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Reunion tour rolls on as Revs ramp up for LAFC, former star Lee Nguyen

It was a draw vs Kei and the ‘Caps, then a loss to Bobby in Minny. Now New England seeks a win over Nguyen in Cali to keep playoff hopes afloat

MLS: Los Angeles FC at Toronto FC Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

New England passed a huge test last Wednesday with a gritty 1-0 win over New York City FC in Yankee Stadium, the host’s first loss at home this season. The Revs still face an uphill battle to remain in playoff contention, however, as they need other results to go their way. None of those outcomes will even matter if the Revs don’t first take care of their own business. Their work continues on the West Coast on Saturday night as they contend with powerhouse expansion-side Los Angeles Football Club and legendary former US national team coach Bob Bradley. And, oh yeah, a guy named Lee will be there. A New England victory in SoCal over a staunch home team on a four-match unbeaten run would be absolutely epic.

Los Angeles FC: A Closer Look

Overall Record: 13-7-7, 46 pts, 54 GF, 42 GA, +12 GD

Standing: 3rd in Western Conference (3 points from 1st place; 6 points above red line)

Current Form: W-D-W-W-L

Home Stats:

Record: 7-1-5, 26 points (2.0 points/match), +13 GD

GF: 23 (1.8 GF/match)

GA: 10 (0.8 GA/match)

It’s a tale of two teams, as road LAFC bears little resemblance to home LAFC, the club New England must face on Saturday night. Away from Banc of California Stadium, the expansion side engages in Wild West shootouts. In 14 matches, they’ve scored 31 goals and allowed 32 for a -1 goal differential.

Conversely, at their brand-new home venue, they’ve only scored 23 goals, but they’ve given up just 10 in 13 matches. Even though they’re averaging less than two goals scored per home match, they’re allowing less than one per game. In fact, LAFC’s defense has pitched two straight home shutouts and has six total clean sheets at Banc of California Stadium on the year. In other words, every other visiting team leaves without scoring a single goal. That’s quite a home-field advantage.

Overall, LAFC enters this match without a loss in their last four and well rested after a bye last weekend. However, a couple of key players may be out due to injury. Striker and leading scorer (at home) Adama Diomande has missed the past two matches with an adductor strain. Centerback loanee Danilo Silva — who replaced Laurent Ciman following his transfer last month — was out for their last game two weeks ago in Toronto with a hamstring issue. Starting midfielder Mark-Anthony Kaye suffered a season-ending ankle injury in July.

Midfielder Andre Horta just returned from international duty and may be unavailable for selection on Saturday. Defender Dejan Jakovic did not feature in Canada’s not-so-friendly 8-0 win over the US Virgin Islands on Sunday and should be ready to go against the Revs.

Team Leaders (at home):

Goals:

Diomande - 6

Rossi - 3

Vela/Blessing/Nguyen - 2

Assists:

Blessing - 4

Kaye - 3

Diomande/Rossi - 2

Key Passes (per game):

Vela - 2.5

Blessing - 1.8

Feilhaber - 1.5

Passing %:

Nguyen - 88.6

Atuesta - 88.5

Silva - 87.5

Tackles (per game):

Feilhaber - 3.2

Kaye - 2.8

Atuesta - 2.4

Clearances (per game):

Zimmerman - 5.8

Silva - 2.7

Harvey - 2.0

Goalkeeping (overall):

Tyler Miller

Save % - 67.6

GA/gm - 1.54

Shutouts - 8

Primary Formation(s): 4-3-3 / 4-2-3-1

Projected XI:

T. Miller

S. Beitashour — W. Zimmerman — D. Silva (or D. Jakovic) — J. Harvey

B. Feilhaber — E. Atuesta — L. Nguyen

C. Vela — A. Diomande (or M. Urena) — D. Rossi

New England Revolution: A Closer Look

Record: 8-10-9, 33 pts, 40 GF, 42 GA, -2 GD

Standing: 8th in Eastern Conference (4 points below red line)

Current Form: W-D-L-L-L

Road Stats:

Record: 2-6-5, 11 points (0.8 points/match), -7 GD

GF: 17 (1.3 GF/match)

GA: 24 (1.8 GA/match)

New England notched an impressive 1-0 win over rival NYCFC on the road ten days ago to keep their slim playoff hopes alive. Despite facing 27 shots and 14 corners, losing the possession battle 66%-34%, and being forced into 54 clearances, the Revs’ defense held firm and continues to improve as the season winds down.

