What formation will the Revs use in 2023?
The 4-2-3-1 is the frontrunner, but I wouldn't be surprised to see the return of the 4-4-2.
We’ve made it to the first preseason game of 2023 as the New England Revolution will face Miami FC at 11:30 am.
Unfortunately, we won’t get to watch it.
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Any information we get from the game will provide hints about how the Revs will play this year. Of course, the season is long and everything is fluid.
Last Friday, I asked Bruce Arena if he’s going to play with two or three center backs. The coaching legend replied, “We’re going to consider everything at this point.”
I genuinely do believe him. In a recent episode of the Just Say Guay podcast, Joshua Bolma said that the team has used a variety of systems so far.
From what I’ve heard, the Revs have used different formations during preseason, including a three-man back line. I think Arena and his coaching staff are trying to determine the best formation and personnel.
So, let’s take a look at the options.
The Incumbent: 4-2-3-1
The Revs ended 2023 in a 4-2-3-1 and it certainly could return this year. The back line would stay the same, though I think Dave Romney has a real chance at grabbing a starting spot.
In this formation, Matt Polster and Latif Blessing would likely be tasked with protecting the back four.
On Friday, I asked Polster about playing alone versus with a partner like Blessing. He said, “I think we balance each other really well. [Blessing is] someone that knows the league quite well. I think in that role, you need two guys that can play at a high level and I think he helps me bring that. If you’re in there alone, it’s difficult, so adding a guy that can help do the running, do the tackling, tracking runs will benefit not just myself, but the team.”
Carles Gil and Dylan Borrero are obvious starters in this formation with Giacomo Vrioni likely up top. Gustavo Bou would probably start on the wing, but I don’t love that position for him. I think Nacho Gil is a more natural winger, but I can’t imagine Arena benching one of his Designated Players.
A Real Possibility: 4-4-2
The Revs set a single-season points record in 2021 by using the diamond, but we saw the flaws of it when Polster was overrun in the midfield during their playoff match against NYCFC. Still, I wouldn’t be surprised to see it return, especially with Borrero and Blessing playing on the peripheries.
Blessing is a natural fit for this formation because he’s a solid passer that likes to press high. Last year, the Revs didn’t get enough pressure on the ball.
Borrero is a winger, but he showed that he can play centrally during Colombia’s game against the United States. In his 68 minutes, he had 48 touches, was 33/36 on accurate passes, created one chance, and was 1/2 on accurate shots.
I think the real strength of this lineup is that it allows Vrioni and Bou to be on the field at the same time. If healthy and playing to their potential, that strike force could be dangerous.
Don’t Rule it Out: 5-2-2-1 (or 5-3-2)
The Revs have three starting quality center backs and two of the best attacking outside backs in MLS. This could prompt a new look.
The issue I have with this formation is that I’m not sure what the rest of the lineup looks like. Simply put, the Revs have too many attacking options.
That said, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Arena use three center backs in certain situations. For example, late in games or if the team is dealing with some injuries.