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It is November 26th and the Revolution are just one day out from their first Playoff match of the 2021 season.  New England last played over 3 weeks ago, a 1-0 home loss against Inter Miami CF.  The next most recent game was a 1-0 win over Colorado almost 5 weeks ago.  Needless to say, if you’re a revolution fan, you’ve been doing a lot of waiting around in recent weeks.  If you’re like me, that has looked something like this.

 

This isn’t to say nothing has happened over the past month or so.  On the contrary, November has brought us a whole lot of news.  The Revolution officially announced their rebrandCarles Gil won Comeback Player of the YearBruce Arena won the Coach of the Year award.  Matt Turner lost his starting spot with the USMNT to some bench player in England, but won Goalkeeper of the Year to make up for it.  Not to mention the fact that most of the MLS playoffs have already happened.

New England has only had to watch as the MLS playoff field slowly whittled down from 14 teams to just 5.  Among them is the Revs first playoff opponent, New York City FC. NYCFC defeated Atlanta United 2-0 9 days ago, and I went over some keys to success

To Be a Revs fan in 2021 is to be tugged uncomfortably in two different directions.  On one side a complete and total assuredness that this team can beat anyone and should win the whole damn thing!  Simultaneously, the other side is knowing disappointment is always lurking around behind the next door, waiting to blowtorch your head Home-Alone-style.

Ahh…26 years of history.

Whichever side you tend to gravitate towards, I have compiled some reasons for both optimism and pessimism ahead of an important Tuesday night playoff clash against NYCFC.

Reasons for Pessimism

The Long Layoff

I’ve spent much of this article already talking about the long time off between games for New England.  I’ve also written in the past about how the Revs have tended to look a bit out of sync after longer breaks.  In 4 games this season after a 10-or-more day rest, the Revs concede an average of 1.5 goals per match.  This is higher than their season long average of 1.2 goals against.  The Revs will need to be sharp defensively.  Especially because…

NYC has the xG upperhand

Much has been made of expected goals this season, particularly with regards to LAFC and NYCFC. They occupy the top 2 spots in the league by expected goal differential. NYC finished the season with 21.49 more expected goals scored then expected goals conceded. Expected goals are a decent indicator of how well and how often a team is able to create scoring chances.

In NYCFCs matches against the Revolution this season, they won the xG battle.  Over the course of 3 games, NYCFC amassed an impressive 6.27 expected goals against the Revolution.  Strikingly, they put up over half of those in their home loss to NE back in June.

Taty Causes Problems

One reason for all those expected goals for NYC is their budding striker, Valentin ‘Taty’ Castellanos.  Castellanos has been a beast this season for the Pigeons, scoring 19 goals in the regular season, including a pair against New England back in August.  He lead the league in expected goals as well as actual goals, winning the 2021 MLS golden boot.

Unfortunately for New England, the position they have most struggled against this season is opposing strikers.   Their back line often has issues dealing with passes in behind their defensive structure.  This allows strikers, in particular, to reap the benefits and get excellent chances on goal against the Revs.  They allow the third highest goals added to the striker position.

 

Reasons for Optimism

 

Fortress Foxboro

Where there is some good news for New England, is that they get to play in the friendly confines of Gillette Stadium.  The Revs went 12-2-3 at home this season, while scoring 31 goals to boot. New York City, meanwhile, has fared slightly worse on the road, amassing a 4-8-5 record.

Another large factor on Tuesday will be the weather.  It is expected to be a frosty 33 degrees at the start of the match.

While New York is not immune to the cold fall temperatures of the northeast, there are significantly more domestic players in the New England starting 11 that will be intricately familiar with playing in the cold.  NYC midseason additions Talles Magno and Thiago Andrade, both young Brazilian players, may not be as well versed in the art of below-freezing football.

Revs Have the Talent Edge

New York City is a talented team.  There is no doubt about that.  But if there’s anything you can point to as a strength for New England, it’s has to be the their top level talent.  The Revs designated players (Carles Gil, Gustavo Bou, and Adam Buksa) have a combined goals/assists contribution of 66, double the next closest set of DPs.

 

Between the 2 teams, New England has 4 of the top 5 players by goals added per 96, with Buksa, Gil, and Buchanan leading the way. Surprisingly, the fourth Rev in that top 5 is not Gustavo Bou.  That honor goes to Dejuan Jones, who is having an excellent season.  New England will be hoping that their star players will be able to provide the difference they need to pull off the win.

Penalties

In the playoffs, the margins are always tight.  If the teams remain deadlocked after 90 minutes, both teams will play two 15 minute overtime periods.  If that doesn’t produce a winner, then it’s onto penalties.

As I alluded to in my last article, I think the Revs have a slight goalkeeping edge.  The Revs net-minder, MLS Goalkeeper of the Year Matt Turner, has saved 2 of the 4 penalties he faced in the regular season.  Turner also saved a penalty against Trinidad and Tobago for the US earlier in the year.  Not to mention a 2 save performance against the Liga MX all stars over the summer.  Shawn Johnson, on the other hand, only faced one penalty this season and allowed a goal on the shot.

If the Revs and NYCFC make it to penalties, my money is on this guy.

photo credit: Dennis Schneidler-USA TODAY Sports
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