One more game. 90 more minutes to prepare for the US Open Cup Final. The Union travel to Gillette stadium to face New England Revolution, a team who haven’t lost at home since a Red Bulls demolishing in July and a team who had one five in a row before their recent loss to Montreal. So the question is, can the Union live up to that giant killer reputation one more time?
This game is going to set a very different tone indeed, the Union presumably won’t be setting their strongest lineup with the Open Cup Final officially under a week away. But could they still come away with a win against New England regardless of who starts?
To do so, the Union would simply have to contain Lee Nguyen and Juan Agudelo a lot more effectively than they contained Kei Kamara last week. Whilst Davies should get the start ahead of the 22 year old, Agudelo should still play an important factor after his graceful assist against New York. The difference here is that where as Crew try to play everything through Kamara, the Revs have a midfield that embodies what Philly could have. With someone as established as Nguyen setting up the play for some big names up front, New England are always a dangerous side. But it’s not stopping the goals that could be the problem for the Union, it’s scoring them.
The Revs do a fantastic job of eliminating the presence of full backs on a counter attack. In fact, they do a good job at attacking against them as well. Historically the Union have struggled against their conference rivals and this has been a big part of the reason. When attacking, the Revs can effectively send Rowe or Fagundez to chage at either wing back before cutting inside, leaving the Union’s wing backs for dust. Or a simple ball over the top will be placed between the wing back and the centre back and as Fabinho doesn’t want to leave his post..it leaves a gaping hole for someone like Jones to run into to support the play.
They try to create separation between the backs and the midfield and it quite often forces turnovers or as we saw against New York, a yellow card. It’s a problem the Union have struggled with especially with Gaddis. Fabinho is a very attacking minded wing back so has tendencies to stay composed in this sort of pressure, but Le Toux likes to hang deeper, leaving Gaddis a lot of work to do if the same pressure ensues. To avoid being pressed the entire game, the Union have to play the ball through the centre of midfield..which is where the problem lies.
With the Open Cup Final drawing ever closer, the Union need to work out who the starting midfielders are going to be and who’s going to be rested. We can’t really predict who Curtin is going to start at this stage but the Union need at least one elite playmaker to stand a chance. New England have only conceded 8 goals in their last 9 and if the Union are resting the likes of Maidana then the team will struggle to move the ball past one of the most effective possession based teams in the league.
New England are a different challenge entirely in comparison to Houston and will be much harder to attack against. The Union would be smart to play a patient, counter attacking game to draw as many of the dangerous attackers out of harms way before pumping the ball over the top to everyone’s favourite Venezuelan who would have a considerable strength and height advantage.
The starting eleven may well look a little something like this. Blake should get the start in goal for two reasons. One, it rests McCarthy for the Open Cup Final appearance which he has earned and two, it gives Blake yet another chance to prove why he is the best long term option for the team whilst also throwing his hat into the mix for next week.
Edu would probably play a half at CB alongside Marquez with Crevalle starting over Fabinho or Gaddis. Lahoud and Carroll will act as the two defensive midfielders whilst I can see something very strange but effective happening in the attacking third. Ayuk and Wenger should get the starts on the wing but by starting Conor Casey (not the duck sized one) in an advanced playmaker role, it rests all three of the Union’s biggest midfield threats and allows Nando to start ahead of Sapong. This is a bit of a wild call but if the worst comes to the worst Curtin would surely change things around before the half or if things got too over run. But it’s the most effective way to rest a team.
For the Union, nobody is expecting a win here with the main focus being the Open Cup. The Revs are fighting hammer and tong at the other end of the table and face a team who are resting their big names before the most important game of the year. The residents of PPL Park will simply be looking to employ short passes through the centre and lofted balls over the top, whilst trying to ensure that the Defense retain shape and do not let someone of Davies’ presence or Agudelo’s skill escape. Will it be effective? Only time will tell, but I’m thinking the game could end in a 1-1 draw.