There have been several surreal moments in 2019 for the New England Revolution. Giving up 15 goals in three games and losing back-to-back matches by 5 goals eventually gave away to Bruce Arena leading the Revs to a win on the road against the LA Galaxy.
Now the Revs are on the verge of team history, having already tied a previous team record of 11 games unbeaten - a mark set by the vaunted Nicol and Twellman team of old. The best part, people are starting to notice. Today the Revs will play in front of a sold out supporter’s section in The Fort and a possible crowd of 30,000 people. Just mentioning these ideas a few months ago would have been laughable
All that stands in their way is the best team in the league and an old friend. As always we chat with the knowledgeable Alicia Rodriguez from Angels on Parade about all things LAFC and pour one out for the Zombie Goats. Be sure to check out my answer’s to Alicia’s questions over on their site.
TBM: Three months ago would you ever have considered putting the Revs above 20 in the MLS power rankings for the rest of 2019? Give us an outsider’s perspective on the Arena era/Revs turnaround.
AR: From the outside, the turnaround has been remarkable. To me, it looks as much that Brad Friedel’s departure removed the shackles from the squad as anything else -- even with Mike Lapper in as interim manager, the change was instant. I give the Revs credit for making a major change with parting ways with Friedel and Mike Burns shortly after, as it was clear the club needed a clean-out.
At the same time, it’s interesting having Arena now. Unlike most managers in his position, he has redemption to aim for, after the disaster of his second USMNT tenure. I’m not sure if it’s all going to go without a hitch moving forward, but he’s not resting on his laurels, likely knowing in his heart of hearts that he needs to end his coaching career on a good note, and now’s his chance.
TBM: Okay, so Carlos Vela is good at soccer and is probably the runaway Landon Donovan MVP winner. But he’s got a ton of help from a great lineup around him - highlight one or two players also having a big impact on LAFC this year.
AR: It’s tough, because everyone getting major minutes has been terrific this season, honestly. There are two goalkeepers -- Tyler Miller and Pablo Sisniega -- who seem like MLS-starter quality, a backline that is mostly the same as last year, except for newcomer Eddie Segura, who has been fantastic, a frontline that is spectacular around Vela, and a midfield that is offering a new paradigm in MLS.
The midfield may be the highlight of the rest of the LAFC roster. Eduard Atuesta and Mark-Anthony Kaye have raised their games tremendously this year, and the biggest surprise in my eyes has been the emergence of Latif Blessing as a depth option winger/forward to a Kante-like central midfielder. The Ghanaian has pulled off a position switch that you just don’t see, and he looks set to stay in that spot moving forward. All in all, it’s been truly impressive to see how well LAFC plays as a team.
TBM: How’s our old pal Lee Nguyen? Is he getting enough minutes? I hear he’s playing a more holding/box-to-box role with LAFC but talk about Lee’s role and effectiveness with the team over the past year and a half.
AR: Related to the above conversation, Nguyen’s season has seen some ups and downs. Last season, after arriving at LAFC, he took some time to figure out Bob Bradley’s style of two-way play in midfield, but he figured it out. With Benny Feilhaber (another former Rev!) departing in the offseason, it looked like Nguyen would be the midfield general this year, another attacking midfielder who had major responsibilities on defense, too, but after picking up an injury a few weeks in, Blessing grabbed Nguyen’s spot in the lineup out of nowhere. As a result, Nguyen had to wait to get back into the lineup, but he’s gotten some run lately, and is playing well, coming off a very good shift off the bench last week against Atlanta United. About a month ago, I thought Nguyen was legitimate trade bait, but I wouldn’t be surprised if LAFC want to hold onto him and have convinced him he’ll get a decent share of playing time moving forward as they aim for titles.
Lineup: Tyler Miller; Steven Beitashour, Walker Zimmerman, Eddie Segura, Jordan Harvey; Mark-Anthony Kaye, Eduard Atuesta, Latif Blessing; Carlos Vela, Adama Diomande, Diego Rossi
Notable injuries: Mohamed El-Munir (out), Pablo Sisniega (questionable)
Prediction: 3-1 win LAFC