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Know Thy Enemy: Midweek Revolution Shooting Boots vs NYCFC Edition

The Revs have a long unbeaten streak going, but just two wins in that stretch while City comes into the midweek clash winners of three of four.

SOCCER: SEP 29 MLS - New York City FC at New England Revolution Photo by Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

I am thinking of much happier times.

That goal feels so long ago and while Bou found the scoresheet in the New England Revolution’s last game against RBNY, goals have been hard to come by for the Revs. Looking at the overall shooting numbers it’s easy to see why: New England as a team has put only 34 of a total of 120 shots (about 28% on target) and with 7 goals on 120 shots, that’s a 6% team scoring rate.

While the Revs front line has been fairly productive, with Gustavo Bou leading the team with three goals and Teal Bunbury and Adam Buksa with two each - both Bou and Buksa are converting on less than 10% of their shots. Bou leads MLS in shots with 34 total, but only 14 of those (about 40%) are on goal. These Shots On Goal numbers are much lower than other league leaders like Diego Rossi of LAFC (7 goals, 17/28 SOG; 60%), Kacper Przybylko of the Philadelphia Union (4 goals, 11/18 SOG; 61%) and in only four games Ayo Akinola of Toronto FC (5 goals, 11/15 SOG, 73%).

If the Revs are going to win game thanks to their offense instead of Matt Turner and the New England backline, at the current shooting/conversion rates of Bou and Buksa, they’ll need to take about 20 shots to put about 8 on target, and score 2 goals. That is not very efficient but at the same time this season has been very strange for a variety of reasons and it’s completely understandable for MLS teams to not be firing on all cylinders.

However, lacking Carles Gil’s creativity aside, the Revs have gotten better at a few things. New England seems much more threatening on corner kick and set piece opportunities this year in particular with Alexander Buttner’s service recently leading to a Teal Bunbury goal against DC United. But overall, the Revs have lacked the big chances in front of goal like Bou’s close range finish against RBNY for much of the season.

At some point, New England will figure out the balance between their speed and technical players with a true target man like Buksa up front. Revs strikers being starved of service or the ball up top is nothing new, it’s been a recurring problem over the past several years. As the Revs get stronger and build chemistry in their attack (Buksa still hasn’t played 10 games in New England yet) I think the goals will come.

However, today the Revs must turn away a streaking NYCFC team looking to continue their rise up the Eastern Conference standings. As always, we talk to our “friends” over at Hudson River Blue and Christian Smith. Be sure to check out my answer’s to Christian’s questions over on their site.

TBM: NYCFC has won three of four after a dismal stretch to start the MLS season and a poor performance in the MLS is Back tourney. What’s the biggest change in the last four games that you’ve noticed that has led to taking nine points?

CS: Against Columbus, it was definitely a change in shape. After meeting with the players following the loss to RBNY, Deila swapped out the 4-2-3-1/3-5-2 and went back to the classic 4-3-3 which seemed to give players more freedom. Even though the 1-0 win against the Crew was more the result of a defensive gaffe than anything else, they looked much more fluid in transition and in the final third. Against Chicago, however, it was definitely due in part to Maxi Moralez’s return from injury. I don’t care what anyone says — that man is the best pure playmaker in MLS. His vision and work both on and off the ball are invaluable to how NYCFC want to play: control the ball at all times and wait for openings.

TBM: The one loss in NYC’s stretch of games was to RBNY on a howler from Sean Johnson, has his play been a concern this year or was that close call just a one off?

CS: It’s definitely just been a one-off. Johnson is only human and this isn’t his first mistake, nor will it be his last. But those mistakes are few and far between. Other than that, he’s as reliable a keeper as you could ever hope for and his leadership cannot be overstated.

TBM: NYC’s lineup graphics seem all over the place...a 3-5-2 against the Red Bulls, a 4-1-4-1 against Columbus - what do you think the best lineup/combination is for NYC and why?

CS: Despite what I said before, I think it’s definitely the 4-2-3-1. James Sands and Alex Ring as the defensive pivots — with Ring being given the green light to move box-to-box. Alexandru Mitrita at the left, Jesus Medina on the right, and Maxi in the middle. Due to Maxi’s calf injury, City have been unable to really put this into play since the restart. But with him back in the fold, the 4-2-3-1 seems like their best chance to do damage offensively while remaining stout at the back.

TBM: Now to follow up, how do you think NYC will lineup against the Revs, are there any injuries for City and what is your scoreline prediction?

CS: It’s really hard to determine how exactly they’ll line up because Deila alluded to possibly rotating the squad earlier this afternoon. Maxi will definitely be involved. Taty Castellanos might be given the nod at striker with Heber struggling. I can see Nicolas Acevedo getting a proper start to give Sands and/or Ring a rest. I say the backline remains the same — Anton Tinnerholm, Maxime Chanot, Alex Callens, and Ronald Matarrita.

Injury wise, the only player that has formally been ruled out to this point is Gedion Zelalem. Sebabstien Ibeagha has returned to training, but will likely be questionable. Maxi Moralez and Ismael Tajouri-Shradi should both be good to go.

As much as I view this as a trap game, I think NYCFC has finally bought into, and contributed to Deila’s system enough to be comfortable and dangerous even when rotating. They’re on a high right now, so I say they squeak out a 2-1 win with Taty Castellanos grabbing the first Tajouri-Shradi announcing his return with style.