Dynamo Theory (DT): New England went from a Supporters’ Shield season last year to fighting to make the playoffs in 2022. What has been the biggest reason behind their struggles this season?
The Bent Musket (TBM): Injuries and bad luck. Last year the Revs were able to grind out results even when they weren’t at full strength or playing their best and Bruce Arena had the depth to rotate his squad and still put out a pretty effective lineup with the option of bringing on a star if needed late in games. This year, it’s been more of a struggle though the Revs have gotten to look at some younger players like Noel Buck and Esmir Bajraktarevic. Of the three players brought in to replace Matt Turner, Tajon Buchanan, and Adam Buksa - only keeper Djordje Petrovic has seen regular minutes and has established himself already as a top keeper in the league. Dylan Borerro and Giacomo Vrioni have missed significant time with injuries along with Gustavo Bou up top leaving the Revs with a entire attacking line of utility players and backups.
The Revs essentially had two different seasons undone by injuries. The backline was a mess with injuries and had the Revs out of the CCL and near the bottom of the East early on. The Revs were able to stabilize from that early setback but never have found any consistency in their lineups or got their new players fully integrated. If the Revs were to do something crazy like win out and make the playoffs and are fully healthy up top, they could be dangerous in the East but otherwise I think are at best looking at a one and done in the postseason with high hopes for 2023 to challenge for the Shield again.
DT: The Dynamo and Revs haven’t played since 2019. Since these teams don’t get to play as much, who are some players that Houston fans should be on the lookout for?
TBM: I mean, I am going to assume that even the Dynamo know about reigning league MVP Carles Gil so we’ll focus on the youngsters. Homegrown Noel Buck has been a real spark for the Revs the last few weeks, bringing some extra flair and creativity to a squad that has desperately needed it with Borerro in particular out. Esmir has gotten a few spells recently as well including his first start and both players have done really well especially being thrown in very late in the year to the first team despite a lot of Revs II minutes.
Houston should be well aware of cult hero Tommy McNamara, who has scored in two straight games and has 3 goals and 4 assists since August and has arguably been the Revs second best attacker not named Carles Gil with all the injuries recently. Also, Petrovic is the Serbian God of Goalkeeping and the only explanation for the Revs continuing to give away penalties is because his teammates want to see him make another PK save to show off.
DT: The Revs have won just 3 road games this season. What are some things New England needs to do in Houston to get a much needed win in their fight for the playoffs?
TBM: Just put shots on target. I know that’s easier said than done, but the Revs are an odd finishing team sometimes. They don’t take a ton of shots at times but tend to generate fairly big chances when they do but don’t always put them away. More recently, New England haven’t been generating a lot of big chances but still finding goals like in their 3-0 win against NYCFC. If the Revs can notch one big chance and then maybe fire one in from long range, their defense should be able to hold things down. The Revs lead the league in points dropped from a winning position so there have been struggles to close out games but the majority of those occurred early in the year though losing to RBNY over the weekend after scoring first was a downer.
DT: Are there any injuries for New England and what is your predicted lineup and a prediction for the match?
TBM: On the injury front, the Revs got some good news with DP strikers Gustavo Bou and Giacomo Vrioni being removed from the weekly report as well as Brandon Bye returned as well. Dylan Borerro is still listed as questionable, Ismail Tajouri-Shradi is out and has yet to make his Revs deubt, and backup GK Jacob Jackson is done for the year with an ACL injury suffered at Revs II. Carles Gil missed the RBNY game due to the birth of his child so I don’t know if the happy father will make the trip down to Houston.
4-2-3-1: Petrovic; D Jones, Kessler, Farrell, Bye; Kaptoum, Polster; Bou, McNamara, Buck; Rennicks
A little bit of rotation up front to cover for the potential absence of Gil, but a formula that I think could work. Rennicks is a great pressing forward to combine with the workhorse that is Tommy Mac, and Buck and Bou provide enough creativity that I’m comfortable with that group for the first hour and then bringing on Vrioni and Ema Boateng off the bench to either close out the game or go win it depending on the game state. Revs need this one badly, I think they do get it 1-0 on a Tommy Mac rocket.
We want to thank Jake and our friends at The Bent Musket for giving us some information about New England. Best of luck tonight! You can check out our answers to their questions over at their site.