To get everyone ready for Atlanta United’s match against the New England Revolution, we spoke to The Bent Musket’s Jake Catanese to get his take on Brad Friedel, their playoff hopes, and what he hopes to see from the team over the last few matches.
DSS: On a scale of 1-10, how would you assess Brad Friedel’s first season as Revs head coach?
BM: This is a difficult task, because arguably Friedel is no worse than his predecessor Jay Heaps in several aspects. Both coaches are being asked to overachieve with at best a middling to mediocre MLS roster and neither coach is able to avoid disastrous summer slumps that knocked the Revs out of the playoffs.
At the beginning of the year, Friedel’s press and counter worked wonders with Diego Fagundez and Cristian Penilla leading the way and Teal Bunbury having a breakout/career first half. But the defense remained a problem, with a revolving door at left back after the season-ending injury to veteran Chris Tierney and unsettled and constantly changing centerback and holding midfield pairings. Despite several new additions to the team, including a few TAM level players, the team still lacks dominant DP’s like the rest of the league. Luis Caicedo has been a solid midseason addition but is far from the game changer the Revs need and for a team that traded Lee Nguyen, Kei Kamara and Krisztian Nemeth this year, there should be plenty of assets to bring in reinforcements.
Whether or not the recruiting and roster building is the coach or front office or some combination of the two is a question for another day. What Friedel can control are the team lineups and tactics and they’ve been honestly lackluster this year. Diego Fagundez is a solid CAM when the Revs are on the break but isn’t the playmaker to break down defenses when teams have learned to park the bus against the New England attack. Friedel’s substitutions, when he uses them, have often been awkward and ineffective and recently has seen a lot of double-switches at halftime, signs that the head coach made a mistake with the starting lineup as far as I’m concerned.
The Revs offense is predictable and stagnant for ideas, the team can’t hold possession or leads late in games and often look directionless. These are not new issues for New England, Revs fans criticized Heaps for basically the same things, and Friedel hasn’t solved any of the on-field issues nor helped the off the field ones yet with his network of contacts from his playing days in England.
On a scale of 1-10, it has to be a below average number. I’ll say 4 but you can certainly go lower though perhaps I’m being lenient to a first year head coach.
DSS: The Revs are five points back from the last playoff spot with four matches remaining. Do you have any hope they catch Montreal and DC United?
BM: Mathematically no one really wants that 6th spot in the East and really only DC would be dangerous in the playoffs if they made it. Maybe TFC is they snuck in as well, but I digress...
No, the Revs have no shot at the playoffs. The Revs would’ve needed to beat Chicago two weeks ago rather than the 2-2 draw that actually happened but really the Revs were dead in the water going back to August. That’s when the lost three in a row to Philly, DC and Philly again. I can point to a few other games, drawing Orlando and Vancouver on the road 3-3 after having 2-0 leads would certainly be a start for why the Revs sit five points below the red line.
Theoretically however, New England can catch Montreal, as the Revs have a game in hand and play the Impact on the last day of the regular season at home. I still think it’s going to be DC United for the 6th spot in the East (DC has a game in hand on the Revs and play Chicago twice, if they get a full 6 points from those games they should wrap up that spot) but since no one will put the Revs out of their misery they’ll just have to do it themselves.
DSS: What do you hope to see from the club during these last few matches?
BM: I would start giving a lot of looks to the younger players at this point. The Revs have a lot of decent options buried on this mess of a roster that deserve more minutes. Brian Wright at striker scored the winner in NYC a few weeks back, Femi Hollinger-Janzen hasn’t sniffed the field despite the Revs never finding a winger to play opposite Penilla. Rookies Mark Segbers and Nicolas Samayoa have only gotten loan minutes this year in the USL. Homegrowns Zachary Herivaux and Issac Angking certainly are worth an extended look, particularly after Angking’s debut in NYC though the rookie missed the first half of the year with an undisclosed illness and is still dealing with that issue.
Once in the Revs last four games, I’d like to see an organized side that doesn’t make an egregious mistake in the back. Atlanta is probably not the team this will happen against but I’m not asking for a lot. One game where the Revs have a throwback March performance would be fun, the press works a little bit, creates a few turnovers and the Revs score a couple of fun goals. New England hasn’t had fun in a long time and this is a team that needs to be fun to be successful. Right now they’re boring and depressing and Cristian Penilla can’t save them by himself in that category though he certainly tries.