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Know Thy Enemy: Revolution vs. the NY Red Bulls Injury List Edition

The season ending injury for RBNY centerback Aaron Long is not only devastating for MLS but perhaps the USMNT as well.

SOCCER: MAY 08 MLS - Toronto FC at New York Red Bulls Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Of all the places the New York Red Bulls had to visit the week after losing star centerback Aaron Long for the year with an Achilles’ injury, I’m fairly certain Foxboro would be last on that list.

The history RBNY has against the New England Revolution and specifically on the road is substantial and the last place a road weary and injured squad wants to see is probably Gillette Stadium anyway.

While we sympathize with Energy Drink fans on the loss of the great Aaron Long (which also has significant USMNT implications in a heavy international year), especially coming off of last year’s injury to Carles Gil. We of course wish Aaron a speedy recovery in hopes he can feature for the United States during the 2022 calendar year. But I don’t know how to cheer up RBNY fans looking at this:

I mean, not even fabled Rider Bronc alum Florian Valot is spared here, robbing everyone of a great potential Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference matchup with Matt Turner (though this former Bronc refuses to mention Matt Turner’s school in writing as they are my most despised rival).

Say what you want about the Revs early season schedule, but it’s been pretty favorable. Getting CCL participants Philadelphia, Columbus, and Atlanta early in the schedule midweek and/or coming of midweek games, and playing two of those teams at home shorthanded, and now a rivalry matchup against an RBNY team with a devastating group of injuries.

New England has proven that they can win at home so far in 2021, but they have yet to prove that they can be a truly dominant team this season despite some of these scheduling breaks. They have played for the most part pretty darn good soccer outside of the opening 15 minutes in Chicago and a horrifically bad backpass in Nashville. And while the Revs have gotten the results they deserve, they haven’t gotten the multi-goal winning scorelines that their play probably deserves.

If the Revs are the top team in the Eastern Conference that we think they are, this would be a very good week to go out and prove it with a couple of early goals enroute to like a three-goal win. RBNY sit 9th in the standings with a 2W-3L-0D record, but oddly enough they have the same 7 goals scored and 6 goals allowed as New England does with one fewer game played. The Revs finishing woes are well known, but if they can’t pile on the goals this week against what might be a makeshift backline, that might be cause for a little concern.

Anyway, we talk to a man with a lot of concerns right now, especially for his backline, and that is managing editor of our frenemy site Once A Metro, Ben Cork. Be sure to check out my answers to Ben’s questions over on their site.

The Revolution and Red Bulls kick off this Saturday May 22nd, 2021 from Gillette Stadium at 8:08PM.

TBM: We’re all pretty gutted for Aaron Long’s injury and wish him a speedy recovery. How important was Long to the RBNY defense and how will Gerhard Struber adjust his lineup without the USMNT centerback?

BC: It’s an understatement to say that Aaron Long was the most important player in the Red Bulls’ defense and possibly the entire lineup. The club turned down lucrative offers from Europe at what will now likely go down as the peak of his stock and did so under the premise that he was expected to provide veteran leadership to a young New York team. Now that plan has been dissolved, and the Red Bulls will have to find a new pairing in the center of defense fast. Sean Nealis has been solid-if-unspectacular as Long’s partner but is inexperienced at handling a full season, as is Colombian youth international Andres Reyes, signed in the offseason from Atletico Nacional after an inconsistent loan year at Inter Miami. Veteran Amro Tarek also left last week’s game (where he was filling in for injured left back Andrew Gutman) with a seemingly less significant injury, but even a minor injury is one the Red Bulls all of a sudden can’t afford.

TBM: Two wins and three losses seems like an alright start to the year, but is RBNY concerned about being 0-2 on the road knowing Gillette Stadium has not been a kind place for them in the past?

BC: Especially with the aforementioned personnel issues in defense, the Red Bulls will definitely not come into this fixture with a confident attitude about their ability to win on the road. The Red Bulls played well in Philadelphia despite the final result, but the defensive upheaval as well as continued winless form on the road will have the team once again this year being forced to adjust to a new formation on the road, a scenario that resulted in a calamitous first half last month in Carson against the Galaxy.

TBM: There’s no question, just talk about your 17-year old homegrown Caden Clark who only scores bangers.

BC: The bangers will be what most neutral fans are familiar with, but the story of Clark’s 2021 has been him earning the hype with his play outside of scoring positions as well. Clark has been arguably the team’s best overall performer over the early weeks of the season, and it’s even more impressive that it’s been in a shuttling number 8 role rather than the number 10 attacking midfield role at the top of Gerhard Struber’s diamond. Clark’s passing (and obviously finishing) has been sharp, but perhaps most noteworthy about his early season form has been his tireless work rate in pressing and winning the ball back in this deeper midfielder position. All that being said, Clark had arguably his weakest performance of 2021 last week against Philadelphia, and will be looking to get his good form back in Foxboro.