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The Bent Musket roundtable: Who do you want to face in the first playoff matchup?

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Should the Revs want to play NYCFC or Atlanta?

©J. Alexander Dolan

While the New England Revolution sit back and wait, the MLS playoffs will get underway.

The Revolution will face either Atlanta United or NYCFC in New England’s first playoff match of 2021.

New England has performed well against the 2019 champions, winning 2-1 early on in the season as well as a 1-0 victory in July that ended Gabriel Heinze’s stint in Atlanta.

The battles against NYCFC were a bit tougher as New England got a 3-2 win at home in June but were shut out by NYCFC in New York the next time the two teams faced off. The Revolution faced NYCFC once more and secured a 2-1 victory at home on September 11th.

So who does the staff at The Bent Musket want to see New England face? Let’s take a look.

Sam - NYCFC

New York has a bunch of injuries which makes them the much easier option for New England.

While Taty Castellanos is still up to his old tricks, the likes of Keaton Parks and Anton Tinnerholm are out for the rest of the season and Alexander Callens has picked up a muscle injury as well.

NYCFC’s best weapon (besides Taty, Heber, and Jesus Medina) is the fact that they play in Yankee Stadium. With the Revolution having homefield advantage, that is taken right off the table.

With Atlanta having stars like Josef Martinez who can flip a game on its head, the Revolution would be better off avoiding them. New England also has yet to face Atlanta under its new manager, Gonzalo Pineda. That could add another wrinkle that might have the Revolution headed home early.

Jake - NYCFC

The New England Revolution are just simply more familiar with NYC than they are with the post-Heinze Five Stripes. Under Gonzalo Pineda in the second half of the year, Atlanta would’ve been right with the Revs and the Seattle Sounders in PPG overall, rattling off a stretch of 9 wins in 12 games and ending on a 6 game unbeaten run with three wins and three draws.

In a similar stretch from September to mid-October after beating the Revs on the postage stamp field, NYC went on a stretch of 1 win in 10 games only beating Cincinnati and racking up four draws as well on that dreadful streak which is why they’re in the four/five game and not higher up on the East table. While NYC finished stronger with a 5 game unbeaten run with three wins and two draws, including an away 1-1 draw in Atlanta, I think the Five Stripes are the more in form team and the lack of familiarity bothers me just like Sam mentioned. The injuries are a factor, but we know NYC can score on their day, but I know the Revs on theirs can put 2 or 3 on the board against them and with Matt Turner in net, I like those odds.

I think this is a fascinating matchup for neutrals and I’m really interested to see what Atlanta can do on the small field under Pineda. Back in June, Atlanta mustered only 0.3 xG on three-of-six shooting though that performance was under Heinze. Even not at full strength, Yankee Stadium is a tremendous home field advantage for NYC and I do think they’ll win a high scoring affair, like 3-2 with the Cityzens moving on to Gillette a week and a half later.

Josh - NYCFC

So much has changed for this Atlanta United team since the Revs handed them a 1-0 defeat inside Mercedes-Benz Stadium on July 17th. For starters, Gonzalo Pineda is now in charge and holds a record of 10-3-3 since being named Atlanta’s head coach on August 12th. A big factor in Atlanta’s recent success has been the return of Joseph Martinez. Since returning after the departure of former coach Gabriel Heinze, Martinez has snagged eight goals and one assist.

Atlanta was also active in the transfer window as they brought in Luiz Araújo from Lille OSC. Since arriving in August, Araújo has contributed four goals and four assists over 15 appearances.

Atlanta boasts one of the league’s best defenses as guys like Miles Robinson, George Bello, and veteran keeper Brad Guzan worked to earn ten clean sheets in 2021 while only allowing 37 goals.

Although Taty Castellanos has been a thorn in the Revs defense this season, no one else on NYCFC’s roster has been an issue for Bruce and company. Additionally, NYCFC has dealt with injury issues as guys like Anton Tinnerholm, Keaton Parks pick up injuries that will keep them out. Most recently, Alexander Collins suffered an injury with Peru that has put a big question mark on his availability. It is safe to say the team taking the pitch against Atlanta will not be its strongest as several key players may be absent due to injury.

It’s a no-brainer. Take on a team that bolsters the best defense in the league while having two DP’s in the attack, or take on a club that has a recent history of injury problems? While I think it will take a miracle for NYCFC to advance, it will be the easier of the two options for the Revs to take on.