The road remains rocky for the Revolution as they travel to the Big Apple for a big test against the best home team in MLS — New York City FC — who are undefeated in Yankee Stadium this season. The Blues have been one of the most solid teams and a prime Cup contender all year, but their form has suffered lately under new skipper Dome Torrent. They’ve also had a rash of injuries. Regardless, they sit firmly in third place in the East while vying for a top-two playoff spot and a first-round bye.
It goes without saying that the Revs need a result as time on their postseason hopes ticks away. Fortunately, New England is facing an NYCFC side that hasn't won at home since the middle of July, earning just two draws. It doesn't get any easier for the Revs, though, as road fixtures vs Atlanta United and LAFC await them over the next few weeks. Dropping points is no longer a viable option if they want to keep their season alive in 2018.
First Meeting: March 24, 2018, at Gillette Stadium
Result: Revs 2, NYCFC 2
Coming off a bye week following a last-gasp home win over Colorado — the first for Brad Friedel and his squad in 2018 — New England entertained a New York City FC side missing key components, primarily superstar Italian David Villa. Regardless, the Revs were unable to collect three points despite holding leads twice in the match. Diego Fagundez put the home team ahead in the 11th minute, a lead which held through halftime. However, Villa understudy Ismael Tajouri-Shradi scored soon after the break, and then again with fifteen minutes remaining following Juan Agudelo’s 63rd-minute strike.
New York City FC: A Closer Look
Overall Record: 14-7-6, 48 pts, 50 GF, 36 GA, +14 GD
Standing: 3rd in Eastern Conference
Current Form: L-D-L-W-D
Record: 10-0-3, 33 points (2.5 points/match), +23 GD
GF: 30 (2.3 GF/match)
GA: 7 (0.5 GA/match)
Primary Formation: 4-3-3
The Blues have been dominant at home this season, winning ten and drawing three without a loss. They’ve also scored 30 goals and allowed just 7 in those 13 matches. However, their home form has dipped recently, as they’ve managed only two draws and no wins since the middle of July.
NYCFC may field a patchwork lineup on Wednesday due to injury and international call-ups. Effective box-to-box midfielder Yangel Herrera has been out with an ankle injury for some time. Winger Jesus Medina, who was in good scoring form about a month ago, has missed the last few weeks with a hamstring ailment. Center forward Jo Inge Berget injured his adductor and hasn’t featured in quite a while. Additionally, centerback Alex Callens is questionable with a knee injury.
Several key players have also been called up for September friendlies, including top scorer Tajouri-Shradi (Libya), who’s notched three goals in the last four matches. Other national team absentees are first-choice centerback Maxime Chanot (Luxembourg) and midfielders Ebenezer Ofori (Ghana) and Rodney Wallace (Costa Rica). All are expected to miss the Revolution match.
However, defensive midfielder Alex Ring is a menace, and the NYCFC back four has been rock-solid at home. Goalkeeper Sean Johnson already has nine shutouts on the year. Nothing will come easy for New England.
Team Leaders (at home):
Villa - 6
Moralez - 5
Medina/Tajouri-Shradi - 4
Moralez/Medina - 4
Villa/Berget/Tinnerholm - 2
Key Passes (per game):
Moralez - 3.7
Tajouri-Shradi - 2.1
Villa - 2.0
Ofori - 88.7
Callens - 85.3
Ring - 84.1
Tackles (per game):
Herrera - 5.4
Ring - 2.6
Moralez/Ofori - 2.4
Clearances (per game):
Chanot - 4.8
Ibeagha - 3.6
Callens - 3.2
Save % - 72.2
GA/gm - 1.28
Shutouts - 9
New England Revolution: A Closer Look
Record: 7-10-9, 30 pts, 39 GF, 42 GA, -3 GD
Standing: 8th in Eastern Conference (7 points below red line)
Current Form: D-L-L-L-D
Record: 1-6-5, 8 points (0.7 points/match), -8 GD
GF: 16 (1.3 GF/match)
GA: 24 (2.0 GA/match)
Primary Formation: 4-2-3-1
Although the Revs’ all-around goal prevention has improved of late, their set piece defending abandoned them yet again in a 1-1 home draw to Portland. Of more concern is their attack, which has sputtered since a 3-3 draw at Orlando City in early August. They’ve scored just three goals in four matches, and all have come from defensive-minded players. In fact, Scott Caldwell’s goal in the 58th minute against the Timbers snapped a team scoring drought that spanned nearly 270 minutes (equivalent to almost three full matches).
