We’re doing this again, it looks.
For the third time in 2020, the Revolution will kick off what is essentially a new season when they meet Philadelphia at Gillette Stadium tonight, with the first of an expected 18 final matches contested. But unlike the last time the Revs played at their Route 1 home, there will be a few changes.
Like in March, there will be no Carles Gil on the pitch for The Boys In Blue, after he underwent successful surgery to repair his Achilles in Spain earlier this month. He is pretty much done for what serves as the remainder of the 2020 Major League Soccer season. However, the Revs do have new signee Matt Polster available for selection to help in the midfield. If that helps you gets through today at all.
And unlike in March, the Revs will play tonight’s match — as well as all home matches through September, per Governor Charlie Baker’s mandate — behind closed doors. Some media will be in attendance, socially distanced, on Blue Level. More on that in a bit.
It has been 26 days since New England has played a competitive fixture following their first knockout round ousting by these same Union, and the hope here is that the Revs have worked on their attack in these last three-plus weeks. The Boys In Blue have been positively anemic offensively — 219 minutes without a goal since Adam Buksa scored against DC United — in this broken-up campaign, with four goals scored, two of which by Buksa. In that last match against DOOP, the Revs had only five shots on Andre Blake’s goal, and only challenged Blake a couple of times.
And without Gil, the Revs had no creativity against the Union. The hope here is that Bruce Arena — who will serve a touchline ban following his red card after the full-time whistle early in the morning on July 26; no word yet as to if it will be Richie Williams or Dave van den Burgh in the technical area leading the club tonight — will move Gustavo Bou into the No. 10/floating false No. 9 role to have more of an impact on the distribution and have everything New England does go through him. That, in my opinion, would be the most technically savvy thing to do: have the Argentine draw all of DOOP’s attention and free up Buksa, Cristian Penilla, Teal Bunbury, et al. in the hopes of scoring goals. Because J.F.C. — no, not Juan Fernando Caicedo — they need them.
Philadelphia is expected to be without Kai Wagner (contusion) in the back and Cory Burke (travel) up top tonight, but that shouldn’t be an issue as the Union have spread out the scoring in 2020: Philly has seven different goal scorers, and the Revolution defending will have to not suffer the same problem it did against the Union when the two sides met in Orlando.
It should also be noted here: the Revolution have not beaten Philly since July 2017, a 3-nil win here at Gillette on July 29 of that year. In the Union’s last two visits to Route 1, New England lost to DOOP in dreadful fashion — Antonio Delamea‘s handle in the box which came after the Revs came from two goals down to level in 2018 — and Andrew Farrell scored an own goal in July of last year to spoil Arena’s home debut.
We mentioned that the Boston soccer press corps will be socially distanced on Blue Level, and that’s true. However, for the first time since April 5, 2018, I won’t be making the trip to Gillette this weekend — and more than likely not for the remainder of the regular season.
A quick trip into the personal files: I’m high risk for COVID. I have severe congenital aortic stenosis — a narrowing of the aortic valve — as well as hypertension. I am also not in the best shape of my life, and that severe rating has led to breathing problems; with breathing issues, it’s hard to get a solid work-out in. I have barely gone anywhere since the pandemic started, with the exception of the grocery store, a hardware store, or to the barn; my wife had a stroke on May 12, and I’ve been driving her wherever she needs to go and will until November 12, while I stay in the car. She and I are also rather vigilant in being socially distanced. Simply put: I contract this virus, I’m a goner.
I don’t think any of my readers want me dead. At least I don’t think they don’t.
In addition — and this isn’t a complaint — there’s been a change in parking lots for us ink-stained wretches. Before this season, we in the media parked in lot 6A, on the east side of the stadium, took a short walk to and through Security Command in the southeastern corner of the stadium, and took a short walk to the elevators.
That changed this season: we parked on the northeast corner of the stadium for the home opener, and we had to walk the length of the stadium to Security Command. I had to stop a couple of times to catch my breath — I’ve had to do that in walking to the media work room for post match pressers in both 2018 and 2019 — upon arriving and leaving; Julian Cardillo will attest to that, given he and I left together following the 1-1 draw to Chicago.
For this re-start, we’re slated to park on the west side of the stadium, go through the uBid Gate and, if the elevators are unavailable, we have to walk up the ramps — hello, breathing issues — to get to Blue Level with a club escort. I highly doubt the Revolution would cater to my health concerns and have a golf cart drive me up and through the tunnels of Gillette, especially after the criticism I’ve levied toward them.
With that in mind, plus the whole unknown about COVID and my breathing problems/heart condition known, I’m staying away from Gillette for the time being. I hope to return when there is a vaccine — I know, that could be a while — and/or when I have the aortic valve replaced through surgery. That, too, could be a while: it’s not scheduled as of yet, but I had a catherization at Beth Israel in February, and my cardiologist feels this is a matter of when in 2021, not an if. This is happening.
When I can be at my best and not in fear of contracting a potentially fatal disease, I will be back on Blue Level. Until then, I’ll be putting the fear of god into the Revs from home, like I do for road games.
Revs II will be in action at Gillette Friday night, with Richmond Kickers the opposition. Kick-off on ESPN+ is 7 p.m., and unlike last weekend where I was an exhausted wet mop after yard work, we will have full coverage for you from The New Farm.
Friday is the first of three matches in eight days, and is the third division side’s first serious test of their stamina.
Hartford Athletic is in action Sunday as The Boys In Green take on Loudoun United at Dillon Stadium. Kick-off is at 7 p.m. Hartford has had two of its last three matches postponed due to COVID, with Wednesday’s game against Union II postponed.
Hartford is home for the next three matches.
Good to see the Fall River Marksmen are in action with an indoor league at the Won Sports Complex in Seekonk, keeping sharp during the pandemic. The Marksmen played twice in split squad action earlier this week, with Marksmen White downing Inter RI, 10-3, while Marksmen Red lost a toughie, 4-3, to Santa Clara.
Red vs. White is slated for this Tuesday. And we do hear that the Marksmen and Fall River FC are working on a Taça for this year, with two dates picked: Sept. 6 at 3 p.m., with FRFC’s home date played first at Bliss Field in Rehoboth. The return leg is slated for October 14 at the Marksmen, with the location TBA. We’ll keep you updated.
Speaking of Fall River FC, it will compete this fall in the Football Alliance of New England — FA1 — starting this weekend. That fixture list starts this weekend against St. Michael’s SC.
In other news, US Soccer has cancelled this year’s edition of the Open Cup due to the pandemic. Western Mass. Pioneers, which qualified via its League Two standings from last year, and Newtown Pride FC of Connecticut will both enter the competition next year. There is also no local qualifying for next year slated for this fall, either.