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Oppo Research: 5 Things about New England Revolution

Jack Catanese of The Blazing Musket tells us about New England's struggles, and why 19-year-old Esmir Bajraktarevic could make an impact.

Homegrown winger Esmir Bajraktarevic started three of New England's five MLS games | Courtesy New England Revolution

In this edition of Oppo Research, Hudson River Blue spoke with Jake Catanese of The Blazing Musket to learn more about the New England Revolution,  New York City FC's opponent on Saturday. Here is your NYCFC vs New England Revolution preview.

1. No striker = struggles

Hudson River Blue: New England earned its first MLS win of the season against Charlotte last weekend. Why the sluggish start?

Jake Catanese: I think the schedule overload from CCL did not help, but the biggest issue was up top at striker. Bobby Wood missed essentially the first month with injury and Giacomo Vrioni picked up a first-half red card in the season opener against DC United. That left the Revs with no true strikers and put Designated Player winger Tomas Chancalay up top with little success.

Also, the Revs are still adjusting to head coach Caleb Porter's new possession system which has them playing a lot slower out of the back when a lot of New England's best attacks have come from quicker counters and direct passes through the lines.

2. Midweek trip Club América not an issue

HRB: How will the midweek CONCACAF Champions Cup game against Club América affect New England? The team was in Mexico City on Tuesday night, and will have three days off before traveling to New York City for Saturday’s game. 

JC: Probably not much. New England heavily rotated their starters in the blowout series loss to Club America.

While the CCL run was nice to at least get some positive results, it is a perfect time to give up that dream. The Revs can start to focus on rebounding in league play, and while the postage stamp at Yankee Stadium is probably not the ideal place to start, New England desperately needs to start getting results in MLS play.

3. True target man needed

HRB: New England are tied with NYCFC and Orlando City for the worst offense in the MLS. What has led to the team’s struggle to score goals?

JC: Well, I detailed the striker problems above.

Chancalay does have 4 goals in CCL play and has been a tremendous scorer since joining last summer. Carles Gil has had to be a little more aggressive inside the box and has three league goals to his credit.

The hope is that as Vrioni settles in, and he did score twice in Azteca on Tuesday. A true target man might help stabilize the offensive woes. Personally, I think the current possession system Porter is using is the biggest culprit but we'll see how the results fare the rest of April.

4. The X-Factor: Esmir Bajraktarevic

HRB: What’s the X-factor that could decide this game?

JC: As far as an X-factor, I'd like to see Esmir Bajraktarevic start this game. He has a 10/10 rating on the Clint Dempsey Deuce Scale of trying "stuff" and his one-on-one ability in close-quarters outfield grass could make a significant difference and spark what has been a lackluster attack. Having Wood off the bench too helps just by having a true striker option in reserve, something the Revs really haven't had yet this year.

Esmir Bajraktarevic's first goal for New England Revolution

5. Predicted score, Starting XI

HRB: Prediction time: Starting XI: Final score? 

JC: I think a 1-1 draw would be a fair result.

Both teams are really struggling offensively, and I know NYC is much better at home, but if the Revs are going to start their climb out of the basement, getting even a solitary point against another East team not in the playoffs is a must.