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Know Thy Enemy: Revolution vs Union Decision Day Edition
The last day of the regular season is usually a time for great drama and excitement...perhaps not so much for the limping Revs and Union as the playoffs approach.
A couple of years ago the thought of the New England Revolution or Philadelphia Union being a playoff darkhorse would have been all but guaranteed.
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Both teams have won a Shield in recent memory and made a deep run into the playoffs with the Revs upsetting the Union’s Shield-winning campaign in 2020 by making it to the East Final and Philly being runners up in MLS Cup last year.
But as these two teams meet at Gillette Stadium tonight at 6pm EST (Free on AppleTV+), their overall trajectory both short and long term is trending downward.
The Revs plight after the departure of Bruce Arena has been well documented but the Union have also taken steps at rebuilding as well. Club legends Alejandro Bedoya and Kai Wagner have all been told they won’t be back next year as a serious revamp appears to be happen in Chester.
New England’s decisions mostly lie in the front office and sideline, however with the return of Dylan Borrero next season alongside the likely purchase of Tomas Chancalay’s loan option…it seems unlikely the Revs will keep both Gustavo Bou and Giacomo Vrioni next year, potentially opening up a DP spot for the Revs.
Playoff-wise, the Union could absolutely grind out a series win in the playoffs and would clinch third with a victory today. The Revs still have a chance to gain homefield in the first round, but would need I think at least 3-0 win to overtake the Union on a goal differential and then goals for as tiebreaker. Or a Columbus Crew loss would get the Revs up to 4th as well.
As things stand now the Union would play host to Atlanta United in the 3/6 matchup while the Revs would theoretically be the road team in the 4/5 series.
As always we are joined by our good friend Joe Lister of Philadelphia Soccer Now and you should all be extra proud of us because this Q&A could have devolved into an alternate history timeline of Penn State joining the Big East. But we remained professional…mostly.
Head on over to their site for all their coverage of today’s game.
TBM: So eight games unbeaten but six of those have been draws...but the Union with a win can clinch 3rd in the East, can this team still challenge for MLS Cup or are they sputtering at the wrong time?
JL: It feels like the Union have been sputtering the whole year. Obviously, most MLS fan bases would be really excited by their team finishing fourth in a pretty darn good Eastern Conference, but a lot of this year feels like a letdown for the team, especially after it entered the season as MLS Cup favorites.
Six ties in eight games is really interesting. Personally, it shows that the Union can go toe-to-toe with any team in MLS, but that's it. It's really hard for this team to do anything but go toe-to-toe, it's unable to take that next step right now. And I'm not exactly expecting them to turn it on for the playoffs or be able to clutch up in extra time when it's called for. Still, the Revs aren't in great shape right now. Anything could happen.
TBM: How much does Kai Wagner want next year and can he play right back? Asking for a friend...also I will allow you to pour one out for Wagner and Bedoya if you need too.
Numbers haven't been reported, but it's assumed that Wagner wants to be a low-level DP. He deserves a really good contract, I don't think there's much debate that he's MLS' best left back, and he should get paid like it. Sadly, the Union doesn't really have the ability to have more DPs, especially based on if it wants Julian Carranza to stick around (I'm fine with him leaving more than Wagner, personally).
This will be a bit of a rant, but it is goddamn shameful how the club is treating Ale Bedoya. I understand the business side of the sport, I really do. If you don't think you can play Bedoya, it's hard to justify paying him. And frankly, this is a little bit of Bedoya's hubris in thinking he can compete in a year. But Bedoya is as much of a club legend as one can get. He was the first step to the Union being good. He isn't always a critical piece on the field, but few are as good at leading a locker room as he is. There's value in that. And as someone who spent their formative years watching a Union team rally behind Bedoya time and time again, it's a bit emotional watching him go. More than a bit, to be honest.
TBM: Any big-time news or signings expected in the offseason and/or is there a stud homegrown moving up soon to the MLS squad?
JL: Be careful, you might summon @USMNTFan138946 on Twitter to talk about Cavan Sullivan.
There hasn't been much in the rumor mill -- yet. But this offseason reeks of a rebuild. Letting Wagner and Bedoya go feels like the first step in reworking a team that needs a breath of fresh air. Frankly, I'm fine with letting go of Carranza, Dani Gazdag, and Mikael Uhre. The attack needs a fresh look, and those three attackers, as good as they were together a year ago, just aren't the solution anymore. Maybe it'll be a bit drastic to rework a team that earned home field advantage in the playoffs, but it's due.
As of now, the Union are pretty healthy, assuming that the international break is kind to the team. I'm betting a best-XI look against the Revs.
Blake; Wagner, Elliott, Glesnes, Mbaizo; Martinez; Flach, Bedoya; Gazdag; Carranza, Uhre.
I'm taking another draw, 0-0. This is a vibes-based pick, but I stand by it. Frankly, I'm more worried about whether Penn State can take care of business in Columbus on Saturday than the Union in New England. Hopefully, I get both.