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Know Thy Enemy: New England Revolution at NYCFC Midseason Report Card Edition

Can New England add another game to their 10-match unbeaten run and continue their climb in the East against the defending champs?

MLS: US Open Cup-New England Revolution at New York City FC Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

Summer school must be in session, because why else on report card week would the New England Revolution kickoff at 1pm against New York City FC on a modified postage stamp field that probably has a high school quality feel to it.

So appropriately, here’s a few more expanded thoughts on the following tweet from earlier in the week on Matt Doyle’s Eastern Conference report card:

Overall, I think this is a fair grade. The Revs first half season goal was to make a CCL run, and the offseason moves to bring in Sebastian Lletget, Jozy Altidore, and Omar Gonzalez were supposed to bolster the depth chart in preparation for that tournament.

Injuries were the primary derailment of that CCL tournament, but aside from Lletget who did miss a few weeks with an injury, the other USMNT veterans brought in by Arena have not had the impact that was hoped for at the beginning of the year. But to the Revs credit, they did recognize and address this issue and brought in early reinforcements in Dylan Borrero and Djordje Petrovic prior to the end of the primary window to replace the outgoing Tajon Buchanan and Matt Turner. Giacomo Vrioni has been announced as the new striker in place of Adam Buksa, and now the Revs turn to their second half objective...and that elusive MLS Cup.

So New England finds themselves in a weird spot in an already odd campaign: adding major players to the roster after three top end transfers out while getting back several key starters from injury, and also carrying an 10-game unbeaten streak. Yes, it’s been a streak of just four wins with six draws, but those 18 points over the last couple of months have the Revs in pretty high form compared to the rest of the league. Last year the Revs were able to turn a lot of close games into late wins and while that hasn’t happened this year, things do look like they’re starting to come together, particularly as the team gets fully healthy. Again.

The team at the top of the form charts however is NYCFC, and until the Philadelphia Union’s 7-0 pasting of DC United yesterday, the Cityzens were the highest PPG team in the East. But the bulk of their form is built on an eight game unbeaten run with seven wins a draw from April to late May. More recently, NYC returned from the international break without head coach Ronny Delia who moved to Standard Liege of Belgium, and currently find themselves on a four game winless streak with three draws and a loss at Philly.

At the halfway point, NYC and the Revs find themselves in a slightly familiar position but for different reasons. Injuries and transfers have played a part, but both teams would like to think they should or could be higher in the standings. NYC however is searching for that elusive consistency to match with that blistering form and high end potential that saw them win MLS Cup as a middle seed last year. The Revs are hoping to peak at the right time with a host of new talent in time for November.

Today, something has to give. NYC is an incredible home team but New England might have the edge in form and should be at full strength. As always, we chat with Hudson River Blue on all pigeon related happenings out of the Bronx and our friend Oliver Strand. Be sure to check out my answers to his questions as well as HRB’s other gameday coverage over on their site.

TBM: What’s the latest on any Taty Castellanos transfer news and if he does leave is there a rumored replacement lined up for NYCFC?

OS: There is no news, and no word of a replacement. Sporting director David Lee keeps his cool, and plays his cards close to his vest - there are no rumors or leaks from this organization. Will Taty leave? Maybe. Will there be a replacement? Dunno. Those are my professional opinions. If he does go, chances are Lee will stick with his preference to sign an unknown but excellent player the club will develop into a star — that’s what they did with Taty.

TBM: Alexander Callens I think is the front runner for Defender of the Year in MLS, why has he been so good this year it seems in particular?

OS: The NYCFC fam will tell you that Callens was this good all last season, it’s just that few noticed it outside of the Bronx. He developed into the Peruvian national team’s #1 center-back while at NYCFC, and holding your own against Lionel Messi, Neymar, Ángel di Mariá, Edison Cavani must do something for your confidence. He’s a marvelous player to watch: Intelligent, fearless, physical, passionate. He’s good with his feet, and every once in a while he’ll make a slaloming run up the left that turns the other team into ball-watchers. Plus he’s good at penalties: He converted the two he took in the postseason (maybe Revs fans remember the first?), and took the #5 spot when NYCFC won the MLS Cup. He also converted his shot for Peru when they were knocked out of World Cup contention by Australia — he did his part. If NYCFC had ten Callens plus Sean Johnson we’d win every game.

TBM: Matt Doyle handed out midseason grades, the Revs got a deserved C+ in my opinion, and the NYCFC a B-, what grade would you give the Cityzens at the halfway mark and how are they set up to finish the year?

OS: It’s a fair grade, although I wonder if recency bias dragged it down a little — NYCFC’s form lately has been poor, but the team is still first place in the East in points per game, and are one win away from leading outright with two games in hand versus New Jersey. Three of our Hudson River Blue writers issued their midterm grades to the club and gave a collective B+, which is about right. The recent lapses are troubling, and who knows what will happen if/when Taty leaves, but the team’s unbeaten run was spectacular, and some of those performances should terrify every other club in MLS. We’ll see if interim head coach Nick Cushing’s slow start is a hiccup, the midseason stumble every team faces at one point or another, and the club return to their winning ways — or if there are deeper problems to address. The thing about a midterm grade is that it’s just a check-in, it lets you know where you are now. It’s the final grade that counts.