The Impact are looking to consolidate a reputation here. They've eliminated Pachuca and just mopped the floor of Stade Olympique with Alajuelense. We're going to be looking for a win, and anything less will be a failure.
The New England Revolution had an amazing 2014, reaching the MLS Cup finals and dominating the Eastern Conference for most of the season. 2015 however has been dismal. They've yet to score a goal and have been beaten by both Seattle (3-0) and New York City FC (2-0). They're missing key players and their defending options could charitably be described as 'needing improvement'. They'll be hungry to stop the slide into irrelevance at home.
Where can I watch?
TVA Sports in French-Canada, and MLS-Live will carry an American stream of the match. Side note; the commentators on the American streams are hilariously bad sometimes, and I highly recommend watching MLS-live sometimes for super biased coverage and amazing mispronunciations of names in American mid-western accents.
Okay, before I start this off let me say that New England is a scary good team on paper. On the pitch they've been anything but effective, so this team is going to make some weird substitutions or adjustments. Alston is injured, and Goncalves is suspended. Lee Nguyen, a superstar last year, is recovering from a groin injury and only played 70 minutes against NYCFC.
Teal Bunbury, designated player Jermaine Jones, and Donnie Smith are all also injured and will not play.
With all those injuries racking up, their defensive depth will be put to the test. I'm expecting the following line-up for the New England Revolution:
If everything goes well on this team, we could be in for a real uphill battle. If we can figure out how to get in behind that midfield presence, we can punish their weak back-line.
Keys to victory:
Speed, a quick attack in transition and running the wings. The diagram above shows a big gap in the centre of the pitch, and it's true that New England likes to play out wide, but we can punish them along the wings with speed. Their back-line is not effective, and if we can pressure them, it will force their midfield to hang back. Piatti and Oduro will be key in making sure the defense is kept on their toes, and that the midfield is ours.
New England can still take possession - they controlled 51% against NYCFC - but if it is contained to the defensive third then the advantage rests with us, and the ability of our controlling midfielders to change the point of attack to areas where the effectiveness of Nguyen will be diminished. Expect Nigel Reo-Coker, Ignacio Piatti and Patrice Bernier to control possession in our half and ensure that the attack is supplied from the central channels, while Dominic Oduro and Maxim Tissot provide service to Cameron Porter with speed from the wings.
Probable Starting XI:
Did anyone see that game on Wednesday against the Costa Ricans? That one where we opened early and dominated the game in every way? Yeah, well, if I was Frank Klopas (and obviously, I'm not) I'd attempt to recreate that again. My starting XI would be as follows:
After their performances Wednesday night, I firmly believe that Maxim Tissot has earned this start. With the applause and cheers that Patrice Bernier got Wednesday night, it's clear that the fans want to see more of him on the pitch. Let's try it against a weakened New England side.
Also, Porter simply works harder than Jack McInnerny at this point. If JackMac improves, he can start, but until his work output improves, he can stay as a sub.
As much as I want to say this will be an easy victory, I'm still conscious of the threat posed by the 2014 MLS Cup runner-up. If our midfield can neutralize Nguyen and Agudelo, and our central defense can remain compact - we can win this. If we get overconfident and leave space between our central midfield and central defense, that's the environment in which Nguyen scored 15+ goals last year. We'll be defeated handily.
With the improvements in our defense, I'm calling this a 2-1 victory for the Impact.