Major League Soccer

MLS Cup Playoffs preview: New England Revolution

Chris Smith
The Revs will take some stopping in the Playoffs.
The Revs will take some stopping in the Playoffs. /

After a record-setting regular season, the New England Revolution enter the MLS Cup Playoffs with their eyes on the big prize.

The Revs lifted the Supporters' Shield for the first time in their history with a single-season record 73 points, scoring a league-high 65 goals and losing just five of their 34 matches.

Here's everything you need to know about the New England Revolution ahead of the post season - from tactics to key players, and their chances of winning the big prize.

How did New England Revolution make it to the MLS Cup Playoffs?

The Revs have won four or more consecutive games on three different occasions this season, while they didn't lose back-to-back games at all. That tells you everything you need to know about their unshakable consistency.

First, it was just a good start. Then it became about sealing their Playoff spot. Then, attention turned to winning the Supporters' Shield. And when that happened very quickly, all focus was on setting the regular season points record.

The Revs were a juggernaut throughout the entire regular season and by far the best attacking force. Shield and MLS Cup doubles are rare, but few have been better equipped to give it a shot.

Bruce Arena: Tactics and style of play

The Revs' turnaround under Bruce Arena has been remarkable.
The Revs' turnaround under Bruce Arena has been remarkable. / Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Bruce Arena has mainly stuck to a 4-2-3-1 system this season. Center-backs Andrew Farrell and Henry Kessler are primarily tasked with stopping the opposition and are shielded in front by two holding midfielders - often Matt Polster and Tommy McNamara. This allows full-backs Brandon Bye and DeJuan Jones to push forward and provide width.

But that solid central unit's main function is to free up the attacking quartet of Carles Gil, Gustavo Bou, Adam Buksa, and Tajon Buchanan. The four interchange positions frequently, distorting the opposition backline and creating space for each other, while their movements centrally create even more space for the full-backs to get forward.

The Revs do leave space in behind thanks to their attacking nature and can often find themselves running back toward their own goal. But when you have so many weapons in your armory, is that such a bad thing?

Who are New England Revolution's key players?

Carles Gil: The leading MVP candidate, Carles Gil has enjoyed a stellar creative season for the Revs. Throughout the entire league, only Djordje Mihailovic (14) has more primary assists (13), while he's 38 clear in chances created (130), and fifth for successful dribbles (76). All while missing the whole of August with a muscle injury. Whether it's through precision passing or dynamic dribbling, Gil isn't fussy. He'll slice and dice the opposition defense one way or another. The only criticism you can level at the Spaniard is that he doesn't score enough goals (he has just four this season). But if he's supplying such reliable ammunition to Bou, Buksa, and Buchanan, who really cares?

Gustavo Bou: If Gil is the maverick creator thrust into the limelight, Gustavo Bou is the foundational attacking piece who just does everything at an 8/10 level. The Argentine can score from all angles and has 15 goals to his name this season. But he's also a real creative force with eight assists. His hold-up play is superb thanks to strength and skill, and Bou has extremely high soccer IQ. Switch off for a second and Bou will punish you.

Matt Turner: Despite running away with the Supporters' Shield, the Revs give up a lot of chances. With that in mind, it's lucky they have a goalkeeper like Matt Turner between the sticks. The United States international has faced the fifth-highest number of shots (138) of any MLS goalkeeper this season and also ranks fifth for saves. Most importantly, his G-xG comes in at -7.30, only bettered in the entire league by Andre Blake (-7.71). In short, Turner has conceded almost eight goals less than he should have. He's a supreme shot-stopper and might be required to pull out some big moments in the Playoffs.

How far can New England Revolution go in the MLS Cup Playoffs?

Can the Revs go all the way? | Matthew Burt
Can the Revs go all the way? | Matthew Burt /

Something that could hurt the Revs is the long break between their last regular season match against Inter Miami and the Eastern Conference semi-final, thanks to their bye through Round One. But if anyone knows what it takes to keep a team sharp, it's Bruce Arena.

As long as they keep winning, New England will keep on hosting and they've only lost twice at home all season - one of those defeats was on the final day with the Shield and points record already in the bag.

A run to the final should be the minimum expectation. It's just that pesky defensive record that may stop them from winning the whole thing.

Prediction: MLS Cup runners-up