The New England Revolution are in the midst of a tight playoff race with only nine-points separating third-place DC United and 10th place Chicago Fire. Currently, the Revolution are in the playoffs sitting in sixth place on 34 points, while having a game in hand and one point over the Montreal Impact in seventh place. With nine games left in the regular season, the Revolution are not a lock for the playoffs just yet.
Sure, the odds seem in favor of the Revolution after only losing once over the last 13 games, but it’s important to note that the team has yet to consistently face strong competition. Out of the nine remaining games, seven of them are against eastern teams in the playoffs or fighting for a playoff berth. This includes first-place Atlanta United, who the Revs face on the road to end the season. Each game should and will be played with a playoff intensity so Bruce Arena needs to deploy the strongest squad possible to close out the season.
The Revolution’s formation has mainly been a 4-2-3-1 and should be moving forward as it easily allows for the shape to change to a 4-1-4-1 or 4-3-3 depending on in-game adjustments. Although Arena played a 5-3-2 formation against the Seattle Sounders in the 3-3 draw this past weekend, the Revolution should stick to formations that focus on their greatest strength in attacking, not defending. With that being said, here is my strongest starting 11 for the Revolution:
Goalkeeper: Matt Turner - Along with Gustavo Bou and Carles Gil, this is one of the more obvious picks. Since being given the starter job, Turner has made crucial saves to keep the Revolution in games and has been one of the most important players since Arena took charge.
Right-Back: Andrew Farrell - Farrell has been impressive as a center-back this season likewise with the rest of the Revolution defense but has looked vulnerable to opposition attacking from wide areas. As the defense returns to full fitness, Farrell should shift to right-back to offer the Revolution more strength in wide areas.
Center-Back: Michael Mancienne - Having returned from injury at the weekend against the Sounders, the Revolution should continue starting Mancienne to regain full match fitness. Now as the squad has structure, Mancienne will be able to show his defensive qualities to Revolution fans and prove that management was right to sign him last year.
Center-Back: Antonio Delamea - Arena hopes to have Delamea back training with the squad before the end of the month. This is great news as before his injury, Delamea was in good form alongside Farrell. Given minutes and coaching, Delamea and Mancienne could become a strong center-back partnership that’ll help the Revolution steal points if our offense isn’t up to par.
Left-Back: Edgar Castillo - Castillo is a debatable selection with question marks surrounding his defensive play but quite frankly, there’s no one better in his position. Shifting Farrell to right-back could increase competition for Castillo as Brandon Bye could potentially switch sides and try to steal the left-back spot. Defensive miscues aside, Castillo has proven to contribute offensively so a little bit of healthy competition could help improve his all-around game.
Defensive Mid: Luis Caicedo - Caicedo is a no brainer as he’s proven to be the best box-to-box or defensive midfielder in the Revolution squad. He brings energy and tackles into the midfield, while also having a positive effect on the Revolution’s transition into attack.
Defensive Mid: Wilfried Zahibo - Zahibo has been hit or miss but with the right coaching and structure, Zahibo can prove his worth down the stretch. As there are question marks surrounding the defensive play of our fullbacks, the Revolution should utilize two defensive midfielders. It’s a given that Caicedo is one of the first names on the team sheet, it would be wise to start Zahibo, 6’2, over Scott Caldwell, 5’8, to have more size in the midfield.
Left-Wing/Attacking Mid: Cristian Penilla - After 12 goals and seven assists in 2018, Penilla has yet to show equivalent production from the wing in 2019. It appears teams started to figure out Penilla was the most dangerous attacker on the Revolution but now that isn’t the case. If given time to form chemistry with Bou and Gil, Penilla will eventually find himself producing again. As Penilla is no longer marked out of games, the Ecuadorian will have more license to take on defenders to get into dangerous shooting or crossing areas.
Central Attacking Mid: Juan Agudelo - Agudelo isn’t your ideal central attacking midfielder, but the Revolution doesn’t have a lot to work with here. Agudelo’s experience as a striker but also the ability to play as a box-to-box midfiedler could make for an interesting inclusion in the starting 11. The versatility could see Agudelo switch with Bou at striker or Gil at right-wing, or even fall back into a three-man midfield. His goal numbers have dropped this and last season but surrounded by a quality attack, Agudelo could reinvent himself as a player.
Right-Wing/Attacking Mid: Carles Gil - Can you imagine what Gil’s numbers would be if Arena was the coach from the beginning of the year? It’s no doubt that Gil would walk into the starting 11 of most MLS teams. This isn’t only because of his ability to pick out the right passes from anywhere on the pitch, he’s also proven he can score goals when given the chance and is reliable from the spot.
Striker: Gustavo Bou - It’s unsure where Bou’s best position is yet but it’s safe to say he’ll produce from anywhere. Bou has scored from outside the box, on quick give-and-go’s as well as a header proving he’s indeed a natural goal scorer. With Penilla and Gil operating from wide areas, the opposition defense will have no choice other than to spread out as you can’t leave either with space. Whether it’s passes to feet, in-behind or crosses, Bou will have plenty of service from his attacking partners but let’s not count out his ability to create chances for himself.