Revolution’s keys to victory against Kansas City
To quote Revolution forward Teal Bunbury following the team’s 3-0 setback Wednesday at the hands of visiting Montreal, “It’s at a point where enough is enough.”
Saturday’s match at Sporting Kansas City could either be a major turning point or the continuation of a downward spiral.
After being shut out for a league-leading fifth time this season — four times at home — the Revolution’s struggles have evolved into more than just another slow start, which the club seems to experience annually.
New England’s offense, primarily its trio of strikers, remains dormant, while Carles Gil’s production has slowed with teams quickly learning how to defend the Spanish playmaker. Meanwhile, the defense remains marred by inconsistent play.
With Saturday’s match being the start of a three-game, 11-day road trip, something must change immediately.
Here’s what New England (2-6-1, 7 points) can do to change the narrative against Sporting Kansas City.
Move it forward
It doesn’t seem to matter how many times coach Brad Friedel says it, the Revolution need to advance more players into an attacking position.
With a league-worst 21 shots on target with only six goals to show for it, there’s a reason they have put up so many zeros.
Of those 21 shots, only two have come from strikers. Perhaps it’s a lack of continuity in where the strikers are playing. Regardless, there needs to be a concerted effort to get bodies forward and push for goals.
“We’ve got to get ourselves into more advanced positions,” said Friedel on Wednesday. “To have a home game and zero shots on target is not very good, and I will take the full blame for that.”
Over the top
One way to exploit Sporting KC’s battered and beaten back line is with speed and stretch passes over the defense. With major injuries to starting defenders and a couple of key midfielders sidelined, the Revolution are catching Sporting Kansas City (2-2-3, 9 points) at a good time.
New England should look to use its speed and vertical advantage, which would mean some shuffling up front. Cristian Penilla, DeJuan Jones, and Brandon Bye could factor in, as all three have shown crossing ability both lengthwise upfield and spreading the defense into wide areas.
Up front, Juan Fernando Caicedo’s mix of strength, height, and speed could create matchup problems for SKC in the hold-up play, as well as on set pieces.
Another potential piece New England could look to is Tajon Buchanan. Like Caicedo, Buchanan has immense speed and clinical ability that has yet to be unlocked. But when given the chance, as in his cameo appearance at Columbus, Buchanan has made a positive impact.
“We need to be more efficient and create a lot more,” said Bunbury. “We’re not creating enough. I don’t know if it’s getting into good position, getting more crosses in, obviously we need to take more shots as well, but it’s little more sense of urgency.”
Sporting KC is a dangerous attacking team with its ability to spread the field on the flanks. With Gerso Fernandes and Johnny Russell likely to start on the wings, New England must also be wary of right back Graham Zusi, a Revolution killer.
Both Fernandes and Russell possess speed to get around the Revolution’s outside backs and whip crosses into the middle. With former New England forward Krisztian Nemeth finding his form since departing Foxborough, matched with the exciting ability of Gianluca Busio and Daniel Salloi at attacking midfield, the Revolution defense faces a hefty task against the West’s third-best scoring offense.
“We need to be smart,” said Revolution midfielder Diego Fagundez. “They’re at home so they’re going to give us everything they have.”
Revolution vs. Sporting KC
■ When, where: Saturday, 8:30 p.m., at Children’s Mercy Park, Kansas City, Kan.
■ TV, radio: NBCSB, WBZ-FM HD2.
■ Coaches: Revolution — Brad Friedel; SKC — Peter Vermes.
■ Formations: Revolution — 4-4-2; SKC — 4-1-4-1.
■ Goalkeepers: Revolution — Cody Cropper; SKC — Tim Melia.
■ Referee: Baldomero Toledo.
■ Out: Revolution — M Isaac Angking (knee); SKC — D Matt Besler (hamstring), D Rodney Wallace (hip), D Jaylin Lindsey (knee), D Andreu Fontas (calf), M Gedion Zelalem (ankle), M Roger Espinoza (knee), M Jimmy Medranda (knee), F Erik Hurtado (knee).
■ Miscellany: According to Opta, Revolution forward Carles Gil has won possession in the final third 24 times this season, twice as many times as any other MLS player and more than three other teams . . . New England has won just once in its last 11 visits to Kansas City . . . Since the start of 2016, New England is 5-34-15 on the road.