Ahead of tonight’s rematch against the New England Revolution, Waking the Red checked back in with The Bent Musket writer Jake Catanese for an update on Friday night’s opponents. Thanks to Jake for taking our questions.
1. After winning comfortably against Toronto, New England fell to a rare home defeat against Chicago last time out. What happened there?
What usually happens when the Revs lose a game; they didn't finish their chances. New England is one of the best teams at creating chances in MLS, but in recent memory and this year in particular, they have been a mediocre to dreadful finishing team at times.
With an attacking group that includes Kei Kamara, Juan Agudelo, Lee Nguyen, Diego Fagundez and Kelyn Rowe, goals from defenders like Benjamin Angoua and Antonio Delamea or holding midfielders like Xavier Kouassi and Scott Caldwell should be a bonus. Instead, it's that second group that has been grinding out goals to keep the Revs level, and while I love to see the Revs scoring from corners, they need more from the top line. In the long term, the Revs not getting goals from their true attackers is going to be a problem, especially if Agudelo and Rowe make the United States Gold Cup roster and miss a few MLS games.
The other half of the equation: I think the Chicago Fire might be good at soccer. Bastian Schweinsteiger has been a tremendous signing along with supporting midfielders like Dax McCarty and Juninho, but it's not just the midfield that looks good; the Fire attack is finally hitting its stride. We all knew David Accam was a speedster, but with Michael de Leeuw, Luis Solignac and Nemanja Nikolic all contributing, this group will probably be 1-2 with Toronto at the top of the East for the rest of the year.
2. Diego Fagundez impressed a lot of Toronto fans at Gillette Stadium. Is he like that every week?
He has been this year. It was just a matter of time before he got his first goal of the year and when he did he was going to score in bunches. Diego didn't get his first goal until May 13 against Real Salt Lake, then scored twice against Columbus and again in that TFC game you mentioned. To the surprise of no one, the Revs are 3-0 in those games and the team's last win that didn't involve a Fagundez goal was April 8 against Houston.
So yeah, it's been a rough year in New England except for whatever Diego is doing - he's been great. He leads the team in both shots and shots on goal, so we knew he was going to start finding the back of the net eventually. Three years ago, when the Revs went to the MLS Cup final, Diego effectively got benched for not playing defence. Now he's operating as a box-to-box shuttling central midfielder in a diamond formation with what I think is the best counter-attack in the league. The reason why it's the best? Just watch the Revs’ second goal from a few weeks ago... yes, Fagundez scores it, but he also starts the play with a recovery in midfield.
I’m also trying to mentally prepare myself for when Deigo doesn't get named to the MLS All-Star Game. You can read these thoughts as they happen on Twitter later on the ‘#Revs4Real’ hashtag.
3. Can we expect to see Juan Agudelo or Kei Kamara up front in Toronto?
I think you'll absolutely see Agudelo up top as he gets one full game to audition for Bruce Arena and the USMNT Gold Cup roster. Agudelo has been coming off the bench for the past month or so after picking up a knock in early May. Lee Nguyen has also seen a lot of time up top with either Juan or Kei this year, but with the Revs missing holding midfielder Xavier Kouassi I think you might see Lee in his more traditional midfield role with both Agudelo and Kamara up top.
The bigger talking point in New England will be, as it usually is, that having Juan and Kei starting together hasn't always worked. Both strikers are very different players and the Revs countering style plays better into Juan. However, Kei tends to open up space for the midfield group when they make late runs so the problem has been finding a balance in attack. The Revs can't be one dimensional and just counter because Juan is there, but nor can they just send in 30 crosses hoping Kei will latch onto one.
I don't think there's a wrong lineup for the Revs, but we're also not in a playoff spot right now and that can't be blamed entirely on just bad luck or sloppy finishing.