The New England Revolution got a 2-1 home win on Saturday night over NYCFC.  New England fell behind on an early goal from Santi Rodriguez. They would, however, rally with a goal from Ema Boateng in the 21st minute and the eventual winner came by way of Tajon Buchanan in the 65th.  The win was helped by a red card shown to Alfredo Morales early in the second half, giving the Revs a man advantage for the final 37 minutes.

This win is important for a few reasons.  For starters it serves as revenge for a 2-0 loss on the road at Yankee Stadium just two weeks ago.  Second of all, like most games this season, it’s an in-conference ‘six pointer’.  With 9 games left on the slate, keeping other eastern conference teams from collecting points is almost as valuable as winning on its own.  The win is made all the more important by way of the fact that it comes against NYCFC.

Leading into the weekend, and despite the standings, many still considered NYCFC the best team in the league

The Revolution have been atop the Eastern Conference standings AND the league standings for a while now.  They have the current front-runner for MVP (Carles Gil), have broken a bunch of club records and, oh yeah, are on pace to set a new record for most single-season wins and points in MLS history.

You would think, presented with that evidence, that it’d be uncontroversial to call New England the best team in the league.  However, there is a narrative that is gaining some popularity in MLS analyst circles.  The Revs may have the best record, but the best team?  That’s NYCFC.

MLS ranked by Soccer Power Index
538’s Soccer Power Index rankings places NYCFC at the top

New York has been a sleeper favorite among analysts this year.  According to 538’s soccer power index, they are the best team in the league and by a comfortable margin.  Watching them defeat New England two weeks back it wasn’t hard to see why they rate so highly.  They dominated the midfield, passed well, limited mistakes and were always looking to break in behind the defense.  Combine that with Taty Castellanos starting to live up to his league leading 14.9 expected goals total, and they make a compelling case as championship favorites.

Jordan Angeli, a TV analyst with the Columbus Crew, had the following to say on the MLS Assist podcast; “I’ve seen [NYCFC] a few times, being with Columbus, we’ve played them 3 times this season…every time we leave a game playing them, I think it’s probably the best team in Major League Soccer”.

Angeli’s cohost on that podcast, Joe Lowery, would go on to refer to NYCFC as “a team that, I think, both of us think might be better than the supporter’s shield favorites”, New England.

Ben Wright is a writer for Broadway Sports, and contributor to American Soccer Analysis.  He uses advanced metrics to create his weekly power rankings and has long been on the NYCFC train.  This has gotten him some flak from Revs fans, which he takes in stride.

New England, of course, has received plenty of buzz throughout the season.  I’m not trying to say that nobody rates the Revs.  I am saying that throughout the season, NYCFC have received a steady hum of praise.  The 2-0 loss at Yankee Stadium a few weeks ago opened the door for that hum to become a roar.  With a head to head match-up on Saturday, the Revs had an opportunity to set the record straight.

How New England got the better of NYCFC at home

After an embarrassing road loss to ‘The Pigeons’, New England set out to prove the doubters wrong.  A dominant win could serve as a reminder of which team stands atop the league and…

Things did not start well at Gillette Stadium.  NYCFC would get the game’s first goal in just the 11th minute.  NYCs talented midfield played through the Revolution’s pressure and, as they so often do, played a perfect ball behind the defense to take the lead.

Luckily for New England fans, this wasn’t the first time the Revs had fallen behind.  The Revolution have now conceded the first goal 8 times this season and, with the win over the weekend, improve to 4-3-1 in those games.  New England expects to win every game and they’ve mostly come good on those expectations.

Perhaps New England was always going to struggle, forced to play a less than first choice 11 to start the match.  For the second straight game, New England was without Gil, Bou, Buksa, and Buchanan to start.  That’s all three of their designated players, as well as perhaps one of the best wingers in MLS.

As I wrote a few weeks ago, depth isn’t a concern for this team.  The backup-heavy roster managed to regain control of the game and pull back an equalizer just 9 minutes later.

In the end, however, it was the substitutes that made the difference.

Bruce Arena opted to give some rest to Tajon Buchanan and Adam Buksa, who both recently returned from international duty.  He also gave Carles Gil the first half off as he’s working back to full fitness after an injury sustained over the summer.  All three of those players made an appearance in the second half, and it was Gil and Buchanan that combined for the game winner.

We can talk all day about stats and play-style and formation but at the end of the day, talent matters.  Revs have talent in spades.  Being able to put Carles Gil into the match, even for just 45 minutes, is an advantage that no other team has.

Will the win be enough to change the minds of NYCFC truthers?

My guess is probably not?  The red card given to Morales in the 53rd changed the complexion of the game.  It should, however, serve as yet another data point that New England should win the conference.

NYCFC was among the best positioned to overtake the Revs in the standings.  They were 18 points behind New England last week, but had also played 3 fewer games than the Supporters Shield leaders.  A win on Saturday, and wins from those games-in-hand, would put them well within striking distance.

A Revolution win changes the math.

New England has a 10-1-1 record at home (2.58ppg), and a 7-3-3 record away (1.85 ppg).  Extrapolating home/road adjusted points per game over the remaining games, the Revs could be expected to finish the season with 75.1 points.  If NYCFC wins all their remaining fixtures, they would end the season with 70.

Conversely, using NYCFC’s home/road adjusted ppg; they could expect to finish the season with 52.53points.  Strength of opponent isn’t considered in this calculation, and NYCFC’s 2-6-3 road record may not be indicative of their quality but 52.53 is already fewer than the 55 points the Revolution have now.

New England’s win may be changing the underlying predictors that had favored NYC as well.  We’re starting to get to the “you’re as good as your record says you are” part of the year. Nobody’s record says they’re as good as the Revs.

Photo: Dennis Schneidler – USA TODAY Sports
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