an injury. How do you see Arena adapting this weekend? Who do you see starting the matchup and what’s your match prediction?
JC: The Revs did get good news on Bou in that he should be back in a week or so. With the success of the 4-2-3-1 last week I don’t see a reason to change the formation so you’ll likely see Damien Rivera as an attacking midfielder on the left hand side with just Buksa as a true lone striker and Lletget on the right. I could see a different partner for forward Matt Polster to start the game instead of McNamara and bring McNamara on late but largely if it’s not broke, Arena shouldn’t try fixing it. Expect almost the same lineup as last week.
And there was a lot to fix early in the season with injuries but as the Revs get healthier New England can focus on the same problems as last year which mostly was just rotating the squad and keeping everyone fresh through the congested schedule dates. If the Revs are firing on all cylinders again, and it’s a little early to say that, they’re always tough to beat at home and Turner usually does a great job at neutralizing the Crew on set pieces which we know they’re very good at. I think another 2-0 victory is in the cards for the Revs as they begin a long climb out of the bottom of the East.