Bruce Arena and his New England Revolution side come to town for a showdown with the Columbus Crew on Saturday night. Both teams enter this contest in good form, as the hosts have won three on the bounce and the Revs are unbeaten in their last four games.
New England and Columbus have produced several high-scoring, exhilarating matches over the past several years and all signs point to this being another potentially thrilling contest. The Revolution could jump to the top of the Eastern Conference with a win, while the Black & Gold have the chance to move up to second by getting all three points.
Here is what to expect from another classic showdown on 90s night at Lower.com Field.
New England Revolution at a Glance:
Record: 5-1-1, 16 points
League Form: W-D-W-W-L
Leading Scorer: Bobby Wood, Gustavo Bou, Carles Gil, Dylan Borrero (2)
Assist Leader: DeJuan Jones, Bobby Wood (2)
Player to Watch: Carles Gil
Gil is one of the most talented players in MLS. While the attacking midfielder may not get the same media attention as others, Gil has been a standout since he joined the Revs in 2019.
Over the past four seasons, Gil has produced at an incredible level for the Revolution, scoring 28 goals and recording 36 assists in 117 matches. Gil operates in the central midfield and fits into Arena’s system perfectly. The Spaniard has free reign to roam into the space that the opponent provides him and loves to receive the ball in and around the opponent’s 18-yard box before delivering the final pass to his teammates.
Gil’s ability to “turn the screw” with his passing and vision is something that Columbus has been punished by before and will need to stop in order to win the game on Saturday. While it’s near impossible to completely shut down Gil, the Crew needs to limit his touches and force him to drop into his own half to receive the ball, keeping him away from the final third as much as possible.
How the New England Revolution play:
Arena has kept the Revolution’s tactical setup remarkably similar from last year to now. The team’s tactical consistency has allowed the players and staff to fine-tune their roles and know exactly what to do in each situation.
The Revs mainly operate out of a 4-2-3-1 formation that features overlapping fullbacks in Dejuan Jones and Brandon Bye when in possession. In doing this, New England’s wingers are able to tuck into the central part of the field to combine with Gil and the strikers. This attacking shape also allows the Revs to maintain numerical advantages in the central part of the field and created isolated opportunities for Jones and Bye to run at the backline and serve in dangerous crosses.
Defensively, the Revolution tend to press high whenever possible before falling back into a more compact defensive shape if that pressure is broken. Oftentimes, New England looks to initiate this pressure when the ball is played to their opponent’s outside back in possession. It will be interesting to see when the press begins against Columbus, as the Black & Gold typically push their wing backs high up the field in possession and don’t play with true outside backs.
It’s also worth noting that the Revs have been remarkably successful on set pieces so far in 2023. Namely, the Revolution has scored or created dangerous chances off of several short corners this season. This is of particular concern for the Crew who hasn’t always been convincing on defensive set pieces and will have to be set up and prepared to defend services and shots from atypical angles and areas on Saturday.
How the Crew can win:
The Black & Gold have won three straight games, including the team’s first away victory of the season last week against D.C. United. Looking to continue on this hot streak, there are a few key areas for Columbus to focus on against the Revs.
First and foremost, the Crew will have to limit Gil’s touches on the ball. When Gil receives the ball, it opens up New England’s attack across the entire field. If the Black & Gold can limit Gil’s touches, the Revolution attack will lack rhythm and likely struggle to create chances.
Columbus should have a numerical advantage over the Revs in central midfield (4 players vs. 3.) Thus, the Crew needs to exploit this advantage and use it to penetrate and get behind the Revolution’s defense. In addition, Jones and Bye are good 1 v. 1 defenders, which will make it difficult for the Black & Gold to penetrate out wide.
Lastly, Columbus needs to limit the Revs’ opportunities in attacking transition. New England has a plethora of players who can hurt the Crew in this area as Jones, Bye, Gil and Wood all excel in space. Since the Black & Gold push so many numbers into the attack, there will be space there for the Revs to attack. Limiting these transition opportunities will help thwart such attacks and help Columbus control the match.