Saturday marks the New England Revolution’s return to the playoffs after three years away. They have a daunting task ahead of them, as they’ll face Atlanta United FC at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Here are three reasons why the Revs will win (and three reasons why they’ll lose).
Why the Revs will win
- The Revs are good on the break. In fact, it’s one of the few things they did well under Brad Friedel and that hasn’t changed. The speed of Cristian Penilla and Teal Bunbury make the Revs dangerous when countering. This was seen two weeks ago when Bunbury redirected a long ball into the path of Penilla. The Ecuadorian finished the opportunity—something he doesn’t always do—to bring the game back to level terms. The Revs’ ability to counter will be a threat to Atlanta, who will be missing Miles Robinson.
- Gustavo Bou is a game-changer. It’s been awhile since the Revs have had a player who can score at any minute, but they have that now in Bou. The attacker had nine goals and two assists in 14 appearances. Perhaps more impressive is the fact that he’s scored these in a variety of ways. With Carles Gil pulling the strings and Bou ready to pounce from anywhere on the field, the visitors have a chance.
- Atlanta have to get past Matt Turner. It’s now become an expectation that Turner will make at least one breathtaking per game. Atlanta put three past him two weeks ago, but that game was pretty open. I expect the Revs to be more disciplined defensively as a way to limit Atlanta’s chances. When they do get through, I expect Turner to be there to do what he’s done all season.
Why the Revs will lose
- The outside back positions are areas of weakness. The right back position has been occupied by Brandon Bye, who likes to get into the attack. This leaves space in behind that opponents can exploit. The left back spot has been less stable as Edgar Castillo, DeJuan Jones, and Jalil Anibaba have taken turns. Anibaba was used there most recently and he struggled to keep up with Julian Gressel. Jones has the pace to do the job, but he’s raw. Castillo has his own struggles with playing too high, plus he’s coming back from injury. This is all to say that you shouldn’t be surprised if Atlanta owns the wide areas.
- The Atlanta attack is just too good. Josef Martinez’s 27 goals in 2019 is scary enough, but he’s not the only weapon they have. Gressel also had a good season, collecting six goals and 12 assists. Pity Martínez isn’t far behind with his five goals and nine assists. Atlanta also have Ezequiel Barco, Justin Meram, and Darlington Nagbe. In short, they have a lot of weapons.
- Atlanta are playing at home. Home field advantage is very real in MLS and that’s especially true for Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Atlanta were 12-2-3 while playing in front of their fans in 2019. Even more daunting is the fact that they scored 36 goals while only conceded 14. The crowd on Saturday, which is expected to surpass 70,000, will be rambunctious and that will certainly be a factor.