New England Revolution look to maintain their unbeaten record as Atlanta United travels north to Foxborough to match potential playoff teams. The Revs defense stepped up last week in a 1-0 victory over DC United following a season-opening performance in which they conceded two early goals against Chicago Fire FC. A triumph over DC meant more than just three points, but also the first clean sheet of the season for a team with a defensive identity.
The Revolution will look to carry that defensive performance over against a team with a bevy of quality attacking options. Although despite the talent up front, Atlanta finds themselves the victim of two shutouts in their last three games, most recently in a midweek embarrassment in the CONCACAF Champions League match to fellow MLS-side, Philadelphia Union. The Five Stripes managed more possession, shots, and corners than Philly, yet still lost 3-0.
Searching for Goals:
As stout as New England can be on defense, it struggles to score goals. Their lone goal against DC came from an own goal caused by a deflected cross. Through two games, their xG sits at 2.2 as only two players have more than one shot on target thus far, strikers Adam Buksa and Gustavo Bou, who have New England’s only two goals. Meanwhile adventurous midfielder, Carles Gil is still looking to get onto the scoresheet as he paces the team in total shots.
Last season, New England averaged a similar xG, coming in at just 1.13 per game. That number increased slightly into the playoffs to 1.45 as Arena exclusively deployed a 4-2-3-1, allowing Buksa to stay up top and Bou to play in from behind. Through two games, New England has lined up in both a 4-4-2 and a 4-2-2-2.
Well, if New England scores more in a 4-2-3-1, why aren’t they playing that all the time?
Because at the center of Head Coach Bruce Arena’s philosophy is rooted in intense defending and reliant on counter-attacks. Seeing that Atlanta will likely be on the front foot for the start of the game, Arena will probably send out a 4-4-2 with a diamond in midfield to stifle Atlanta attackers. This formation allows the central midfielders to spread defensively, while Bou can drop back from up top to receiver balls for counter-attacks. Aided in the decision to play with a diamond will be Atlanta’s performance against the formation just a few days ago against Philadelphia.
A key for New England to score goals will be exploiting left-back George Bello. A dynamic and quick full-back, the 19-year old can operate on the flank or invert into midfield. Regardless of where he is, he will be a prime candidate to target on attacks. Often the teenager can be caught too far upfield, leaving plenty of space to play. While his defending can be quality, he is still prone to lapses one would expect from a 19-year old as he can be harassed into losing possession frequently.
New England Revolution 1-1 Atlanta United