Keys against New England: Slow Down the Revs

October 26, 2021 – Major League Soccer (MLS) – Colorado Rapids News Release

Still chasing the top spot in the Western Conference with three games to play, the Colorado Rapids will embark on their farthest road trip of the 2021 campaign to play against the side that has already locked up the top seed in the Eastern Conference: the New England Revolution. On top of sealing the top spot in the Eastern Conference – and the riches that come with it like a first-round bye and home field advantage throughout the playoffs – the Revs have clinched the Supporters’ Shield, the trophy given to the single MLS side with the most points at the end of the season.

New England has been the best team in MLS all year long. They’ve scored the most goals (64), have the highest goal differential (+24), have the most home wins (11), most road wins (10) and have one of the MVP front-runners on their team, Carles Gil. But there is still something out there eluding the Revs that they can achieve with three points in their final two matches: the single-season MLS points record.The Revs sit on 70. 

Given the fact the top seed in each conference receives a first-round bye in the playoffs, I’d expect Revs manager Bruce Arena to give it his all in the final two games to secure the points record. And perhaps set it to an improbable 76 points. Two games to get to 73, they’ll need either a win against the Rapids or a victory over Inter Miami CF on Decision Day.

And if the Revs do secure a victory Wednesday night, it may be against their toughest foe yet. The Rapids will be the first game the Revs have played against a team with 14 or more wins. The Rapids have played eight such games thanks to three against the Sounders, three against Sporting KC and two against the Portland Timbers. The Revs will be the ninth such game. Although, these numbers could change depending on whether or not some teams add some wins in the final few games.

So how do the Rapids go into Gillette Stadium, get all three points and inch closer to the top of the West? Here are my keys to the game.

Hobble Gil

This is much easier said than done. The Spaniard has 18 assists. 18! He is the engine that powers the Revs. In front of him are two lethal goal scorers in Gustavo Bou and Adam Buksa, who have combined for 31 goals. They can score without Gil feeding them, but their jobs get immeasurably easier when he creates and they finish. I’m curious to see how Rapids manager Robin Fraser deploys his midfield in this one. We saw Kellyn Acosta out wide in a wingback role against Portland; perhaps he moves back centrally and is paired next to captain Jack Price with the sole directive of denying Gil. Maybe Fraser has another trick up his sleeve we won’t be privy to until kickoff. Regardless, slowing down Gil slows down the Revs. It doesn’t neuter their attack entirely but it may force them to play the game left handed.

Expect Goals

We’ve covered this already but it’s worth reiterating: the Revs have tallied 64 goals in 32 games. My back-of-the-napkin math indicates that’s an average of two goals per 90 minutes. That’s pretty good. The Rapids are sitting at 1.45 goals per match, and that’s a good mark even if it’s below the Revs historic pace. The Rapids won’t be looking to get into a track meet with the Revs but through set pieces, timely pressing and opportune counters, the Rapids will be able to make goal-scoring chances where they can win this game. Oddly enough, per, the Revs have only won the xG battle in two of their last seven matches. Coincidentally, they’re 4-0-3 in that span, but it may speak to a slight crack in the armor.

Keep Up with the West

The Rapids are in third place in the Western Conference. A first-place finish is worth a first-round bye and home field advantage. A second-place finish grants them at least two home games in the postseason (assuming they win the first). Level on points with Sporting KC and three points behind the Sounders, the Rapids still have realistic ambitions of finishing in the top spot. We’ll know if the Rapids can find level footing with Seattle before kickoff Wednesday as the Sounders travel to LAFC for a Tuesday night match. SKC will face the Galaxy in Kansas City about 90 minutes after kickoff in Foxborough. It’s possible the top three could all be sitting at 58 points by the end of the evening Wednesday. There’s so much drama and tension left in this MLS regular season, even if the Revs have already secured the Supporters’ Shield.

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