As the Revolution inch closer to officially beginning the Bruce Arena era, interim coach Mike Lapper will take the reins one last time on Saturday in a home contest against DC United.
Since Lapper took over, New England has rattled off a pair of inspired defensive performances, holding opponents to one goal over the last 180 minutes while maintaining an unbeaten record. New England kept its second clean sheet of the season last weekend in a scoreless draw at Montreal.
Though the Impact dominated possession, chances were few for the hosts while the Revolution came close to breaking the deadlock on a couple of occasions. Montreal keeper Evan Bush held serve and so did the New England defense, rescued by a Jalil Anibaba goal-line clearance.
Going up against a DC team lacking an intense attacking nature still has its challenges, namely English striker Wayne Rooney who has had a hand in more than half of DC’s goals. United is just 1-1-1 in its last three MLS matches, having scored only twice with nine total shots on target and missing forward Paul Arriola to suspension this weekend.
The door is open for New England to earn 3 points, and here’s how.
Drive at the defense
During United’s recent setback against Houston, both goals conceded came in situations where fullbacks were forced into interior defending roles by the Dynamo forwards running straight at the defense.
The Revolution have the speed to duplicate this tactic, using wingers like Cristian Penilla or DeJuan Jones to drive the ball right at DC defenders and cut toward the middle to create attacking chances. With DC coming off a mid-week friendly against Spanish side Real Betis, those tired legs may be no match for New England’s pace.
Pat on the back
New England has looked more confident over the last couple of weeks, especially on the defensive side of the ball. With Anibaba and Andrew Farrell, two veterans, leading the way, the Revolution have regrouped defensively.
Can New England continue this steady play? Though injury has taken its toll on the defense with captain Michael Mancienne struggling with plantar fasciitis and Antonio Delamea still feeling the effects of a concussion, the Revolution are making it work.
“They just really gave a huge individual and team effort,” said Lapper. “For the most part, I thought the guys have been digging deep and battling hard collectively.”
So far this season, DC’s attack has run through Rooney. His combination of creativity and finishing ability has been lethal in MLS. The clear emphasis for New England should be to limit Rooney’s touches and make sure he is marked on runs to the back post.
Without strike partner Arriola in the mix, Rooney and Luciano Acosta will direct the DC offense, bringing different styles of play to the table yet keeping in sync.
“We just have to be up to the task,” said Anibaba. “It’s going to be a tough game here, they’re going to play good football.”
When, where: Saturday, 7:30 p.m., Gillette Stadium, Foxborough
TV, radio: NBCSB, WBZ-FM (98.5)
Formations: Revolution — 4-3-3; DC — 4-2-3-1
Goalkeepers: Revolution — Matt Turner; DC — Bill Hamid
Coaches: Revolution — Mike Lapper; DC — Ben Olsen
Referee: Dave Gantar (77 games)
Out: Revolution — D Michael Mancienne (foot), M Isaac Angking (knee); DC — D Oniel Fisher (knee), D Joseph Mora (jaw), D Donovan Pines (knee), M Antonio Bustamente (knee).
Miscellany: New England is unbeaten against DC United in its last seven home meetings, going 3-0-4 since 2012 . . . DC striker Wayne Rooney has been involved in 11 of his team’s 18 goals this season with four assists and seven individual tallies . . . DC coach Ben Olsen has 105 career coaching victories, ninth most all-time.