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Know Thy Enemy: The Revolution’s Date With Destiny in Orlando Edition

The team’s first Shield cements one the best if not the best season in 26 years of Revolution soccer. The only question left is just how great this team will be in December.

MLS: Inter Miami CF at Philadelphia Union Kyle Ross-USA TODAY Sports

How are we supposed to follow up yesterday? Let me explain...no, there is too much, let me sum up.

The New England Revolution won their first Supporter’s Shield in team history, clinching officially yesterday by virtue of Sporting KC’s 2-1 win against Seattle. The Shield confirms what many of us already knew but maybe haven’t talked about enough yet. That this is likely to be the best Revs team ever and the only question left is not if they’re the greatest Revs team to date, but how great.

What yesterday meant to this fanbase can be found by scrolling through the #NERevs hashtag. A Match in Tweets post would not be able to do the day justice as the outpouring of emotions from fans who have been following this team much longer than I have finally got to celebrate the team’s first major MLS trophy.

Through the Steve Nicol era and Twellman years, fans watched a consistently good to even great and talented team that deserved more from that consistency than they ended up with. What makes the Shield such an accomplishment is that the Revs are so far removed from that era with only the MVLee run of 2014 to bolster the resume of a franchise that had been left behind in the Designated Player era.

It has taken Bruce Arena two and a half years in charge to do what he does best - build up an MLS side to greatness. He did it in the middle of a global pandemic not just by adding legitimate DP level talent (yes before anyone mentions it, Brad Friedel signed Carles Gil) but by developing talent already on the roster and supplementing the base of a solid squad with MLS veterans. Basically, the same thing he’s done with DC and LA.

So how do we follow up yesterday? By adding to the greatness already achieved.

Judging by the above Teal quote, the Revs are still focused on the task at hand which is to get ready for the playoffs. Yes, the league points record is also within reach and the Revs still have two more home games after today and could clinch that as well. But the end of the year schedule and upcoming international break adds to the difficulty of the Revs capitalizing on this momentum going into the playoffs.

This is perhaps the trickiest assignment of them all for the Shield winners since the Revs are going to have up to three weeks off from their last league match against Inter Miami CF on November 7th to their Conference Semifinal playoff matchup. Bruce Arena has hinted at a closed door scrimmage to gain match sharpnesss but in the short term I expect the same squad rotation to continue over the next few days before what would likely be the Revs first choice playoff lineup on the Shield celebration day on the last day of the season against Miami.

Today, the Revs fans in particular can celebrate and deservedly so. Eventually I hope the team has a chance to properly sit down and appreciate this accomplishment before the playoffs. There’s still work to do be done.

This is likely already the best and greatest Revolution team in the club’s 26-year history. The only question remains is just how much greatness are we going to associate with this team a little over a month from now.

But first, there is still business to regular season business to settle. A win today ties the Revs with Bob Bradley’s 2019 LAFC team on 72 points atop the league’s all time regular season points list. Standing in the way are the Lions of Orlando City and with Shield already in hand, we’ll see if the Revs play with less pressure on them in their final road game of the year.

As always, we chat with our good friend Ben Miller of The Mane Land who talks about OCSC’s improved recent form, getting players back from injury, and whether or not Orlando can navigate a brutal end of the year schedule to secure a first round home game in the playoffs. As always, be sure to check out my answers to Ben’s questions over on their site.

TBM: Unlike the Revs, Orlando gets to stay at home for a double game week. How much squad rotation should we see between the Montreal and New England games and how well suited are the Lions to deal with a heavily congested schedule like this?

BM: I think there will be a bit of rotation, but not a ton. For example, I think Sebas Mendez and Nani will both start on Sunday after being substitutes midweek. Orlando is fortunately beginning to finally get healthy. The Lions went long stretches of the season with a lengthy and varied injury list, but things are finally starting to turn the corner in that area. Alexandre Pato even made his second appearance of the season in a roughly 10 minute cameo during the midweek draw against Montreal. OCSC definitely has the bodies to rotate in and out, but the question is whether or not the results will come as well.

TBM: The Revs handed Orlando their fourth straight loss last month, but the Lions rebounded to take 7 of their next 9 points (now 8 of 12 after their draw vs Miami midweek). What went wrong during that losing streak and what’s been the biggest improvement during their current unbeaten streak?

BM: A myriad of things went wrong during that nasty little streak. Injuries were coming thick and fast, players were getting suspended for red cards and yellow card accumulation, and the team generally seemed like it suddenly forgot how to defend. Helping the current four game unbeaten run is the fact that the injury list is much shorter, discipline has been much better, and the defense has improved. The team got a spark with a late draw on the road against Nashville and a last gasp win against D.C. and has used that momentum to build a little unbeaten streak. The Lions are also beginning to look more like themselves again, with an excellent first half display against Montreal that really should have translated to more than one goal. Getting starters back on the field at the same time seems to be helping the team build up chemistry again, and not a moment too soon.

TBM: The Eastern Conference playoff race is a mess and I think it’s not unfair to say that no one wants to either host a first round game or even grab that 7th seed. Orlando currently has the 4th seed and final first round home game but do you think they can hold onto it?

BM: With all of that being said, things aren’t perfect. As I alluded to above, Orlando’s dominance against Montreal in the first half on Wednesday was such that the Lions probably should have had two or three goals going into halftime. Instead, they only had one, started the second half flat, conceded a goal in the 51st minute and had to settle for a 1-1 draw that felt a little like a loss. That failure to finish off a team when it was on the ropes is a little worrying, and if it becomes a trend then look out. Results went Orlando’s way and there’s still a three point gap between the Lions in fourth and Atlanta in fifth, but OCSC probably needs to win three of its last four games to hang onto that last home playoff spot or rise higher. The problem with that is the schedule. Orlando has New England, Columbus, Nashville and Montreal left to play. New England is obviously top of the East, Columbus seems to be finding its footing, Nashville has been good all year, and Montreal has been surging. Compare that to Atlanta who gets the Red Bulls who are 9th, 11th placed Miami, and 13th and 14th placed Toronto and Cincinnati respectively. No game in MLS is easy, but the pressure is 100% on Orlando and there isn’t really any room for error. I’d love to say that I think the Lions will hold onto it but years of pain with this team has made me very gun shy. I don’t think I see it happening, but I’d love to be wrong.

Lineup/Injuries/Predictions/Etc.

Uri Rosell went off injured on Wednesday and Joao Moutinho is listed as questionable, but otherwise everyone should be available.

My guess at a lineup is this:

Pedro Gallese; Emmanuel Mas, Robin Jansson, Antonio Carlos, Ruan; Sebas Mendez, Junior Urso, Mauricio Pererya, Chris Mueller, Nani; Daryl Dike

For a prediction I’ll go with a 2-2 draw