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Know Thy Enemy: The Quick Fix, No Gil Lineup vs Nashville FC

We’ve reported that Carles Gil is going to miss a few weeks with a sports hernia injury, so what formation can the Revs deploy on short notice against a solid Nashville defense?

New England Revolution v Orlando City SC: Eastern Conference Semifinals - MLS Cup Playoffs Photo by Alex Menendez/Getty Images

Takes a deep breath...

As first reported by Seth - yes, Carles Gil is out about a month after minor sports hernia surgery.

Okay, so let’s take a flashback to 2020 when the New England Revolution didn’t have Carles Gil for a few months. Gustavo Bou played as a withdrawn striker/playmaker in the CAM role and the Revs had middling success. Now, the Revs were also figuring out the midfield as a whole last year, which was a mess with injuries, and weren’t able to support their two forwards up top in Bou and Adam Buksa or generate any consistent chemistry on the field in my opinion.

This year, I think the Revs are prepared for Gil to miss some time on the field, and if Gil is going to miss time, a home heavy August where New England never leaves the greater Northeast (4 home games, away at NYC and TOR) is about as ideal of a situation as they an get.

So what is Bruce Arena to do? I think it comes down to three pretty familiar formations:

4-4-2 DIAMOND: The Revs have been in this formation during the Gold Cup primarily to account for the absence of Tajon Buchanan out wide. Well now that Tajon is back, the Revs can keep this formation and put Tajon at right back or somewhere in the midfield.

A diamond with Matt Polster holding, Arnor Traustason at the top and Tajon with Maciel/Kaptoum/McNamara as the shuttlers isn’t the worst idea, nor would trying Tajon as a CAM in a pinch. The Revs are already comfortable in the formation and while they can’t replace the passing prowess of Gil, it would still be an effective lineup.

4-2-3-1: The old standby. Tajon plays out wide with either Traustason or Teal on the other side, Polster and someone with him as holders and you drop Bou into the withdrawn role. No, this wasn’t always effective last year but the Revs are far more in sync and more confident then they were this time last year. I also think the spacing works better to get the fullbacks more involved up the field.

FLAT 4-4-2: Let’s keep it simple, two banks of four, the greatest and only formation I used in FIFA. It keeps Bou and Buksa up top, probably go with a familiar combination of Tajon/Iceman/Teal out wide and I think Polster and Tommy Mac in the middle. Like the 4-2-3-1, Bou will have to work hard to maneuver in the spaces between the lines and Buksa’s hold up play might be even more important with this look.

I don’t think the Revs can play around with a three or five man backline until Jon Bell is healthy, but DeJuan Jones and Buchanan or Brandon Bye as wingbacks is also on the table. Plus I think the Revs ending games in that extra defender look could be big plus in November. As the Revs get deeper into the schedule this month, I think squad rotation might dictate the formation just a little bit, with game situations dictating if subs are more needed out wide or in the middle to keep everyone a fit as possible for the stretch run.

So I kind of talked to our old friend Ben Wright about some of this tactics/formation stuff yesterday but that was before the Gil news broke. So if you are reading that article over on their site, apologies in advance as all of that was written earlier yesterday. But we still get to talk to Ben about Nashville’s own injury woes with Walker Zimmerman and whether or not the Yellow and Blue can win on a cool and potentially drizzling New England evening.

TBM: So Walker Zimmerman is out which is a huge bummer for both Nashville and the United States Men’s National Team. Who has been filling in for Zim during his Gold Cup absence which has now been extended and do they have enough depth on the current squad to fill that hole on the backline or are reinforcements needed?

BW: Obviously it’s never ideal to lose the MLS Defender of the Year, but Nashville have a pretty deep backline. Jack Maher, last year’s no. 2 overall SuperDraft pick, stepped up when Zimmerman initially missed time to be with his newborn son and made the MLS team of the week. He missed the matches against Cincinnati and Columbus in the league’s health & safety protocols, but he’s back. Jalil Anibaba has been the other regular in Nashville’s back three system, and he’s been solid as well, scoring a goal and really leading the backline.

Nashville have also received contributions from Eric Miller playing as a right center back, Dax McCarty dropping into the middle of the back three, and Robert Castellanos, who was signed from USL’s Rio Grande Valley in the offseason. He made his MLS debut against Toronto and was excellent, scoring a goal and getting a team of the week nod. So yeah, while Zimmerman is a big miss, Nashville have handled it really well, and it’s hard to argue they’ve missed points solely because of Zimmerman’s absence.

BW: So Hany Mukhtar has been on a tear, including a hatrick a few weeks back against Chicago. What’s been clicking for him individually and the attack as a whole overall?

BW: I don’t think a ton has changed for Mukhtar between 2020 and 2021. We saw this type of form from him towards the end of last season, and he’s really picked up where he left off. Part of it is just adapting to a new league. He’s admitted that it took him a lot of time last season to get used to the physicality, weather and travel in MLS. He hasn’t used this as an excuse, but he’s also mentioned just how difficult 2020 was personally. He moved to a new country and because of Covid wasn’t able to have any of his friends or family visit, so he was essentially completely on his own for the entire year. I think this year is just the result of him becoming more comfortable in Gary Smith’s system, with his teammates, and with life in Nashville off the field.

TBM: Nashville has a lot of road games left and have just a 0-1-4 record for four points so far away from home this year. Obviously a win at Foxboro would be a big boon to any doubts of this team’s ability on the road but are you concerned about the team’s remaining schedule or road form?

BW: Their road form has really been the only major downer this season. Well, some of the draws early in the season against Miami, Cincinnati and Montreal weren’t ideal either... but yeah, they need to start picking up points away from Nissan Stadium. On the plus side, they’ve only lost once in five away games, but they need to start turning some draws into wins. They’ve had some strong performances, though, and were pretty unfortunate not to win in Toronto last weekend. While a win on Wednesday might be too much to ask, I think they’ll have plenty of chances to get some wins in their upcoming slate of games.

Lineup/Injuries/PredictionsEtc

BW: I optimistically said a 1-1 draw in our Broadway Sports preview, but realistically New England is far and away the best side in the league. I think Nashville is good enough to get a draw, but losing by a goal wouldn’t surprise me either.

3-4-3: Willis; Maher, Anibaba, Romney; Johnston, McCarty, Anunga, Lovitz; Leal, Loba, Muyl