For the first time in a while, Kelyn Rowe was given a chance to pull the attacking strings against Portland and didn’t disappoint in the number ten role. Might he get another chance against NYCFC? Fagundez was moved out wide in place of Agudelo, who came on as a substitute. However, Friedel was disappointed in Diego’s performance, so it’ll be interesting to see who gets the nod on Wednesday. Striker Teal Bunbury overcame a minor knee injury and played 90 minutes after missing the Philadelphia match.
Following his first-ever start last week against the Union, holding midfielder Cristhian Machado didn’t even make an appearance against the Timbers. One has to wonder if he’s underperforming or still trying to learn the system and style of play. Caldwell returned from suspension and joined Luis Caicedo in the defensive midfield before being replaced by Wilfried Zahibo. However, Caicedo is suspended for this match due to yellow-card accumulation. Who takes his spot?
Brandon Bye has become the first choice left back, as Claude Dielna and Gabriel Somi both appear to be absent from any future plans in Foxboro. Centerback Jalil Anibaba started alongside Michael Mancienne for the first time, spelling Antonio Delamea.
With odds of making the postseason almost insurmountable at this point, the frustration in Friedel and his staff has become palpable. The first-year manager laid down the gauntlet soon after the Timbers draw, saying that club members are now playing for their contracts. What affect will that have on the locker room? Will a renewed sense of urgency be evident in the Big Apple on Wednesday night?
Team Leaders (on the road):
Penilla/Bunbury - 5
Zahibo/Fagundez - 2
Fagundez - 4
Key Passes (per game):
Fagundez - 3.3
Penilla - 1.1
Caicedo - 0.6
Delamea - 86.7
Mancienne - 86.2
Caldwell - 82.1
Tackles (per game):
Caicedo - 3.0
Farrell - 2.3
Mancienne/Zahibo - 2.0
Clearances (per game):
Mancienne - 7.5
Delamea - 4.2
Anibaba - 3.3
Save % - 64.8
GA/gm - 1.62
Shutouts - 4
Despite being short-handed, NYCFC presents a significant challenge for the Revs, especially at home. Villa missed the first match in Foxboro, but he’ll likely be available to trouble New England defenders from the left wing. He’s scored a couple goals in the past five matches for the Blues. Along with number ten Maxi Moralez, the hosts have enough skill on the ball to create chances from nothing and, once they get a lead, they don’t relinquish it. Their short passing attack usually flows down the middle or the left through Villa and Moralez. Andrew Farrell and Mancienne, along with defensive mids Caldwell and/or Caicedo, will certainly have their work cut out for them dealing with this pair.
That said, the Blues are susceptible to attacks down the wings, which might play into the Revs’ hands even on a narrow Yankee Stadium pitch. As we saw in the first match at Gillette, New England may have success high-pressing an NYCFC team that plays possession soccer in their own half. The Revs were able to create lots of chances in March, and we could see the same on Wednesday against a team that gives up plenty of scoring opportunities. The Blues also struggle with defending long shots, so maybe we see Rowe back in at number ten for the Revs.
Both squads play an aggressive style of soccer, so expect fouls and cards. This rivalry has seen its share of yellows and reds in the past.
With NYCFC in only its fourth year of existence, this match is just the 11th all-time regular season meeting between these conference rivals and the final one this season. The Revolution hold a slight 4-3-3 advantage in the series, but they have won just once in the Bronx (1-2-2), a 3-1 victory back in 2015 during the Blues’ inaugural season. The clubs split last year’s three-game series 1-1-1, with each side earning a 2-1 home win and New England gaining a road draw.
How to Watch
Kickoff: 7:00 p.m. ET on Wednesday, September 5, 2018
Venue: Yankee Stadium, New York City NY
TV: NBC Sports Boston (Boston); YES Network (New York City)
Radio: 98.5 The Sports Hub (Boston); WNYE 91.5 FM (New York City)
Streaming: MLS Live (now available on ESPN+)