clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Know Thy Enemy: Revolution the Red Bulls Gives Us Goals Edition

New England swept their season series last year against RBNY, notching three wins with three goals apiece in every game. The perfect recipe to get back on track in 2022?

SOCCER: JUL 31 MLS - New England Revolution at New York Red Bulls Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The 2021 New England Revolution completed the best regular season in MLS history last year and eventually little tidbits like this one will be forgotten in the overarching story that was the Revs first Supporter’s Shield.

The Revs and Red Bulls renew their rivalry today at Gillette Stadium with kickoff at 738pm EST an according to the MLS dot com game notes, the last time the Revs had a three match winning streak in this series was back in 2006-2007.

What’s more amazing than the nine-point sweep of the New York Red Bulls is how the Revs did it - scoring three goals every single time against an Energy Drink side that was incredibly stingy last year. Taking away the nine New England goals, RBNY allowed just 24 goals in 31 games for an average well under one goal/game last year. Currently RBNY have allowed one goal in each of their four matches but have totaled 7 points and a 2-1-1 record so far to start the year.

Also important to remember is all of those games occurred in the first half of the ‘21 season, before RBNY basically went two months only losing one game and sneaked into the playoffs as the 7th and final seed in the East. So we’re likely to see a more low scoring affair this time around which means we should prepare for like a 4-3 scoreline because naturally.

So while the Revs offense likely doesn’t need a lot of confidence to get going, the defense certainly does. With hopes that Andrew Farrell and Henry Kessler can return to the starting lineup today, which along with playing at home, their return could also do a lot of good for the Revs after they reset from a disappointing start to 2022.

New England has lacked continuity on the field so far this year, with a lot of squad rotation and injuries to start they only have a few months to really build momentum before the summer transfer window and at least one key departure in Matt Turner. Already rumors abound about the Revs signing a potential replacement for him out of Serbia.

So with the United States qualifying and World Cup draw complete and the international break over, it’s time to get back to MLS. As always, we are joined by Ben Cork of Once A Metro to find out his thoughts on that interesting statistic above and a equally odd start to RBNY’s season. You can check out my answers to Ben’s questions over on their site.

TBM: Really good nugget from the Revs’ Jeff Lemieux going into this one - the last three times the Red Bulls have given up three goals have all come against New England (happened 3 times in 2021). The RBNY current goals allowed rate is 10 over their last 16 games for a ridiculous 0.63 GAA...with the RBNY defense playing so well, what are the odds the Revs can net another trio of goals?

BC: It was definitely noticed around Red Bulls world in 2021 that the Revs were the only team that truly broke them open last year — and on multiple occasions no less. Bruce Arena’s cautious but skilled tactical setup is a unique challenge for a New York team that relies more than others on opposition mistakes.

But against everybody else the Red Bulls are nearly impossible to create offense against. Their 4 surrendered goals this season have come on two set pieces and two rare over-extensions leading a counter-attack. Seems the only way to get an opening against the New York defense is to invite them to attack you, an approach that appears to be more dangerous than last year.

One factor in the defense this week is that Aaron Long will be returning from international duty with the US and could be rested after traveling from Costa Rica. Not only would Long’s absence lessen New York’s sum of talent, it would also restrict Gerhard Struber’s flexibility in choosing a 4-man back kind or a 3/5 one.

TBM: Odd quirk for the RBNY schedule makers, you started off 2-0 on the road beating San Jose and Toronto but then only claimed a point between two games with Minnesota and Columbus at RBA? What changed at home besides the quality of the opponents as far as RBNY’s play?

BC: As mentioned above, the Red Bulls and their front-footed transition tactics require risk and resulting mistakes from opponents to succeed. Both Minnesota and Columbus played cagey tactical games where they surrendered more of the ball than usual to a New York team not enthusiastic about playing possession and also crushed morale with constant physical duels leading to tempo-slowing fouls.

But both games were fairly unlucky final scores — Gerhard Struber has the team playing better in possession against teams defending deep and prepared to open the floodgates if a finishing routine is discovered.

TBM: Now that he’s not playing for Miami, is Lewis Morgan actually good at soccer and what does he bring to the Red Bulls on both sides of the ball?

BC: As advertised by club technical staff in the offseason and preseason and delivered on by Morgan himself, the Scotsman is fast. With a quick first step and powerful balance to maintain forward momentum, Morgan’s mobility (as well as technically-sound two-footednesss) allows him to be effective almost anywhere on the field.

He’s a willing presser and tackler, which almost works against him as Struber deployed him as a fullback throughout preseason and in the season opener in San Jose. But he has been higher up the field even since and has been the clear focal point of the team’s attack, both collecting the ball deep and dribbling at defenders and other times running ahead of the formation to make streaks in on goal. It’s obvious why the Red Bulls made sure to snag him on the first day of the offseason, because he has fit the team’s tactics like a glove.

Lineup/Injuries/Predictions/Etc

Talented center back Andres Reyes continues to deal with a long-term foot injury while attacking midfielder Wiki Carmona is close to recovery from a more minor foot malady from preseason. Caden Clark was reportedly injured in a U.S. Under-20 camp this week so his availability remains to be confirmed.

Against teams who play with flatter fullbacks like the Revs, Struber prefers a 5-4-1/3-4-3 formation where wingbacks provide attacking width while the dual attacking midfielders hunt and press up high. I’d expect a lineup like this:

Coronel; Tolkin, Sean Nealis, Long, Edwards, Dylan Nealis; Dru Yearwood, Frankie Amaya, Luquinhas, Morgan; Klimala

With how well the Revs handled the Red Bulls last year — but also how much better New York appears to be at scoring on the road — I’ll predict a 2-2 draw in Foxborough for this one.