Match previews

Match preview: New England Revolution vs. Philadelphia Union

Photo: Rob Simmons

Who: New England Revolution (11th place, 16 points, 4-8-4 vs. Philadelphia Union (1st place, 31 points, 9-4-4)
What: 2019 regular season game
Where: Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, Ma.
When: Wednesday, June 26 at 7 pm
Watch: PHL17, ESPN+
Whistle: Nima Saghafi; CJ Morgante, Cory Richardson; Elvis Osmanovic; Ricardo Salazar

After two weeks of rest, Philadelphia Union return to action Wednesday night as they travel to Gillette Stadium to face New England Revolution.

The Gold Cup break came at the midway point of the Union’s season, and the Boys in Blue will look to build on the form that has them at the top of MLS’ Eastern Conference after their opening 17 games. Conversely, their opponent sit near the bottom of the standings.

It’s similar to Philadelphia and New England’s initial clash this season, with the teams were positioned at the top and bottom of the conference, respectively. Expectations held true as the Union rolled to a 6-1 home victory back on May 4.

But tonight’s match wont be as straightforward.

It’s reminiscent of a recent match where the Union dropped two points at home against then struggling Colorado Rapids. The Rapids had fired their head coach and didn’t record their first win of the season until their 12th match of the season. While that draw was disappointing at the time, it came in the midst the Rapids’ active streak of six games unbeaten, going 4-0-2. That run has the club within four points of a playoff spot.

The Revolution made a similar change that has them just one win away from the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

Are(n)a of expertise

The 6-1 defeat to the Union was former manager Brad Friedel’s penultimate game in charge of New England. The following 5-0 loss against Chicago Fire sealed Friedel’s fate, who was fired on May 9.

Five days later, the Revolution hired the most accomplished coach in modern American soccer history. Bruce Arena was named New England’s sporting director and head coach.

Arena’s name leaves a sour taste in the mouths of many U.S. soccer fans. He was the man in charge of the USMNT’s collapse in Couva, Trinidad and Tobago, and resulting failure of qualifying for the 2018 World Cup.

He’s also the man with the most U.S. international victories (81), MLS postseason victories (32), MLS Cups (5), Supporters’ Shields (3), and second most MLS regular season wins (203).

Arena is no joke.

Since his appointment, the Revolution haven’t loss in MLS play, going 2-0-2. Arena took his time surveying the club before returning to the touchline, though, and didn’t coach the team until the last game of that four game stretch: a 2-1 road victory over his former club, LA Galaxy. Arena also led the team to a road upset of New York Red Bulls in the U.S. Open Cup before falling in extra time to Orlando City SC in the following round during the Gold Cup break.

Arena has abandoned Friedel’s dictatorial style, eschewing the curfews, team dinners, and dress codes of the previous regime.

Tactically, he’s also diverged from Friedel’s high energy, high press approach that left a weak defense overexposed. The Revolution now absorb pressure, staying compact rather than stretched. Midfielder Luis Caicedo sits in front of center backs Andrew Farrell and Jalil Anibaba (who, along with full back Brandon Bye, was suspended for the game in Philadelphia.)

After surrendering three goals or more five times under Friedel, New England has held teams to one goal or less in regulation in five of their last six games across all competitions.

Under Arena, New England is revolutionizing their style.

  • Injury report: QUESTIONABLE: Michael Mancienne (D, foot injury)
  • Suspended: Matt Turner (GK)
  • International duty: Zachary Herivaux (M)
Keeping the engine running

In their last outing, the Union lost a heart rending U.S. Open Cup match to D.C. United. After taking the lead in the 113th minute of extra time, Philadelphia surrendered two goals in the final three minutes of action to fall 2-1. It was the first time the Union lost in their first game of the tournament.

But after years of the Open Cup defining the Union’s success, the loss was muted.

In 2019, the Union are chasing bigger trophies.

In order to strengthen their grip on the conference and challenge LAFC for the Supporters’ Shield, Philadelphia needs to avoid a sluggish restart after the long layoff. The second half of the season starts hard and fast. The Union play three games in eight days, all of which are on the road.

That might not be a problem.

Philadelphia won their last two MLS games away from Chester and are 3-2-2 in road matches this season. Conversely, no team has more than New England’s four home defeats.

With the long layoff comes the return of Philadelphia’s Designated Player Marco Fabián, who is finally 100% fit after being hampered with injuries for most of the season.

The Union should be at full strength, save for their goalkeeper. Andre Blake is away with Jamaica at the Gold Cup. Matt Freese replaced Blake in the Open Cup loss, but didn’t show well. Brazilian Carlos Miguel Coronel could get the nod after solid performances in net while both Blake and Freese were injured earlier in the year.

  • Injury report: OUT: Warren Creavalle (M, right foot fracture); Olivier Mbaizo (D, left knee meniscus/LCL sprain)
    QUESTIONABLE: Marco Fabián (M, left ankle sprain); Michee Ngalina (F, lower body injury)
  • Suspended: None.
  • International duty: Andre Blake (GK)
Key matchup: Jim Curtin vs. Bruce Arena

Arena may have the accolades, but Union manager Jim Curtin is the likely front runner for MLS Coach of the Year. It will be an intriguing tactical matchup. With playing at home and more time in charge, will Arena take more risk in attack, or will he favor the safer approach that has brought success? What will be Curtin’s response? Will the Union be crisp in their return to action?

Players to watch: Philly’s forwards

After shipping off attacker David Accam, the Union have relied on three players to man the two forward positions at the top of their 4-4-2 formation: Kacper Przybylko, Sergio Santos, and Fafa Picault. Despite combining for 2,118 minutes of action, the trio has produced just eight goals. Somehow, Philly’s forwards have accounted for just a quarter of the Union’s conference leading 31 goals.

Sporting Director Ernst Tanner brought in German-American attacker Andrew Wooten to challenge the triumvirate, who scored 17 times in 2. Bundesliga last season. Wooten is likely to claim one of those starting spots, but isn’t eligible to play until the Union’s match with Real Salt Lake on July 13. That leaves four games for another forward to get hot. Back lines like the Revolution’s offer the opportunity for forwards to feast. Will any of the Union’s three take advantage?

Prediction: Philadelphia Union 2-1 New England Revolution

New England are playing well and are at home. The Union could be rusty. It should be an ugly, frustrating game, but the better, more talented team will win. It’s refreshing to say that’s the Union— and it holds true against more teams than just the Revolution.


  1. OneManWolfpack says:

    Oddly nervous about this game… I guess because of the 2 week break and the turf/environment up there. It’ll be a nice way to break the layoff before the bigger game vs NYCFC on the weekend.

  2. Agreed about being nervous, but also excited to see Fabian, Montiero, Bedoya and Haris work together in midfield, with Kacper’s smart movement/hold-up play and Santos’ speed/strength up top. Could be a really dynamic group!
    Would also like to see option of Bedoya moving back to Haris’s spot at 60min to get Ilsinho on the field and stiffen the defense.

  3. I don’t think The Union will risk Fabian off of his injury on turf tonight. They’ll probably save him for Saturday.

  4. How has Arena been doing with the Revs? haven’t been following. Just one game in the books? I’ll expect it to be a fight. Definitely not a 6-1 drubbing.

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