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Revolution Preparing for Reigning MVP Hany Mukhtar, Teal Bunbury Reunion, and Nashville SC
"So, that’s a team that is just hard to beat, they rarely make mistakes so it’s hard to beat them because they don’t really beat themselves."
After losing 4-0 to LAFC on Sunday, life won’t get easier for the New England Revolution as they face Nashville SC at home on Saturday.
Nashville is currently second in the Eastern Conference with two wins and a draw. They have scored four goals this season and have yet to allow a goal.
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When looking at the roster, it isn’t surprising to see how impressive Nashville is defensively. Starting with goalkeeper Joe Willis and also having Walker Zimmerman at center back, the back line is supremely talented. Shaq Moore and Daniel Lovitz are also impressive in their own right.
“Yeah, they’re a unit. I think they defend as a group,” midfielder Matt Polster said. “They’re all willing to work hard for each other and that’s what makes them difficult to play against. They obviously have, I think, three clean sheets now, so it’s going to be difficult to score, but I think we have certain players that can unlock defenses, so I think we’ll be alright.”
On the road, Nashville has become well known for being able to bunker down and wait to strike on the counter. With the likes of Zimmerman, they can withstand all out barrages from opposing attacks and at worst walk away with a single point.
If New England wants to win on Saturday, they will need to breakdown Nashville’s back line. If they can do this early on in the game, they will be in even better shape.
Center back Andrew Farrell said that the Revs will need to create chances as Nashville isn’t a team that will commit too many errors.
“So, that’s a team that is just hard to beat, they rarely make mistakes so it’s hard to beat them because they don’t really beat themselves,” Farrell said of Nashville. “You’ve got to create a lot of chances to really put them on the back foot. They’re great on set pieces and have pace up top, so it’s annoying to play against them because they’ll sometimes sit in a block, hit you on the counter, and that’s a dangerous game to play because you’ve got to open yourself up to try and press them and kind of pin them back. So, I think it’ll be a good matchup and it will be exciting for our fans, especially after our last result.”
But when talking about Nashville you have to talk about Hany Mukhtar. The midfielder scored 23 goals and also tallied 11 assists in 2022. So far in 2023, Mukhtar has two assists in limited minutes after recovering from a hip injury. The reigning MVP got his first start last week.
Head coach and sporting director Bruce Arena praised Mukhtar’s creativity when asked about going up against the midfielder.
“[Hany Mukhtar] is a creative guy and he’s a goal scorer,” Arena said. “He’s got a good nose for the goal, he’s very active in the penalty area, he can shoot with both feet, and he’s very active in the last third of the field. They don’t ask him to come back a whole lot defensively. He has the freedom to move around. A little different from Carles Gil, where Carles will play more in the middle third of the field and he’ll play in the attacking third.”
After a tough game against LAFC, Polster is expecting another battle in the midfield on Saturday with Nashville having plenty of weapons on the attack, including Mukhtar.
“And then looking at the midfield in Nashville, obviously they have really good players like [Anibal] Godoy, Dax [McCarty], and Sean Davis, so it’s another tough game,” the midfielder stated. “Again, they work really hard for each other. They’re committed defensively and they have really good players in the attack that can break us down like Teal [Bunbury], C.J. [Sapong], and [Hany] Mukhtar.”
As mentioned by Polster, Bunbury is someone who will cause problems for New England. The energy-filled attacker will be returning to New England for the first time after spending eight seasons with the Revolution.
While it will be nice to have Bunbury return, Polster is expecting the former Rev to be a thorn in his side.
“[Teal Bunbury] is annoying to play against,” Polster said. “I’ve dealt with it now playing him in preseason, so it’s fun. There’s a little banter in there for sure, but he’s a tough player to play against. He’s always committed to pressing you and as a midfielder you don’t really like that from forwards.”
Arena gave Bunbury nothing but praise including calling him “one of the finest athletes he has ever worked with.”
“[Teal Bunbury] is one of the finest athletes I’ve ever worked with,” Arena said. “He’s a great guy, good family man, good teammate, very competitive person, and it’ll be good to see him again. We saw him a couple of weeks ago down in Florida and it was nice to chat with him. It’ll be great to have him back. I have a lot of respect for him and he’s a good person.”
If New England is to bounce back with a win it will mean that they played 90 minutes of near-perfect soccer. It will be quite a test as New England looks to prove that they can contend in the Eastern Conference after missing the playoffs in 2022.