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Eastern Conference Semifinal Preview: New England Revolution vs New York City FC

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The quest for the Cup officially begins now. Or did it begin like four weeks ago when the Revs last played a game?

MLS: Inter Miami CF at New England Revolution Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports

It’s finally time for the New England Revolution to get involved in the MLS Cup Playoffs. Over three weeks since the Revs ended their regular season and nearly two weeks into the postseason, the final Conference Semifinal is here as NYCFC, 2-0 winners against Atlanta United a week and a half ago, are in town trying to spoil the Revs’ Shield winning party.

More on the lineup in a bit, the broadcast information above is slightly off as the kickoff time is listed at 745pm EDT on the league website. There will be some pregame festivities including a cellphone lightshow via some kind of app, so be there early if you are into that sort of thing or if you are sensitive to flashing light displays maybe avoid the seats until kickoff.

Also, it’s gonna be cold. Like, playoff weather at Gillette cold, the best kind of weather. Taylor Twellman is pumped:

For your pregame enjoyment, a collection of articles from the last week or so and a big shout out to Seth Macomber for work as the 2014 MLS Cup history was a tremendous undertaking:

An Oral History of the 2014 MLS Cup Final run: Jay Heaps, AJ Soares, Jose Goncalves, Lee Nguyen and Jermaine Jones tell the tale of the Revs MLS Cup Final appearance.

What The MLS Cup Would Mean To Revs Fans: We reached out to fans for their experiences over the years in New England and got a tremendous amount of answers back. You’re all the best and this reminds me of Matty Jollie’s old “Let’s Win it For” post, an homage to the Sons of Sam Horn Red Sox message board thread, from before the 2014 MLS Cup. Hopefully we can bring that back too.

Revolution League Awards: Bruce Arena took home the Sigi Schmid Coach of the Year honor while Carles Gil won Comeback Player of the Year.

REVOLUTION LINEUP

There is only one question really on how the Revs will lineup, and that depends on if Adam Buksa is healthy.

If Buksa is ready to go from the start, the familiar diamond formation with Gustavo Bou and Buksa up top will be deployed, dropping Tajon Buchanan into the midfield with Gil, Tommy Mac, and Matt Polster.

The backline of DeJuan Jones, Henry Kessler, Andrew Farrell, and Brandon Bye in front of Matt Turner would only change barring an injury or a late sub needed to close out the game along the backline.

If Buksa isn’t 100% to start the match but still available to play, it gets interesting for the Revs but only slightly.

Having Buksa up top has been vital for the Revs down the stretch, and his absence was notable in their season ending 1-0 loss against Miami in the regular season. Teal Bunbury started that game up top with Bou but often times those two were stranded and the partnership didn’t have the same impact on the game. This is natural, Buksa’s aerial skillset changes the way the Revs can operate as a whole but especially in the box.

Should the Revs need to hold Buksa from the starting lineup, I’d expect a 4-2-3-1 like we saw at the beginning of the year. Bou up top, Teal and Tajon wide, and Gil, T-Mac, and Polster in the central midfield triangle. This look allows two major advantages for the Revs personnel: it gets Tajon higher and wider on the field to cause problems, and it get’s Teal’s engine and work rate into a spot where it’s more beneficial.

If the Revs can go through the first hour or so without needed Buksa and then bring him on as a closer, that could be the ideal scenario. Taking him off with a lead and allowing Ema Boateng, Teal, and Tajon to press tired legs has also been very effective this year so there are plans in place regardless of Buksa’s status but it seems at the very least to be available tonight.

NYCFC NOTES

The big absences for NYC are Anton Tinnerholm (Achilles) and Keaton Parks (blood clot surgery) which is a big deal for that backline. Last week against Atlanta, NYC was stifling defensively on the postage stamp against a very talented Atlanta team. Tayvon Gray had just under 400 minutes played on the year and likely will be at right back again to cover Tinnerholm. Alfredo Morales and James Sands were the holding midfield duo in front of them against Atlanta.

Still, NYC only put up 1.1xG, about half of that on Callen’s second goal from close range in the 53rd minute and overall were just 5-of-13 shooting on the night where Atlanta did win the possession battle but didn’t look good otherwise. On a proper field in a more open game, the Revs have done well agaisnt NYC this year - winning at RBA and Gillette while a heavily rotated squad lost at Yankee Stadium.

Valentin Castellanos, the MLS Golden Boot winner with 19 goals (tied with DC’s Ola Kamara but assist tiebreaker) is very good at soccer and NYC creates a lot of big chances and we know the Revs allow a lot of big chances. But NYCFC is also one of the more wayward finishing sides and should have scored a lot more goals this year and probably shouldn’t have been the 4th seed.

Seth will be proud of me, did this in under 1000 words. Enjoy the game everyone and check back for postgame coverage from everyone later tonight and tomorrow.