MLS New England Revolution

Sweeney: A few stray group stage thoughts

OK, let’s check a few things here:

Polar seltzer (Orange Vanilla): Check
Late morning snack (Sunflower seeds): Check
Cuddling cats (Squeaky looks like a golden retriever on her side, no BS): Check
Several stray group stage thoughts: Coming at you riiiiight… now

Just how good were the Revs in Group C?

Let’s break this down:

New England were, with the exception of the first 45 minutes of Tuesday and the last half an hour of Friday, on the front foot for most of all three games. The Revs generated chances, flexed its offensive authority in the form of having all three of their designated players — Carles Gil, Gustavo Bou, Adam Buksa — get involved in things (well, until Tuesday), and generally were not a pushover. Of course, the finishing just wasn’t there. You win some, you lose some.

But that’s not all. You take away the gaffe of the week by Antonio Delamea on Friday night and Henry Kessler getting beat by Ayo Akinola Tuesday morning, just how solid was this Revolution defense the last 270 minutes? The play of Michael Mancienne through that hour against Montreal — his play was subtle but effective — plus the IQ of Brandon Bye on display (he has really taken the leap), as well as the play of Matt Turner in goal, really pushed the Revs ahead.

Let’s add in the fact that they held Toronto FC to no goals after it had scored six against DC and Montreal in the Reds’ first two games of the tournament.

Of course, not finishing off their chances puts New England in a bind. Not finishing first in the group means they’ll have to play a top finisher in one of the other groups for the Round of 16, which should mean a massive test for the defensive corps. If they can get by whoever’s next — Philadelphia, Orlando City, San Jose, et al — then I think there’s a really good opportunity to clinch the title.

We will, of course, cross that bridge when we get there.

The last 120 minutes showed just how important Carles Gil is

Yes, you can give the Understatement of the Year Award to me right now, and I’ll gladly accept it. The last two hours of football without Gil has been an interesting display of just how important the Spaniard is to New England’s attack… but the last 45 minutes, however, the only thing missing was the finish.

During that last half an hour against DC United, the Revs looked thoroughly deflated without their Spanish talisman; no energy, no creativity, and second-half sub Diego Fagundez got beaten off the ball quite a bit.

But on Tuesday, he did some good things, switching the point of the attack early in the second half. He moved back into the No. 6 role when Bou entered the match Tuesday, and helped slow TFC down.

There just hasn’t been consistency out of Fagundez to show supporters that he can confidently step in to the No. 10 role in Gil’s absence, and if Gil can’t go at the weekend, it will be interesting to see who Bruce Arena slides into the 10: will it be Fagundez, or will Bou play a false 9 that floats?

These draws, though…

Through five games, New England is 1-1-3, with six points out of 15 possible claimed. In the tournament, they are at 1-0-2 — even though it feels like the ol’ picket fence after Delamea’s gaffe — and now await their next opponent.

Between now and then, after the recovery day, the Revs need to work on finishing, because ties are worthless now. You need to score to win, and with only two goals accrued in 270 minutes, that’s a problem.

Even with three DPs, the Revolution are having difficulty scoring. Yes, we’re two weeks removed from a four-month pandemic layoff. That should not be an excuse. There has been plenty of time for combos and tandems to connect in training, and now is the time to put those skills to work.

Scoring, as we all well know, can be the difference in not advancing and getting a few extra weeks’ rest before the season resumes in-market and out of the bubble, and lifting a trophy.