Nothing about 2020 has made any sense this year. This is understandable because we’re still in the middle of a pandemic.
But the New England Revolution have had a strange year, even by their standards in the year of the Coronavirus and sports bubbles and social distancing. This was a team that looked like they might miss the playoffs and host a first round match all in the span of several weeks before finally limping to the finish line and the 8th seed.
But after knocking of the Supporter’s Shield winners in Philadelphia earlier in the week, the Revs are by far playing their best soccer of the year and largely thanks to Carles Gil being healthy and pulling strings in the middle. Tajon Buchanan’s effectiveness at right back has also been a major factor in the playoffs and even on the road in Orlando, there’s a lot of momentum for New England right now.
That being said, I have kept most of my expectations and focus on the Revs for next year, largely because the Revs were completely ineffective without Gil. Now with Gil and Bou among others healthy the Revs can make a playoff run now and use these games as a stepping stone to make a big run in 2021... health and pandemic permitting.
Now the Revs are playing with proverbial house money having achieved a goal and stage in the postseason that I, and I’m sure many others, thought was out of their reach several months ago. They probably shouldn’t be playing this weekend, but they are and they are in possibly the best form of the year and against an opponent that will not be at top strength.
Orlando City will be without starting keeper Pedro Gallese and defender Ruan who both saw red cards in their first round win over New York City FC, Gallese’s in particular drawing significant attention after being sent off for encroachment in the penalty shootout. We chatted with The Mane Land’s Ben Miller ahead of tomorrow’s match, be sure to check out my answers to his questions as well as my chat on the atrociously named “PawedCast” with Michael Citro and David Rohe.
TBM: As an OCSC fan/writer/follower, what were the emotions and thoughts going through your mind/the fanbase during the shootout with NYCFC?
BM: The primary emotion was confusion. It was incredibly unclear even on the broadcast what was happening and why. The letter of the law on Gallese’s sending-off was correct, but it seemed harsh, so frustration was also running rampant for me. Once Schlegel pulled the gloves on I was certain we’d lost the shootout, especially considering how he looked on Castellanos’ retake. The sheer joy of his save and Michel’s conversion cancelled all of those feelings out though. I truly have never seen anything like it before.
TBM: Pedro Gallese and Ruan are both out for this one, how does that impact the defensive side of the ball and how confident should the team be in backup keeper Brian Rowe?
BM: It has a big effect defensively, and Ruan’s absence will hamper the team offensively as well. His speed and ability to beat a man 1v1 is game-breaking, and will be sorely missed down the right hand side. Gallese’s absence is big simply because of how good he’s been for much of the year. He made several tremendous saves agaisnt NYCFC that kept Orlando in the game and hanging on until PK’s. With that being said, Brian Rowe is an able deputy, and he filled in well for Gallese while he was on international duty. I’m confident in Rowe’s ability as long as the defense in front of him can hold up its end of the bargain.
TBM: Chris Mueller and Daryl Dike were two breakout attackers for Orlando this year, talk about their season and why they click in this offense with Nani, Pereyra and Rosell.
BM: Mueller’s success is down to him continuing to grow and build on the ability he showed in his first two years in the league. He’s blossomed into a better dribbler, passer, and finisher, and he’s much better at making the correct decision in the final third. He works hard and runs his butt off, and his consistently strong play has helped take some of the creative pressure off Nani.
Dike has been good because of how well-rounded he is. The easy thing to do would be to dismiss him as simply a big, physical target man, but he’s much more than that. He’s good at running the channels, holding up play and bringing his teammates into attack, and he’s also a very good passer of the ball. With that being said he IS a big physical presence capable of turning his defender and driving at the defense. When he’s on form it gives the team a completely different dimension, and when he gets going it usually bodes very well for Orlando.
BM: It’s unclear whether or not Joao Moutinho will be available for selection, but if he is it’ll be a huge boost. Dom Dwyer is out after having knee surgery, and Ruan and Gallese are unavailable due to suspension. Otherwise I believe the team has a clean bill of health.
Brian Rowe; Joao Moutinho (hopefully), Antonio Carlos, Robin Jansson, Kyle Smith; Sebas Mendez, Uri Rosell, Mauricio Pereyra; Chris Mueller, Daryl Dike, Nani
This one has me very nervous with Orlando’s suspensions and how well New England played against Philadelphia but I’m going to go optimistic and say 3-2 Orlando.
If you need anything else just let me know, and have a happy thanksgiving!