Each week we do a Q&A with our friends around the SB Nation Soccer world to get some insight on their team from those who know them best. Know your enemy.
Following a thrilling and heart attack-inducing victory against DC United, New York City FC takes to the road this weekend to face Eastern Conference foes New England Revolution at 8:00 PM ET. New England is coming off their first win in five matches last week, beating Colorado handily 2-0. The Revs currently sit in 8th place, a mere four points back of a Playoff position.
Jake Catanese, writer for SB Nation's The Bent Musket, stops by the blog to answer our questions about the Revolution. We discuss the lackluster performance of Kei Kamara thus far, the team's defensive woes, and what changed in their victory against Colorado.
Q: There was quite a bit of fanfare - for good reason - around Kei Kamara's move from Columbus Crew to New England. Since the trade, Kamara has made 16 appearances but scored only 4 goals in those games despite being a great goalscorer in Columbus. In your estimation, does this fall on poor play from Kamara, or is the issue a tactical one that effects the entire New England offense?
JC: Sadly, anyone wearing navy blue from New England this year has had issues scoring goals and for the most part it has nothing to do with individual play. While the Revs too often seem content to just send crosses into the box for Kei and others, this one dimensional play has little to do with the fact the Revs waste lots of chances and hit two shots off the woodwork every game. The Revs have not struggled as a team to generate chances but their finishing has left a lot to be desired for most of the season. Kei has helped the Revolution with the little things, maintaining possession in the final third and winning aerial balls in midfield, for instance, but it hasn't translated to more goals. At least not yet.
Against Colorado the Revolution deployed more of a 4-4-2 look, with Juan Agudelo and Lee Nguyen as strikers. With Kamara back from international duty, there's a decent chance that Nguyen will drop back to midfield in a CAM role if Jay Heaps decides to stick with the formation that won last week. The downside to this is that one of the Revs holding midfielders, Scott Caldwell or Gershon Koffie will likely head to the bench in this scenario. Last week the Revs beat a very short handed Colorado team and it's tough to judge just how successful that tactical switch was or how it will translate today against NYCFC
Q: The defense has not been great either throughout this season, tied for most goals conceded with our New York City. What have you seen from the defense, tactically or personnel wise, that's been troublesome? Knowing NYC FC's strengths, what must the Revs do Saturday to limit the goalscoring opportunities?
JC: Well for starters, the biggest problem for the Revolution early in the season were injuries. But for the most part the backline of Tierney, Goncalves and Farrell have been together for a few seasons and to see them struggle as a unit has been really tough to watch. Too often the Revs can be broken down with simple attacks - off the ball runs, diagonal cuts, etc. The Revs never found a consistent replacement for AJ Soares two years ago and while Farrell, London Woodberry and Je-Vaughn Watson have had their moments at centerback, as a unit this is no where near the defense it was even two years ago when they gave up 46 goals but made the MLS Cup Final.
Bobby Shuttleworth has also had a horrendous season and despite a recent back injury, he's lost the starting job to Brad Knighton and new signing and USYNT keeper Cody Cropper is now fighting for minutes as well. Knighton had a big game against Colorado but it's going to be up to the defense as a whole to limit David Villa and company from getting easy chances. NYCFC has a potent attack and they're probably going to score at least a goal but at the very least I hope the Revs can make them work for it as opposed to a lot of the goals we've watched New England allow in 2016.
JC: Well, we talked about some of the tactical stuff above, but there's two things the Revs did against Colorado that they haven't done enough of recently and they're very good at both. The first is the counter, when Jay Heaps took over this young team a few years back this was a team that pressed, forced turnovers and then got upfield before you knew what was happening. The Revs repeatedly opened up the Rapids backline on the break, the most impressive of these moves was Caldwell finding Kelyn Rowe all alone 40 yards from goal, a play where the Revs would earn a penalty kick that Nguyen would slam off the post. But the Revs two goals came off of quick movement in tight and open spaces and was very unpredictable.
Q: It's not all doom and gloom for New England in the East - the team is in 8th but only 4 points out of a Playoff spot and just took care of the Colorado Rapids 2-0. What did the team do well in that win? Bigger picture, what must the team do in order to make a Playoff surge?
How about a lineup and final score prediction?
I hate losing to NYC, but today isn't as important as Tuesday. 2-1 NYCFC.