3 takeaways from the Revolution’s victory over Nashville
New England Revolution
A change of formation paid off for the Bruce Arena side in a tough home game.
The Revolution emerged with a 1-0 win over Nashville SC on Saturday night at Gillette Stadium. New England is now 3-0-1 and sits second in the Eastern Conference.
After last week’s debacle against Los Angeles FC, the Revolution bounced back with an effective, hard-fought three-pointer against an organized opponent.
The difference in the match came from a dazzling finish at the post scored by striker Gustavo Bou:
Here are some takeaways:
A change in formation (mostly) worked.
Although Bruce Arena generally dismissed talk of formations, their tactical adjustment – opting for a more traditional 4-4-2 instead of the previously favored 4-1-2-1-2 – helped secure the victory.
New England deployed Gustavo Bou in more of his favored position as an outright striker (as opposed to an attacking midfielder). With Carles Gil out, Bou still seemed interested in helping connect the Revolution’s builder, dropping to receive the ball in the channel and, in turn, spraying passes mainly to right-back Brandon Bye to help create breadth.
Yet his general positioning was more advanced than in the loss to Los Angeles, and he seemed more on pace. The fact that he scored the game’s only goal seemed like a natural extension of his overall quality performance.
“In the last game in Los Angeles, I didn’t play in a position for which my characteristics are known,” Bou explained afterwards. “I tried to do my best for the team in the place that Carles usually occupies. The coaches had confidence in me. Personally, I didn’t feel good. I didn’t feel like I was good for the team, but my mentality was to give my best for the coaches and for my teammates. I tried to do what I do best and tonight I felt more comfortable.
Noel Buck, used in previous games as part of a central midfield trio, was pushed outside as a wide right midfielder. While this tactic left New England slightly more exposed in midfield (with 2022 MLS MVP Hany Mukhtar finding some pockets of space to fire shots from range), it also helped the Revolution exploit wide areas. on offense more consistently.
Arena are still figuring out who their best starting line-up can be and how best to utilize those players, but under the circumstances (missing their regular captain Gil) the New England coach has produced a productive result. with a change in formation.
The last 15 minutes didn’t need to be such a struggle.
Despite Nashville’s attacking abilities being limited for much of the night, the final period of the game proved to be a struggle for New England.
Clinging with growing desperation to a one-goal lead, the Revolution proved unable to remove the sting from play by merely holding the ball. Gil’s absence was most glaring in the latter part of the night as Nashville received a bigger share of possession.
“For 75 minutes it was really good. I didn’t like the last 10-15 minutes,” Arena said after the game. “But overall a good performance against a good team.”
“We were a little too negative in the way we played,” Arena added later when asked what he didn’t like about the final half of the game. “We weren’t as organized as we should have been in our backline.”
A third shutout in four games.
Despite the frenetic nature of the final 15 minutes, New England managed to hold on and keep a clean sheet.
The effectiveness of defense should not be underestimated. No team has dropped more points in the last 15 minutes of games in 2022 than the Revolution, so simply preserving a shutout is an objective improvement for Arena’s team so far in 2023.
As much credit as the Revolution back line gained, including goalkeeper Djordje Petrović, the defensive improvement also came in part thanks to midfielders Latif Blessing and Matt Polster.
Polster’s hustle and no-frills defense helped wipe out Nashville’s attempted counterattacks, while Blessing’s energy and quick distribution helped keep New England on the front foot. The duo’s work rate also allowed the Revolution to get away with the switch to 4-4-2 (and sometimes being outnumbered in midfield).
Nashville’s most consistent (and dangerous) threat for most of the game came from set pieces. Centre-back Walker Zimmerman almost found an equalizer from corner kicks, and Arena will no doubt be looking to improve how their side defend those situations.
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