New England Revolution 1 - New York Red Bulls 2: 3 Thoughts
Red Bull doesn't give the Revs wins
The New England Revolution headed to New Jersey to face the New York Red Bulls and began a span of three games in seven days with a loss.
Bruce Arena made some changes with Esmir Bajraktarevic entering the starting XI as Noel Buck remains out of the squad due to injury. With Carles Gil missing out due to suspension (yellow card accumulation), Gustavo Bou took his place as captain paired with Bobby Wood at striker up top. While it seemed like a perfect chance to get Giacomo Vrioni a start, the Designated Player was once again stuck on the bench.
The back line also saw some changes as Arena replaced Ryan Spaulding with Ben Sweat on the left flank. Andrew Farrell, Dave Romney, and Brandon Bye once again comprised the rest of the back line with All-Star Djordje Petrovic in net.
But what do you need to know about the loss? Here are three thoughts.
1 - Giacomo Vrioni can’t buy a start
Saturday’s match seemed like a perfect night to get Vrioni into the starting XI. With Gil absent, the striker could have been paired with Wood up top and Bou could be shifted to the midfield.
But Arena once again trusted the pairing of Bou and Wood. The two strikers have been performing well but the fact that Vrioni could only get playing time off the bench is concerning. The duo didn’t perform particularly well either which only adds to the case that Vrioni should be starting.
It is more than halfway through the 2023 season. The fact that Vrioni hasn’t been able to break into the starting XI is concerning.
Bou’s contract comes to an end at the end of this season and if the two parties decide to part ways, Vrioni will be relied on to provide a sizeable portion of New England’s scoring. With how 2023 has gone, I don’t have a ton of confidence that Vrioni can fill those shoes.
2 - Two minutes that changed the game
In the span of two minutes, this game was completely flipped on its head. It started with the Red Bulls finding the back of the net to get the lead in the 58th minute.
A cross was sent into the box and Ben Sweat lost his man which led to Frankie Amaya scoring the header. It was the exclamation point on what was a poor night from Sweat. The Red Bulls were constantly attacking him and he couldn’t do a lot to stop them.
With DeJuan Jones away at the Gold Cup, Ryan Spaulding seems like the clear starter for New England. With every performance, Sweat makes Revs fans wonder why he was signed after being cut by Sporting Kansas City.
But two minutes later things went from bad to worse.
Latif Blessing received a straight red after a tackle that saw his studs connect to the midsection of a Red Bull player. While a harsh call, it was hard to argue with the official’s call as it looked like an ugly tackle.
It has been a difficult few months for Blessing who has struggled. Whether it be poor tackles or constant turnovers, he has been subpar in the midfield. With the acquisition of Ian Harkes (who made his Revs debut off the bench), Blessing could be relegated to the bench if he remains unable to find his form.
3 - Djordje Petrovic is him
It can be really easy to build a tolerance to Djordje Petrovic’s talent. You can see him make an amazing save and just chalk it up as a normal part of the goalkeeper’s game.
But on Saturday, Petrovic once again made impressive save after impressive save to keep New England in the game. Whether it be positioning himself in the perfect place or showing off his reflexes, the 2023 All-Star was once again leading the Revs with his play out of the back.
It is hard to blame Petrovic for both goals as Sweat did a poor job marking his man in the box on the first goal and Matt Polster had a poor turnover to jumpstart the eventual game winner. Petrovic’s distribution down a man can be questioned but without him, the Revolution would have lost this match by a much larger margin.
It seems like Petrovic’s time in MLS is numbered. He has shown that he is a top goalkeeper and that he deserves to be playing in Europe. If he is still on New England’s roster in 2024, I would be stunned.