New England Revolution didn’t put up much of a fight in the second half of their May 4th matchup with Philadelphia Union. Ilsinho’s performance against New York Red Bulls may be more memorable, but the way he changed the match against the Revs was just as important.
Things have changed for the MLS originals since that 6-1 defeat, and new head coach Bruce Arena has his squad far more organized in transition that Brad Friedel ever managed. Furthermore, Arena has re-imagined Juan Agudelo as a central midfielder, found space for Diego Fagundez on the wing, and provided much-needed protection for his defense. The result is a team that now looks like it understands its head coach’s plan and is learning how to execute over 90 minutes. Wins over LA in the league and Red Bulls in the US Open Cup point to a team on the rise.
So what’s the secret? The most important factor is that Arena has Luis Caicedo sitting in front of his central defenders at all times. The holding midfielder’s mobility is a huge asset as he covers space behind Agudelo and playmaker Carles Gil, and when the defense holds its nerve and stays close to Caicedo it is hard to transition against the Revs.
That nerve still breaks to often though, and in these moments New England is extremely vulnerable, leaving a gap behind Caicedo for runners.
This is the first match in a three-game road run for Philadelphia, all against Eastern Conference foes. Taking points against New England and Orlando on either side of a difficult New York City matchup will make for a huge start to the back half of 2019.
Catch the Union and Revs in action on Wednesday, June 26 at 7:00 p.m. ET on PHL17.