It was just over a week ago that Jack Elliott’s brace led the Union to victory over New England Revolution, so we should all know this opponent well. Still, a few things have changed since last these rivals met.
Maybe it’s Mancienne
New England’s back line has been an issue ever since week one when both center backs were dismissed in a loss to the Union. Jalil Anibaba has not impressed, and when Brad Friedel was asked about Claude Dielna after Philly knocked off the Revs, he responded, “Another player who works hard to get a spot in the 18.” That is, of course, the ideal Jeopardy clue when the answer is ‘Who is Claude Dielna?’ but it’s hardly a ringing endorsement of the player. Chelsea product and former Nottingham Forest defender Michael Mancienne has been brought in to help rectify the situation in defense. Mancienne is a new body, and at this point that’s a positive for New England.
What’s in the middle? Za-hi-bo
Against DC United last weekend, Brad Friedel brought Wilfried Zahibo into the center in the second half and largely blunted the DC attack that had been so free-flowing in the opening frame. However, Zahibo was also asked to do a lot of work starting attacks and that was just too much to ask.
The Union can expect Zahibo to feature on Saturday, but the question is how New England sets up to move the ball in a way that doesn’t force their best midfielder to carry such a heavy two-way burden.
One option would be to drop Diego Fagundez into the center, and another would be to *gasp* start Kelyn Rowe. Friedel won’t be able to use Scott Caldwell since the midfielder picked up a red against DC for very persistent infringement.
Press is the only way
The Revs don’t really have a Plan B. They are going to come out and try to take the ball away from the Union high up the pitch. Friedel will push 4-5 men high and hope they are organized enough to prevent Philly’s distributors from being able to turn and look upfield.
The Union will try to break the first line of pressure with their first pass, so watch for the fullbacks to try and get above that first wave of defenders when the center backs have the ball. Additionally, Philly can use Sapong in the air against Brandon Bye if the young fullback retains his place.
The Union and Revs face off on Saturday at 7PM EST at Talen Energy Stadium with New England looking to cling on to their playoff hopes as the Union try to create some distance between themselves and those teams below the dreaded red line.