The Revolution had their 11-game unbeaten streak snapped at the hands of an elite LAFC team last Saturday night. They had a tough time in the midfield against a much stronger opponent — the first sign of adversity since Bruce Arena took over as coach.
On Saturday, the Revolution must put the pieces back together as they face the Western Conference heavyweight Seattle Sounders on the road — in one of the toughest road stadiums in MLS.
Although the Revolution have shown more grit in road contests over the past few months, Seattle has always been tricky for them. Since their first visit to CenturyLink Field in 2009, a 1-0 win, the Revolution have gone winless in Seattle (0-3-2).
Their last visit, a 3-3 draw in April 2017, was especially disappointing. After they went up, 3-0, late in the second half, the wheels came flying off as the Sounders tied it by the 90th minute. The teams played to a scoreless draw in Foxborough last July.
The Revolution will be facing Seattle with their third different coach in the last three meetings. Here is what can help them win Saturday:
Spread your wings
Seattle struggled to defend Kansas City attackers on the outside last week in a 3-2 defeat. The opening goal for KC came when a winger was left all alone at the top corner of the box, holding his run onside before streaking in to score.
New England has used a similar tactic with players such as Cristian Penilla, Carles Gil, and Diego Fagundez. Penilla’s speed makes him a dangerous mismatch on the left side, and his service could benefit Gustavo Bou or Teal Bunbury in the middle of the box.
It might even be wise to move the strikers out toward the edge of the box to give Gil space in the middle, using him almost as a false-9.
Another option: overlapping runs by fullbacks. Edgar Castillo and Brandon Bye have been doing this more frequently, and they could really affect Saturday’s game this way.
“The team is much more dynamic up front,” said Penilla through a translator. “We didn’t start well this season, but over the last few months, we had a good string of results; that’s what I can say about playing with a different set of players up front.”
Want some Mo?
The Revolution must contend with Sounders striker Jordan Morris, who always seems to get himself into dangerous positions. Morris scored both Seattle goals against KC last week and could have added a few others.
His biggest strength? Sneaking between defenders and waiting for service from Nico Lodeiro. If the Revolution can close off Lodeiro’s passing lanes in midfield, it will affect the timing of Morris’s runs. New England also may choose to deploy a high-line at the back in hopes of setting an offside trap.
With Antonio Delamea out with an injury, New England’s defensive depth may be tested; it could be a chance for Michael Mancienne or Jalil Anibaba to step into the lineup.
New England is 2-0-2 against Western Conference opponents on the road this season and 3-4-4 overall vs. the West — a stark contrast from the past few seasons.
What’s different? Scoring early goals has allowed New England to settle in better on the road. The Revolution often have been more confident in the attack rather than sitting back and waiting for chances.
“That really helps set the tone for us,” said Revolution keeper Matt Turner. “If not, it’s nothing to panic about. We trust ourselves and we’ve got some real fluidity up top.”
Revolution vs. Sounders
■ ■ When, where: Saturday, 4 p.m., at CenturyLink Field, Seattle.
■ TV, radio: NBCSB, WBZ-FM (98.5).
■ Coaches: Revolution — Bruce Arena; Sounders — Brian Schmetzer.
■ Referee: Dave Gantar.
Formations: Revolution — 4-2-3-1; Sounders — 4-2-3-1.
■ Goalkeepers: Revolution — Matt Turner; Sounders — Stefan Frei.
■ Out: Revolution — D Antonio Delamea (hamstring), D/M DeJuan Jones (right leg); Sounders — D Brad Smith (adductor), M Gustav Svensson (hamstring), M Victor Rodriguez (hamstring), F Will Bruin (knee), F Raul Ruidiaz (concussion).
■ Miscellany: Seattle midfielder Nicolas Lodeiro has reached 10 assists for the third consecutive season . . . The Sounders have lost two straight home matches after going unbeaten in their first 10 . . . New England’s Carles Gil is one of four players in MLS with at least eight goals and eight assists.
Dan Shulman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.