Week 23 Preview: Union vs. New England Revolution

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By Siobhan Nolan, Contributing Writer

After a wholly disappointing 3-1 loss against D.C. United, the Union will be looking to bounce back with a win against the New England Revolution, who they’re facing for the third time this year. The Boys In Blue are just three points out of second place in the Eastern Conference, but are without multiple key players due to international break.

This game is a rescheduled one, and falls right as national teams are gearing up to participate in the qualifying games for the 2022 World Cup. This means that the Union will be missing several players—Andre Blake, Cory Burke, and Alvas Powell have been called up for Jamaica, Daniel Gazdag has been called up for Hungary, Jose Martinez has been called up for Venezuela, Jamiro Monteiro has been called up for Cape Verde, and Olivier Mbaizo has been called up for Cameroon. Jack Elliott will also be absent due to yellow card accumulation. However, Jim Curtin isn’t focused on the absences.

“It’s not about who is not here, it’s about who is here,” Curtin said in a pre-game press conference. “This will be an opportunity for some players that haven’t logged a ton of minutes this year to maybe give us a spark. Everybody’s going to be called upon to be ready and do the work.”

The Revs will also be without some essential players themselves, most notably goalie Matt Turner, who was called up for the United States. Carles Gil was seen training with the team after suffering a muscle tissue injury, but it’s unlikely that he will see many minutes, if he gets any playing time at all.

Due to the eight players that will be missing, Curtin will need to trust his B team against the conference leaders. Even though both teams will be coming off of losses into this game, Curtin is anything but satisfied with the way his team has been performing lately, and anything less than excellence will simply not be tolerated.

“…I would say, our group, we aren’t going to have success if we play as individuals,” Curtin said after the defeat against Washington. “We have to play together, we have to combine with each other, and I think that part has been off a little bit, it’s clear to say, just by the amount of chances we’re creating. We haven’t had someone do something out of the ordinary to bail us out to score a goal from nothing or beat a guy and make a play. So we’ve been lacking that a little bit: Confidence, whatever you want to call it, it just has to be better from all of us.”

Chemistry will be the most important thing for the Union, but it could be hard to achieve considering how creative Curtin will have to get in forming a lineup with the players he has on hand. Many of them haven’t played together, or simply haven’t played much in general, so they will have their work cut out for them against New England.

However, this will once again be a chance for the young players to show what they’re made of. Last time the Union took on the Revs, 17-year-old Paxten Aaronson scored a mind-blowing goal. Quinn Sullivan often injects much-needed energy and creativity whenever he’s featured in the offense. Matt Freese needs all of the game experience he can get if he will one day succeed Blake as the Union’s starting goalkeeper (sorry, Joe Bendik). Anthony Fontana is finally back from a head injury, and will hopefully be able to pick up where he left off earlier this season. There’s a lot to be gained by having the Homegrowns control this game.

Predicted Lineup: Matt Freese, Kai Wagner, Stuart Findlay, Jakob Glesnes, Aurelien Collin, Leon Flach, Paxten Aaronson, Quinn Sullivan, Alejandro Bedoya, Anthony Fontana, Kacper Przybylko

  • It’ll be the Homegrown show against New England, but it’ll be balanced out with experienced players like Wagner, Glesnes, and Bedoya. Flach will take over for Martinez in that defensive midfield position, while Fontana will take over the CAM role, leaving Przybylko with the main striker role. As long as Curtin resorts back to the 4-4-2 formation, the Union will be comfortable enough to play fluidly.

Score Prediction: Both teams will be shorthanded, both teams are in the clear for a playoff spot, and the Union are likely more worried about the second leg of the CONCACAF Champions League on Sept. 15 than they are about this game. While it will by no means be a boring game, the Union and Revs will come out with an even 2-2 result.

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