First-year manager Brad Friedel made several lineup changes vs the Blues, some forced and others by choice. Second-year forward Brian Wright got his first MLS start in place of injured leading goal-scorer Teal Bunbury and notched the game’s only score, which also happened to be his first-ever league goal. Friedel also gave goalkeeper Matt Turner his first game off this season, selecting veteran Brad Knighton to make his first MLS appearance of the season. US U-19 international and Revs’ Academy product Isaac Angking made his MLS debut, coming on as a second-half substitute.

Friedel used a 4-3-3 in the Bronx, with Cristian Penilla and Kelyn Rowe joining center forward Wright up top. The midfield left-to-right consisted of Scott Caldwell, Wilfried Zahibo, and Cristhian Machado, who made his second start for the Revs. Luis Caicedo was suspended for the match. The backline went unchanged from the 1-1 draw with Portland two weeks ago, as Brandon Bye (left) and Andrew Farrell (right) flanked Michael Mancienne and Jalil Anibaba. Diego Fagundez — who had a poor match vs the Timbers — and Juan Agudelo joined Angking as subs.

Bunbury, still recovering from a hamstring injury, is questionable for this match. New England should have the services of three sparsely-utilized players on Saturday. Midfielders Zachary Herivaux (Haiti) and Angking (US U-19) and left back Gabriel Somi (Syria) had international duty for games through September 11.

Team Leaders (on the road):

Goals:

Penilla/Bunbury - 5

Zahibo/Fagundez - 2

Assists:

Fagundez - 4

Penilla/Agudelo -2

Key Passes (per game):

Fagundez - 3.1

Penilla - 1.1

Caicedo - 0.6

Passing %:

Delamea - 86.7

Caldwell - 83.2

Mancienne - 77.8

Tackles (per game):

Caicedo - 3.0

Farrell - 2.1

Zahibo - 1.9

Clearances (per game):

Mancienne - 8.0

Farrell - 3.7

Anibaba - 3.6

Goalkeeping (overall):

Matt Turner

Save % - 64.8

GA/gm - 1.62

Shutouts - 4

Primary Formation: 4-2-3-1

Projected XI:

M. Turner (or B. Knighton)

A. Farrell — J. Anibaba — M. Mancienne — B. Bye

L. Caicedo — S. Caldwell (or W. Zahibo)

D. Fagundez (or J. Agudelo) — K. Rowe — C. Penilla

T. Bunbury (or B. Wright)

Match Analysis

This match has the makings of a shootout, as both teams like to control the game in the opposition’s half at the expense of solid defending. They each create a ton of chances and take lots of shots, but LAFC is stronger at finishing with the likes of Diomande, Carlos Vela, and Diego Rossi.

Both clubs excel at set pieces. However, New England’s defending against these has been problematic all season, which could open the door for Nguyen to leave his mark. LAFC is good at forcing turnovers, which doesn’t bode well considering the Revolution’s poor passing and overall inability to maintain possession.

Both LAFC and New England have a difficult time protecting a lead, but Bob Bradley’s side has displayed an aptitude for getting back into games after falling behind. The expansion club has been involved in numerous high-scoring affairs, but the majority of those have occurred away from home. Matches at Banc of California Stadium have tended to be defensive tussles.

That said, the Revs may want to keep it that way on the road against a high-powered team. They may choose to tactically approach this match in a similar fashion to that of their most recent game at NYCFC. They may press for an early goal, then sit back and absorb pressure while looking for counterattacking opportunities. If so, a goal or two could decide this match.

Both teams are coming off extended breaks and should be rested. LAFC last played two weeks ago in Toronto, while the Revolution visited New York City ten days ago on September 5th. New England is a bit healthier than the hosts on the injury front.

Match Facts

This is the first-ever meeting between New England Revolution and Los Angeles Football Club, who are playing their inaugural season in Major League Soccer. This is also the only match of the year between these inter-conference clubs. Next year’s game will be at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough.

How to Watch

Kickoff: 10:30 p.m. ET on Saturday, September 15, 2018
Venue: Banc of California Stadium, Los Angeles CA
TV: NBC Sports Boston (Boston); UniMas 46, YouTube TV (Los Angeles)
Radio: 98.5 The Sports Hub (Boston); ESPN LA 710 AM (Los Angeles)
Streaming: MLS Live (now available on ESPN+)