Earlier this week in “The Bent Musket roundtable: Who do you want to face in the first playoff matchup?” your experts unanimously picked New York City FC over Atlanta United. Do you still feel that way after NYCFC’s comprehensive dismantling of Atlanta?
I would say that is still the case. Taty Castellanos and Maxi Moralez are game-changers, but the fact that the game is at home is a major factor in the choice. By no means are we expecting a blowout (NYCFC could actually get out to an early lead), but there is a lot of unknown when it comes to Atlanta as New England has yet to face them post-Gabriel Heinze. With NYCFC there is some familiarity and belief that New England can get the job done.
New England has the 2021 Allstate MLS Goalkeeper of the Year in Matt Turner, who is having a breakout season. You also have Tajon Buchanan, who maybe (definitely) should have been the 2021 MLS Young Player of the Year; Carles Gil, arguably the most complete player in MLS; and Tommy McNamara, who will always be “Tommy Mac from West Nyack” to the NYCFC faithful. What other players should we keep our eye on next Tuesday?
Besides those guys, I would focus on Adam Buksa and DeJuan Jones, Buksa won the golden boot for New England and he has really come into form this season. In the air he is lethal and both of the Revs outside backs like to whip crosses into the box. Jones operates as a left-back and with his ice he can blow by defenders and even put the ball in the back of the net.
What lineup do you think manager Bruce Arena is going play against NYCFC?
This is the lineup that Bruce trotted out against DC United and it’s the strongest XI that he has trotted out. I expect more of a diamond with Gil up top, Buchanan on the right, Tommy Mac on the left, and Polster playing a defensive midfield position. Expect Bye and Jones to get involved in the attack as well.
The Revolution finished the season on a strange note, a 0-1 loss to a dysfunctional Inter Miami FC—call it the Curse of the Crayon. In fact, New England was uncharacteristically flat those last five games, taking just eight points out of a possible 15. Why did the team take its foot off the pedal? Was Arena playing possum, letting the players coast through meaningless games? Or does that dip in form worry you?
As much as Revolution fans wanted to, I’m not going to freak out about one game. Credit to Miami but they seemed to play an intense game that multiple players and Bruce Arena described as playoff-like. Miami is still a team that New England should be beating, but it seemed to serve as a wake-up call before the playoffs.
Much is made about NYCFC’s home field advantage at Yankee Stadium: It’s our secret weapon. What about New England’s advantage at Gillette Stadium, where the team is 12-3-2 this season? How does playing on a converted football field with plastic grass and 35,000 empty seats in the stands, nestled next to a 1.3 million-square-foot mall off of I-95, give New England an edge?
Last year with no fans it was the complete opposite with the Revs struggling at home so shoutout to the fans but it seemed like heading into the season that New England wanted to perform better at home. As a former member of the Revolution told my colleague Seth Macomber, when it comes to the playing service and the weather, members of the organization basically embrace the suck.
Prediction time: What will be the final score? Follow-up: Will the game be pretty, a source of pride for both teams, or fugly, a game to erase from our collective memories?
I’m expecting a competitive 2-1 win for New England. I think both sides will be pleased with their performance but the Revs stars will power them to a win.