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Photo Credit: Major League Soccer, New England Revolution

New England Revolution

Revolution Preview: Do or Die In MLS Cup Playoff Match With Montreal

New England Revolution Preview: Do Or Die In MLS Cup Playoff Match With The Montreal Impact At Gillette Stadium.

November soccer at Gillette? On Friday the New England Revolution will host the Montreal Impact in a 2020 MLS Cup Playoffs Play-In Round match. New England failed to earn a non-play-in spot during the 2020 MLS regular season with a mediocre 8-7-8 record. Montreal was in a similar boat with Thierry Henry‘s team posting an 8-13-2 record. Only in MLS can teams with this type of performance make the playoffs but here we are.

“We look forward to the game,” said Revolution Sporting Director and Head Coach Bruce Arena. “Montreal had a great win over D.C. United in their last regular-season game, and I’m sure they’ll come into Foxborough with a lot of confidence. Our expectation [is] it’s going to be a real difficult game.”

New England has had a lot of familiarity with Montreal in 2020 with the two sides facing off on four different occasions. In those four meetings, the Revolution posted a 3-1-0 record and outscored Montreal 8-to-5. New England has faced the Impact 25 times in regular-season action but this is the first time they are facing each other in the postseason. New England is in the post-season for back-to-back years for the first time since 2014-15 but hasn’t won a playoff match since November 23, 2014, in a 2-1 victory at the New York Red Bulls.

Gillette hasn’t exactly felt like home for the Revolution in 2020. This season the Revs have a 2-3-5 record at home (2nd worst in all of MLS) and their last home win in the playoffs was in the Eastern Conference Finals against Sporting Kansas City on November 2nd, 2013.

“I’m optimistic about the team being able to break that streak,” said Farrell on a six-year playoff winless streak. “I think we have a really good team and we’re set up well. Obviously, it’s frustrating how we ended this season, especially in the first half of that game against Philadelphia we weren’t good enough. We know those performances in the playoffs aren’t going to get us to advance so we’re frustrated with that game but we’ve had 10 days since our last game and we’re excited for the challenge. Montreal is a really good team, they got into the playoffs at the end and it’s going to be a good battle. We matched up with them four times this season so we’re excited for the challenge. Speaking on the 2014 run we had, those were good times, we had good players, and I think in playoff games to advance you need everybody to be defensively solid and playmakers to make plays for you and we definitely have playmakers [now], we’re just going to need them to step up and everybody else to step up as well.”

During the 2020 MLS season, the biggest weakness of the Impact was their inability to defend. Montreal conceded 43 goals which were the most goals allowed by any Eastern Conference team. What aided the Impact was their ability to score with 33 goals making their goal differential -10, tied for third-worst in the Eastern Conference. As for the Revolution they had a stout defense conceding 25 goals but also scoring 26 with a +1 goal differential. This was the first time the Revs have posted a positive goal differential in a single season since 2015 when they also had a +1.

Revolution Dealt With A Lot Of Challenges In 2020, Chance To Show True Identity

A quick look at the Revolution’s 2020 season and you might say it was a complete and utter failure by Bruce Arena and company. But it is easy to see why the team struggled. They were without starting defensive midfielder Luis Caicedo for the entire 2020 season, reigning MLS Newcomer of the Year Carles Gil for most of the year, Cristian Penilla for the final two months, and Gustavo Bou for about a month. That is a lot of injuries to overcome on-top of a condensed schedule as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Yes, I would say this and year one,” said Arena when asked if this was his most difficult season as a coach. “Year one, no one knew what the hell was going on with the league. We were all over the place in terms of the competition stuff off the field. A new league with not a whole lot of experienced people in sports, it was very hectic. This year has been very hectic, but an organized way of being hectic. We knew what we were doing, but it was hectic because of the circumstances and certainly challenging. This year I think has been a phenomenal effort on behalf of the league and the players and the coaches and everyone involved, because it’s been real difficult going from the three- or four-month layoff we had when the league shut down to the bubble to returning from the bubble. To think now we are finished with the regular season, we actually have playoffs, and we’ll have an MLS Cup is, to me, absolutely remarkable.”

New England has struggled to get a consistent Starting XI on the field outside of their backline and goalkeeper position. With the playoffs, the Revolution have the chance to show their true identity with a relatively healthy team.

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We’re in the most important part of the season,” said Revolution Midfielder Carles Gil via a translator. “We can’t fail. We’re at home. We’d be deceiving ourselves if we get eliminated on Friday.”

COVID Hits The Revolution

The Revolution do have a COVID-19 case on their hands. Earlier in the week, the team confirmed that a member of the first-team had tested positive for COVID-19. A positive case just days ahead of a critical playoff match can be startling.

“In terms of the COVID news, we know we’re at a point in time where these things can happen,” said Gil on the COVID news. “We intend to take all the necessary precautions. We’re aware of the situation we’re in. We know that we can keep working and do what we love but we know these things can happen. In terms of my contract, I’ve spoken with the club but first we want to focus on the playoffs, which are what’s most important and once the season ends, we’ll talk.”

So what happens if there is an outbreak amongst the first team? According to ESPN, MLS will attempt to reschedule a game but if they cannot the team that has the outbreak will forfeit. In the case that both teams have an outbreak the team with the higher points per game average during the regular season will advance. There really isn’t a lot of wiggle room for MLS that has their MLS Cup Final scheduled for December 12th and the Concacaf Champions League starting back up on December 16th.

Photo Credit: Chris Aduama

What To Look Out For

While the Revolution have been disastrous at home in 2020 they do hold a 12-2-6 all-time post-season record at Gillette and are unbeaten in their last 12 playoff matches at home. You have to feel pretty confident in New England’s chances to score in bunches against Montreal. Adam Buksa, Gustavo Bou, and Carles Gil are forces up top to go along with solid complimentary pieces in Teal Bunbury and Tajon Buchanan.

The real test for the Revs could occur in the defensive midfield, a role that Scott Caldwell has appeared to have locked up but could really go either way. Montreal is a dangerous team but with Matt Turner in net and Andrew Farrell and Henry Kessler as the center-back pairing their is confidence in the ability to reign in the Impact.

At the end of the day, this is a match the Revolution should win. A loss at home against this Impact team would be a failure and conclude a season of bitter disappointment for a team that has vastly underachieved.

“I think we all sacrificed a lot this year, not just us players and families but everybody has,” said Farrell on all of the sacrifices the team has made this year. “This year has been obviously very tough for a lot of people and we would be very disappointed if we didn’t put in an effort in this game or in the playoffs. There’s no reason why we can’t push it and do well this year. We should in every game no matter what season it is, but especially this year with the ups and downs and all the craziness from going down to Florida to all the COVID stuff going on, it would just be a disappointment for ourselves.”

New England will host Montreal at 6:30 p.m. ET at Gillette Stadium. The match will be broadcasted nationally on Fox Sports 1 and on the radio locally on 98.5 The Sports Hub.

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Written By

Tanner founded Trifecta Sports in Spring of 2016 and has grown it from a blog into a multi-faceted media entity. He covers the New England Revolution, Pawtucket Red Sox, Boston Cannons, New England Patriots, and the Providence College Friars.

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