The New England Revolution have been drawn into Group C alongside Toronto FC, Montreal Impact and DC United. This group may not be coined as a “Group of Death” in the MLS is Back Tournament, but it could prove competitive as any other.
Toronto and DC were level on 50 points in the 2019 regular season, and the Revolution and Impact were on 45 and 41 points, respectively. Montreal has already beaten the Revolution 2-1 this season, whereas Toronto and DC have both picked up a win each.
To make matters worse, recent meetings between the Revolution and both Montreal and DC haven’t gone exactly to plan. The Revolution have only beaten Montreal once out of their last five meetings, and have only been victorious once in their last 11 meetings with DC.
Head-to-head records as of late may not favor the Revolution heading into the tournament but the majority of these results were when Jay Heaps or Brad Friedel were at the helm of the coaching staff, and as fans know, much has changed since then.
The Revolution made the playoffs last season when almost all hope was lost after hiring Bruce Arena as coach and sporting director, and the team looked poised for success in the 25th season of the MLS. Even after a slow start this season — a 2-1 loss to Montreal and one-all draw to the Chicago Fire — the Revolution have everything they need to advance to the knockout rounds. The club’s welcoming back captain Carles Gil, a fully-fit defense, and have the luxury of Arena’s experience in major tournaments.
- The Return of Carles Gil - Gil was injured for all of preseason and missed the first two games of the season where his absence was felt. The Revolution failed to get anything going offensively without the Spaniard, and Gustavo Bou didn’t look like himself while slotting into Gil’s playmaking role. The return of Gil will also see the return of a dangerous duo between himself and Bou, who together racked up a total of 19 goals and 6 assists. Over the course of a whole season this may not seem like a lot, but remember Bou joined late last season and scored nine times in only 13 games. Newcomer Adam Buska is another player who’ll benefit from Gil returning to the starting lineup, and the Polish designated player will be hungry to get on the end of any and all passes. It’s unknown what exact formation will be utilized to get the most out of these players, but Group C should expect to be up against what could be the most dangerous front-three in the group.
- A healthy defense - In past years, Revolution fans have been too familiar with defensive mishaps costing the team points as a lead was only safe if the final whistle had blown. Once manager Arena arrived it became clear the Revolution were beginning to defend as a cohesive unit but it was still a makeshift back line due to regular occurring injuries and question marks at the fullback position. At this tournament the Revolution will be able to welcome new left fullback, Alexander Buttner, to the starting-11, which will be welcomed as the squad has struggled to fill the left fullback position since Chris Tierney retired. The Dutch fullback can also give the Revolution attacking options from the left side through his crossing and passing ability as Gil generally operates from the right. In central defense, Andrew Farrell and Antonio Delamea will most likely feature, but the latter could be replaced for Henry Kessler who had a strong showing in the first two games of the season. The Revolution now have options in defense and to combine that with the teams overall improvement since Arena took charge, they should be a tough team to break down at this tournament.
- Bruce Arena’s Experience - Another aspect to prove decisive in the group stages will be coaching due to no preseason and teams having little time to prepare for such a tournament. Group C in particular will have plenty of coaching talent on display: Greg Vanney who’s taken Toronto to three of the last four MLS Cup Finals; the second-longest active tenured MLS coach in Greg Olsen; Thierry Henry, once regarded as one of the best players in the world turned coach and of course, the Revolution’s Bruce Arena. This is where the Revolution should be able to grab the upper hand in the group as Arena is the winningest active coach in MLS history. Over his career, Arena has won a plethora of titles but most importantly, has major tournament experience. Arena has managed the United States in two World Cups, 2002 and 2006, and won three Gold Cups. This experience combined with the fact the Revolution were one of the first teams to start training should have them firing on all cylinders once the tournament begins.
My Rather Bold (and Hopeful) Prediction: Predicting how any team will play after an extended break and the tournament still being a month away makes it tough but I think the Revolution will go undefeated in Group C. I’m predicting two wins and a draw, which should see them top the group unless in the event of goal differential or another tiebreaker.