The Reds will begin their all-important week by hosting the New England Revolution on Wednesday night. Kick-off is scheduled for 7:30 pm EST and can be watched on TSN.
As it stands right now, Toronto sits in 12th in the Eastern Conference with 29 points, four points behind Inter Miami, who currently occupy the final playoff spot. Over the course of the next week, the Reds will face-off against clubs who are within touching distance – the Revolution on Wednesday night, a trip to Inter Miami on Saturday, and then a visit to Charlotte the following Saturday.
With the current run the Reds are on, and the squad gelling together with every passing game, this stretch of games is coming at a great time for the club. Over their last four games in MLS play, the Reds are 3-1-0, which includes a 0-0 draw against the Revs at Gillette Stadium. In fact, since the debuts of Italian duo of Lorenzo Insigne and Federico Bernardeschi, the Reds have not lost a 90-minute match, with their only defeat coming in the 2022 Canadian Championship Final in penalties.
Over their four-game unbeaten run in the league, the Reds have also shown that their defensive side of the game has become much improved, having conceded four times in four matches, with three of the four goals conceded coming in a 4-3 win in Nashville, the Reds’ first MLS road victory of the season.
The centre back duo of Chris Mavinga and Lukas MacNaughton, along with Richie Laryea and Domenico Criscito, have been preferred by head coach Bob Bradley and found a rhythm over the last three matches, and despite the short turnaround, this backline will all but likely keep their spots for Wednesday’s matchup.
Toronto came away from their weekend matchup unscathed with no new players added to the injury list. For Wednesday’s matchup, the Reds will continue to be without Noble Okello and Quentin Westberg (Upper body), while Mark-Anthony Kaye remains questionable with a lower body injury.
The Reds’ opponents on Wednesday night will be feeling just as confident as the Reds heading into their highly anticipated rematch. After a poor start to their season, New England has definitely turned their season around. The first nine matches saw the Revs lose five of those games. Since their loss on April 23rd, New England has only failed to pick up points on two occasions, in their losses to New York City FC and the Philadelphia Union.
Heading into Wednesday night, the Revs are riding their own four-game unbeaten streak. Over their latest four-match unbeaten run, the Revs are 2-2-0, and have not conceded a goal in that span. In their most recent outing in the league, New England walked away with a 1-0 victory over last-placed D.C. United.
A big part of New England’s defensive success has been goalkeeper Djordje Petrovic. Petrovic took over the number one spot on June 12th and since then has featured in 11 games for the Revs. In those 11 games, the Serbian international has recorded five clean sheets, and has conceded just 11 goals, which currently has him ranked third amongst MLS ‘keepers.
Petrovic played a key role in the last matchup between these clubs, when the Serbian denied Insigne from the spot, which would have surely given the Reds all three points.
Revolution head coach Bruce Arena will have a relatively healthy squad when New England crosses the border. The only notable absence for the Revolution will be Henry Kessler who has been ruled out due to Health & Safety protocols. Kessler had featured in all four matches during this unbeaten run. However, Kessler’s absence could open the door for former Reds defender Omar Gonzalez to feature at BMO Field.
This matchup has been closely contested in its recent history, with the margin for the winning team being one goal. The last time the winning team in this fixture won by more than one goal was back in 2018, when the Reds won 4-1 at BMO Field.
The low point is easy, that was the early season disaster that culminated in the Revs getting dumped out of the CCL away to Pumas. Having a 3-0 lead on the road, New England had to trot out a rotated squad and struggled mightily in the second leg. The Revs have handled being short handed a lot better in recent weeks but in the early part of the year the Revs defensively were a mess and at least during this recent rash of injuries the backline has been consistent though Henry Kessler is out due to health and safety protocols for the Canada trip this week.
The high point on the field is tricky, because the transfers of Buchanan, Buksa, and Turner are a tremendous boon for the club off the field as their recruiting to replace those players looks very solid even if we haven’t seen the full capabilities of Dylan Borrero and Giacomo Vrioni yet. On the field, I think the win at Orlando two weeks ago was the most impressive of the season. The Revs were short handed and started an odd attacking trio of homegrown Justin Rennicks at striker with Carles Gil and Tommy McNamara as dual attacking mids and it honestly worked really well. Rennicks was great in the press, Gil dropped deep to help control possession, and Tommy Mac turned two attacking third recoveries into assists with great centering passes to Matt Polster and Wilfrid Kaptoum making long runs out of the deep midfield. It was one of New England’s most complete games on both sides of the ball and hopefully they can carry that form forward as more players get healthy.
I mean, Carles Gil is still the reigning MVP and he took on a far more scoring minded approach last week against DC that was sorely needed and he should’ve had two goals in that match. But right now Djordje Petrovic in goal has been truly immense. His shot stopping numbers after just a few months in the league are at historic levels. Essentially, Petrovic is saving the Revs about two-thirds of a goal per game against expected goals, numbers that are better than Matt Turner’s figures over the last few years.
Carles Gil might still pull the strings, Giacomo Vrioni might be the next Adam Buksa target man in the league, and Borrero is absolutely a handful to deal with in 1-on-1 situations, but right now there is not a keeper playing at the level of Petrovic and he’s still getting better. His decision making off his line and in distribution at times is still a little off, but the shot stopping and positioning stuff is already on point. I think Petrovic should be in the running for league keeper of the year and if the Revs make the playoffs he should be a lock for the award.
Lletget was someone I thought did very well in New England but the player wanted a more central role that Bruce Arena tactically could not give him. Lletget ended up playing more as a tucked in winger and did very well occupying channels and making late runs into the box and his understanding of the game was on display frequently and such off the ball movement I thought could have benefitted the Revs greatly. Alas, the Revs decided to make a long term move and send Lletget to Dallas where he’s already settling in well. In the meantime, Dylan Borrero was signed more as a Tajon Buchanan replacement and I would have liked to see what Borrero and Lletget could have done as attacking mid/wing partners with Gil in the middle but the two rarely got to feature at the same time.
Veteran Ema Boateng has been a great spark off the bench late in games and did really well in a start against DC last weekend. Homegrowns Damian Rivera, Noel Buck, and Esmir Bajraktarevic could be in line for more minutes over the next couple of games. Rivera has gotten the most minutes this year and has shown several flashes of brilliance but hasn’t always had a solid impact on the game. Buck made his debut over the week and really impressed out wide, especially since he is known as being a central player. Esmir has yet to make his MLS debut though we thought that might occur against DC with the Revs shorthanded and perhaps a double game week will offer up the opportunity for minutes.
Well we already talked a bit about Djordje Petrovic in net, but the real key has been the consistency of Henry Kessler and Andrew Farrell at centerback simply being healthy. Kessler had a knock early in the year and the Revs really struggled to replace him as Omar Gonzalez wasn’t effective and Jon Bell was coming off his own injury. The Revs traded for Christian Makoun from Charlotte to solidify the backline as well.
Now Kessler and Farrell have not played at the level they were at last year though fullbacks DeJuan Jones and Brandon Bye have stepped up with Bye in particular having one of his best seasons. The Revs backline doesn’t always make things look pretty, there’s a lot of scrambling and emergency defending and a decent helping of Petrovic bailing everyone out. But at full strength and with Matt Polster helping shield the backline, the Revs do more than enough to get the job done and have one of the longest shutouts streaks in team history currently active.
source: Waking The Red