Last week I railed against an outdated and poorly thought out league concept of suspending players who miss the All-Star Game, this week we’re doing it again.
Yeah, that’s just the New England Revolution and Philadelphia Union absences, the league has a ton more players unavailable for international commitments. There’s no reason for MLS to play 9 league matches this weekend sandwiched between the international games. There’s no need for a team missing about just about a quarter of it’s roster to play a league match in any circumstance in a top division league as Philly is about to do at home. This doesn’t even include injuries that most teams are carrying two thirds of the way through the season.
It’s time for MLS to start honoring the FIFA international breaks just like they do at least for the first week of the CONCACAF Gold Cup. This particular schedule for 2021 was already condensed due to the pandemic and poorly thought out as far as bye weeks, which teams should have more of and building natural breaks due to the international windows is beyond logical at this point.
I understand last year was no fun for anyone but given the circumstances, soccer on a global level trying to cram in all these qualifiers, league games, and make-up major tournaments in 2021 is a bad idea and poorly planned out. With the 2022 World Cup taking place in December of next year, there was amble time available in the calendar next summer for make up qualification and the leagues should have pushed back on the idea of wrapping up qualifying by this spring like normal. MLS, and the owners, should have been prepared to play a reduced schedule and built in breaks for potential make up games due to the pandemic and as we’re discovering up here in the Northeast, feet of rain from major tropical storms.
All that being said, given the situation the Revs should be able to control this game, especially late given Philly’s short options off the bench. While the Union do have solid options for their starting backline and up top, the midfield options and it’s shape are likely going to a struggle for Philly today and the Revs need to take advantage.
If Matt Polster is available for this game, that would be tremendous as there will likely be plenty of ball winning and recovery opportunities. If it were me, I’d pair him with Scott Caldwell in a 4-2-3-1 and figure out some kind of attacking midfield trio (Boateng-Traustason-Bunbury?) to have in front of that holding pair with Bou up top. If Carles Gil is available to start this game, then I pray for Matt Freese’s sanity after this match.
As always we talk to our good friend Joe Lister over at Brotherly Game for all things Union including trying to figure out their starting lineup and their struggles on offense. Be sure to check out my answers to Joe’s questions over on their site.
The Union and Revolution kickoff at 738pm from Subaru Park in Chester, PA as featured on TV38, myRITV, and MLS Live on ESPN+.
TBM: All right, let’s start with the international absences in particular, who’s away on national team duty this weekend and which player(s) need to have a big performance this weekend?
JL: Andre Blake, Cory Burke, and Alvas Powell will all be on duty for Jamaica (which will be interesting given that Powell just started getting minutes over Olivier Mbaizo). Additionally, Jose Martinez will be repping Venezuela.
TBM: Just 2 wins in your last 8, 3 in your last 12, what’s the simple answer to the Union’s struggles over the last few months?
JL: The Union cannot finish. Outside of the game against D.C. last week, the defense has been earning the Union points, but unfortunately, the offense can’t win games. Kacper Przybylko is getting the most consistent minutes out of the whole offense, despite having absolutely no on-field presence over the last several weeks. With that said, I wouldn’t be shocked to see new attacking signing Matheus Davo get minutes, especially with Cory Burke gone, but so far Curtin’s kept him on the bench.
TBM: Based on PPG in the standings, Philly has dropped off from the lead East pack, can the Union turn it around or are they what we see right now - a low playoff seed in the East?
JL: It’s tough to say. There’s evidently some locker room tension in Chester, but the Union has the potential to turn it around. It’s possible that with so many players on international duty, Curtin will hand the reigns over to the youth of the team. Quite frankly, they’d probably perform better than the more senior players, but I doubt that’s the long-term solution.
To make a long story short, I personally don’t believe that the Union’s ship gets righted any time soon. This seems to be another season where they collapse late and either miss the playoffs or find themselves out of the picture quickly.
Injuries: No important injuries after Jack McGlynn was loaned out to Venezia a few days ago.
Predictions: I’ll predict an easy 2-0 win for the Revs. The Union just isn’t good right now, and New England is still New England.
Lineups: (it’s worth noting that the Union is trying out some new formations, but it ended terribly last time, so they may just stick with the diamond formation):
Freese; Wagner - Elliott - Glesnes - Real; Flach; Aaronson - Bedoya; Sullivan; Przybylko - Santos