Atlanta United is looking to put a shock 3-0 loss to the Philadelphia Union behind it and start May on the front foot, but the New England Revolution will do its best to continue Atlanta’s woes. To scout out Saturday’s opponents, we chatted with Jake Catanese from The Bent Musket. You can follow him on Twitter here and our sister site here.
Q: What were the takeaways from New England’s opening duo of games?
A: I think the biggest takeaways from the Revs’ first two games (2-2 draw at Chicago and 1-0 win vs DC United) were that even when New England doesn’t play its best, they can get results now. This wasn’t the case before Bruce Arena took over, as the Revs would constantly struggle to hold on to leads or give up late winners to drop points. We saw some of this late last year as the Revs grew into the season with Carles Gil, but now with the team at 100% for the new campaign, we’re seeing the full effects of Bruce Arena with this team.
Obviously, the Revs would have preferred to not give up two goals in the opening minutes at Chicago and probably would have liked more chances against DC, but while there’s room for improvement for sure, overall having four points in the standings already isn’t a bad thing.
Q: Were the Revs active in the winter transfer market? What were the main signings and how do you see them fitting into Bruce Arena’s side?
A: Oh yeah, the Revs were kind of under the radar with their international signings this year since they already have their three DPs, but the new guys look pretty solid. Christian Mafla is the next man up at left back as the Revs try to finally plug the massive void left by Chris Tierney’s retirement a few years ago. He’ll be platooning with DeJuan Jones who has shown to be a capable option at the position but it wouldn’t surprise me to see Mafla start to dominate the minutes at that spot as the year goes on. Ahead of him at the left winger spot is Icelandic international Arnor Traustason. The left side of the field has been overshadowed with Carles Gil spending a lot of time as an incutting playmaker from the right wing. If those two can add a little more balance to the Revs attack, they’re significantly more dangerous because of these signings.
The most important signing however could be Wilfrid Kaptoum, a Cameroon youth international and Barcelona academy product who plays in the center midfield. Last year the Revs struggled to replace the injured Luis Caicedo who tore up his knee in preseason and missed the entire season. With Caicedo back and veterans like Matt Polster, Tommy McNamara, and Scott Caldwell, Kaptoum has a chance to establish himself as the game changer in the Revs midfield. The key will be finding out who to play with him and keeping that entire unit healthy and rested as much as possible. It’s a tremendously deep roster for New England all around thanks in particular to the new additions.
Q: New England made a run all the way to the Eastern Conference final last season, despite finishing 8th. What are the expectations for 2021?
A: I think the expectations are much the same. 2020 was an odd year, the pandemic and injuries really tempered what the Revs could do in the regular season, but we saw how capable they are in the postseason by knocking out Philadelphia and Orlando. The Revs usually play the role of the underdogs or darkhorse, so having them as favorites to be a top team in the East going into the year is a little strange but I think they’ve earned it. Bruce Arena has done a fantastic turnaround for the club in the last year and a half even if the overall record doesn’t reflect that. A win at home against Atlanta would go a long way to cementing the Revs status as a top team in the East.
Q: Carles Gil is understandably the most talked about New England DP. Just how important is he to the Revs? What about Adam Buksa and Gustavo Bou?
A: Carles Gil is what makes New England an MLS Cup contender instead of just a solid team that’s a pain to play against. Without him last year the Revs really struggled to get the ball into the final third, and in particular, connect with Adam Buksa up top. With Gil back, it’s Buksa that has the most to gain in his second year. No player for the Revs was more affected by Gil’s injury than Buksa and when you add in the pandemic shutdown, the Revs target man really lacked service and opportunities last year.
Gustavo Bou is the magic man, he can pull a goal out of thin air when you least expect it just like against Montreal in the playoffs. I dislike that Bou as a second striker technically plays in the CAM role which pushes Gil to RW, but when the Revs are operating at full strength, Gil and Bou will make things work. Buksa has shown to be a danger man already on set pieces this year, another area they struggled with last year without Gil to send in crosses in particular. This might not be the most heralded DP trio in MLS, but they’re pretty darn good and hopefully they get to show what all three of them can do on the field at the same time this year.
Q: What’s your prediction for Saturday?
A: I mean, it all depends on what Atlanta is doing as far as their CCL campaign. With a second leg looming and the possibility of resting players, the Revs would absolutely have to capitalize on an understrength lineup. We’ve yet to see the Revs really hit their stride offensively for 90 minutes though, and that does concern me no matter what. Being at home though, I’d like the Revs to win this and certainly wrap up an Open Cup spot at 7 points, assuming the USOC happens later on this year. Give me a 2-1 win with Buksa heading home late for the winner.
New England XI (4-2-3-1): Turner; Mafla, Kessler, Farrell, Bye; Kaptoum, Polster; Traustason, Bou, Gil; Buksa