Revs-New York City FC preview: Finding a way to win


Let’s start with some good news: Frank Lampard will not be making his Major League Soccer debut when the Revs host New York City FC tonight at Gillette (kickoff 7:30 p.m. Comcast SportsNet).

Friday night Steven Gerrard made his first appearance in MLS competition and lit up San Jose to the tune of a goal, assist and drawing a penalty in route to a 5-2 win over San Jose. Obviously no guarantee that Lampard, another English legend, would have a Gerrard-like impact in his opener, but it does make the Revs life a little easier not having to deal with him. 

The Revs need all the help they can get these days.  They’re riding a league-leading five-game losing streak, one win in their last 12 games and consecutive terrible performances in which they were outscored by a combined score of 7-1 against the Red Bulls and FC Dallas.  

The Revs defense -- not just in the back line, but across the entire squad -- has been really poor as of late.  

They lead the league in goals allowed now, passing Philadelphia last week with 33 conceded. And during their current losing streak they’ve allowed 13 goals. The squad has lacked effort, effective communication and execution at critical times during this stretch.  

Saturday night’s match is going to test the defense again as Jose Gonçalves is serving a red card suspension picked up last week (second red card this season, first against NYCFC March 15th). In his absence, London Woodberry will most likely deputize as he did in Dallas when Andrew Farrell was serving a suspension. Jeremy Hall most likely will come in at right back as Woodberry moves over.  

The Revs back four have been on constant rotation all year due to injuries and suspensions. There is absolutely no doubt they have to add talent and depth to the back line during this transfer window. I won’t get too into their transfer needs now as I did that with general manager Mike Burns on State of the Revs this week

The lack of cohesion for this defense has been evident and Saturday they’ll have to show drastic improvement to contain David Villa. Spain’s all time leading scorer has really started to hit his stride in MLS. He’s third in the league in scoring with 10 goals, but has scored eight of those over the last seven matches in which NYCFC is 4-1-2.

Villa’s movement and quality in front of the net require only minimal chances to change the game. As we saw last week in NYCFC’s crazy 4-4 draw against Toronto FC. The game was wildly entertaining with so many goals and chances but void of any solid defending. Similar to the Revs, NYCFC has struggled defensively allowing the fourth most goals in the league with 27. They tend to have one or two moments a game with complete breakdowns defensively that have cost them points. Last week provided a good example of this as they were up 2-0 at home only to allow 3 goals in 9 minutes to Sebastian Giovinco.  

The Revs should be able to generate scoring chances, but they can’t afford to get into a wild, open game like TFC did last week. This Revs team needs to build confidence in their defense, and that should be the focus coming into this match.  A clean sheet is the goal. That said, they aren’t going to sit back and try to counter. That’s not how Jay Heaps sets up his team, especially at home.

I wouldn’t mind seeing some tactical shifts coming into matches and even more so drastic changes in game if they get a lead. Prior to the last two games, they had led in eight of nine matches but won only one of those games. Keeping a lead has been a problem and given their dire need of a win if the Revs can take a lead it should become all hands on deck to hold that lead. I’m not suggesting they park the bus if they go up, but a high pressing aggressive approach would not be beneficial to break this losing streak. 

It’s only July, but this is a huge six pointer in the standings. The Revs currently sit at sixth place on 24 points and the NYCFC are tied for 8th with 21 points. The problem for the Revs is all the teams in the middle of the Eastern Conference logjam have at least two games in hand. The Revs can’t find themselves in eighth or ninth place. This might be the closest to a must win game in July for any MLS team, ever, given their place in the standings, their current form and lacking confidence . . . this team needs a win.

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