Jalil Anibaba used to play for this team. Photo from file, courtesy Major League Soccer
To get the latest on the New England Revolution, I went to the source. Tanner Rebelo covers the squad for Trifecta Sports, and gave the insight on what the Revs are bringing this year.
Tim Sullivan: What were the local expectations for New England heading into the season? After a solid 2020 despite injury issues, is it a “contend for Supporters Shield or bust” type of year?
Tanner Rebelo: New England fans have high expectations for the 2021 Revolution following the 2020 MLS Cup Eastern Conference Final appearance against Columbus. With a healthy Carles Gil and some key depth additions the expectation for New England is to make a serious run at the MLS Cup.
TS: Speaking of those injuries and unavailabilities, how has the team’s health (particularly that of Gustavo Bou and Carles Gil) been from preseason through the first couple weeks of the season?
TR: The health of Bou and Gil are critical to the success of the team. Gil missed the bulk of 2020 with an injury and Bou also missed some time. So far this year Gil has looked like his 2019 self and could very well be in the MVP conversation. As for Bou the goal in 2021 is having him play closer to goal, he had a knock in week three but nothing major at this point. Midfielder Luis Caicedo is a question for the team still. Caicedo missed the entire 2020 season with a knee injury and is slowly working his way back into the team.
TS: Aside from the two guys I just mentioned (and the likes of Tajon Buchanan and The Internet’s Favorite Goalkeeper), who are some of the less-heralded guys who are important to the way Bruce Arena wants his team to play?
TR: Matt Polster has been the most consistent player on this Revolution team thus far. His play in the defensive midfield has allowed for the right-backs to comfortably make deep runs. Polster has also helped nullify opposing team’s abilities to counter-attack. Another player that has gone under the radar thus far has been Adam Buksa. He is the team’s third DP and has taken criticism from fans for underperforming in 2020. Thus far in 2021 Buksa has been more involved in the offense and is a big part of what the Revolution do in the final third of the field.
TS: Speaking of that style of play, Arena’s Revs have a bit of a similar reputation to Nashville: defend first, and let the stars try to do something spectacular to create the goal-scoring. Is that national narrative fairly close to reality, or is there more to this team than they get credit for?
TR: New England does have a very strong defense like Nashville. From the goalkeeper on up this is a team that works hard on defense. Whether that is Andrew Farrell making a goal saving clearance or Carles Gil working back to his own 18-yard box on defense. That being said this Revs team is dynamic on offense and creates chances with ease. Thus far the finishing touch has alluded the Revolution. If they can put the whole thing together they have the talent to be a top scoring team in MLS.
TS: What is the key for New England when it comes to emerging from Nissan Stadium with a win Saturday?
TR: New England has to finish it’s chances if they hope to come away with a win against Nashville. It will be important for them to score first as the team that scores first in this match-up will likely win.
TS: How do you expect the game to play out (including a prediction if you’re comfortable giving one)?
TR: I expect Nashville to park the bus and make things very difficult for the Revolution to break down. New England will likely try and find an early goal and try and sit on the lead. I would expect the final score of this game to be 1-0 New England.