New England Revolution (2W-1D-0L) travels down to Nashville, not for a Bachelorette party but a date with Nashville SC (0W-3D-0L). With two teams noted for their defensive prowess, expect a grinder of a match on Saturday.
Head coach Bruce Arena and his Revs continued their impressive start to the season last weekend, finally defeating Atlanta United for their first victory over the Five Stripes in seven tries. As the team turned to a 4-2-3-1, attacking midfielder Carles Gil provided a Man of the Match performance, keeping Atlanta’s defense on edge through his dynamic forward runs and creative passing. It was only fitting that New England pulled out the 2-1 victory on the back of a Gil penalty.
Despite playing their first three games at home, Nashville SC has yet to claim three points from a match. So far, they’ve managed draws across the board, a pair of 2-2 ties against Chicago Fire FC and CF Montréal, and most recently a 0-0 draw against Inter Miami. Nashville will get another chance for victory on home soil, with this match giving them four straight at Nissan Stadium.
Good to Bou?
Since arriving from Club Tijuana in 2019, striker Gustavo Bou has established himself as a key cog in Arena’s plans. All the 31-year old has done is score 18-goals and chip in three assists in 40 appearances for the club, with his most recent strike being an equalizer against Chicago in the team’s season opener. A fitting strike as New England has yet to lose a game Bou scores.
After appearing against D.C United the following week, Bou was notably absent from the team sheet against Atlanta United. Arena stated after the win that the forward had suffered a “minor muscle injury” and expected him back in training for the following Monday. Recent footage from Revolution Staff Writer Jeff Lemieux would seem to insinuate that Bou should be back in the fold for Saturday.
With Bou out of the lineup, Carles Gil was to be relied on heavily for creativity, and he did not disappoint. Gil averaged 67 touches per game in the Rev’s first two matches, and that number soared to 92 against Atlanta.
These were far from empty touches as the midfielder provided a superb assist on Brandon Bye’s goal and constantly found dangerous positions centrally and on the right flank. Whether crosses or through balls, the former Aston Villa man was finding teammates in dangerous positions.
With Gil as the undisputed offensive lynchpin, New England’s offense seemed as fluid as ever. Arena’s most significant question is how to get this kind of masterclass out of Gil consistently while playing with Bou.
Draws are beginning to feel like losses for Nashville. As Head Coach Gary Smith put it.
"“The game today had ‘1-0’ written all over it,” Nashville coach Gary Smith said. “And if we’re not going to be the ones to make the breakthrough, then we have to come out of the game with at least a point. But, therein lies my frustration.”"
The frustration is understandable, even more so when taking a look at the deeper numbers for Nashville. The club sports one of the most vaunted backlines in MLS, featuring the reigning MLS Defender of the Year, Walker Zimmerman, alongside Dave Romney, Alistair Johnston, and Daniel Lovitz. This unit has lead Nashville to the league’s fifth-best xGA, 2.9. Offensively, Nashville has been as impressive and equally unlucky. Headed by Jhonder Cádiz, Randal Leal, Hany Mukhtar, and Alex Muyl, Nashville has managed an MLS leading 6.5 xG.
Unfortunately, advanced statistics aren’t rewarded, and Nashville needs to find a way to capitalize on their goal-scoring opportunities. If they do, the Seattle’s and NYCFC’s of the league have a major problem on their hands.