The New England Revolution wrapped up group play on Tuesday, settling for a scoreless draw with Toronto FC. Here are three thoughts from the game.
1. The Revs didn’t have a good first half. Stats help paint a picture of the flow of the game during the first 45 minutes. The Revs had completed 99 passes with only 17 happening in the attacking third. They held just 30% of possession and only managed two shots. Oh, and their two defensive midfielders earned yellow cards three minutes apart.
With Teal Bunbury and Tajon Buchanan manning the flanks, the Revs were hoping to use speed to get behind Toronto’s defense. When they did try to play more centrally, it was usually by lobbing balls towards Adam Buksa, who was on an island. As a whole, the Revs’ transitions weren’t sharp enough to cause Toronto problems.
The second half was better as the Revs had more success stringing together passes to move the ball up the field.
2. The Revolution’s defense has been sharp. The Revs ended group play by only allowing one goal in three games. This is particularly impressive because Arena used seven different players. He will now have to decide who will start in the knockout stage.
Brandon Bye is clearly the guy at right back and Alexander Buttner should edge out DeJuan Jones at left back. On Tuesday, Arena was asked to name his first-choice center back pairing. He responded by saying, “We don’t have one right now.”
My guess is that Henry Kessler and Andrew Farrell will start against the Philadelphia Union. Their performance on Tuesday was far from perfect, largely because they struggled to establish an offside line. Still, the duo has a lot of chemistry, as well as catch-up speed to put out fires.
3. Wilfried Zahibo should start on Saturday. Zahibo got his first minutes of the tournament when he replaced Scott Caldwell at halftime. The imposing center mid immediately put his stamp on the game by winning tackles and making positive passes. Arena noted his contributions after the game, saying, “I thought he did an outstanding job. He really helped us change the game a little bit.”
While I think Zahibo should start, I’m less sure of who his partner will be. Diego Fagundez played alongside him during the first two games of the season, so that’s a possibility. A more defensive approach would be to pair him with Scott Caldwell. Kelyn Rowe certainly deserves a mention because he’s had a sharp tournament thus far.