It’s been a minute since D.C. United and the New England Revolution have gotten together to tussle, so I chatted with Jake Catanese, Senior Editor (and pants enthusiast) of SB Nation’s Revolution hub, The Bent Musket, to get their sense of their team as the Black-and-Red head north.
Black & Red United: Is the sense after the Revs’ 3-0 win that they’ve turned a corner and started to find a new identity after all of this roster turnover? I mean, their joint top goal scorer is in France now.
The Bent Musket: Yes and no...I think we might not see a fully revamped Revs squad until the offseason going into 2023. The Revs did do well bringing in Petrovic and Dylan Borrero at the end of the primary transfer window a few months ago but Bruce’s USMNT trio of Altidore, Gonzalez, and Lletget clearly didn’t work out even if Lletget was doing well on the field. New England needs to get striker Giacomo Vrioni up to speed but his resume as an all-around finisher is already impressive and he should fill the boots of the departed Adam Buksa just fine. Arnor Traustason being released on a free opens up an international spot but since it’s after the window that means only free agents can get added to the roster so the Revs might not be able to take advantage of that spot until January.
As for Orlando, that was the case of a good game plan and players in natural roles knowing their job. Justin Rennicks as a lone pressing forward being a pest and doing a lot of work off the ball, Tommy McNamara making lateral passes in the final third rather than the midfield to find runners from deep in the midfield - which set up goals rather than unlocking the defense to start a counter, and the Revs defense getting another shutout. The Revs being able to notch a dominant road win without Gustavo Bou, Vrioni, or Borrero on the field should be good news for when that trio is healthy and up to top form. The Revs in my opinion should be a countering team, getting the ball out wide and firing in crosses but without their target man in the middle, the individual adjustments they made against Orlando worked really well and is something the team can hopefully build on down the stretch.
B&RU: He may not be Matt Turner already, but how good is Djorde Petrovic?
TBM: The Petrovoz (Serbian shorthand/nickname for the Petrovic Train since we had to retire the Turner Train) is absolutely ridiculous and I think should be in the running for league keeper of the year at the end of the season. He’s had a tremendous impact even in games the Revs have lost by keeping the scoreline close with some elite shot stopping. Against NYCFC this year in USOC and MLS play, in two games I think the Pigeons generated something like 9 xG (expected goals) and Petrovic held them to just 5 including two penalty goals out of three in the MLS game a couple of months ago when the Revs were also down to 10 men.
If you check out American Soccer Analysis’ interactive xG tables, which you should see regularly because their data is amazing, Matt Turner owns a couple of the league’s best goalkeeper xG-GA numbers since the metric started being tracked a decade ago. Petrovic in his first MLS season in just his first 10 starts, has posted a -6.45 number which is just below Turner’s overall 2021 season where he posted a -6.47 for the entire year. And Petrovic has posted his insane numbers in just a third of the playing time of everyone else and leads MLS in this number in 2022. So yeah, even if Petrovic’s stats don’t keep this pace, I do think the Revs get a lot of credit for identifying him and getting him into the team for a couple of months before Turner officially left for Arsenal. He’s got 2 PK saves already in league play, four shutouts, and yes, there have been some growing pains in distribution and such, but it’s not out of the question to say this early that Petrovic can and is maintaining the goalkeeping form Turner had the past few years and that’s great news for the Revs, less so for everyone else.
B&RU: Carles Gil has been animated a couple of times in interviews and on the field this season, is he experiencing next season MVP pains and if so, how much?
TBM: I think on the field, Gil has maintained his level of play from his MVP season just fine. He’s second in the league in assists, first in key passes, and he’s been doing that with an ever changing rotation of players on the field and on the roster in general. Gil is still an elite MLS DP and playmaker and wears his emotions on his sleeve just like a lot of players do. Without an epic late season push to get the Revs nears the top of the East, I don’t think Gil will be in the final MVP vote but that would have more to do with the exceptional players around the league like Druissi in Austin or Vazquez and Acosta in Cincinnati who are playing really, really well. The Revs also get assist contributions from fullbacks DeJuan Jones and Brandon Bye who have five each and they did have five assists as well from Lletget before his trade to Dallas.
The animation and frustration was more prominent early on, the poor conditions the Revs and RSL played in back in March and obvious times when he doesn’t think the referees have protected him or his teammates often enough. The biggest difference is obviously the team’s form, because so much went right last year and seemingly nothing went right out of preseason for the Revs. Gil however I think understands the strides and growth the league and the Revs are making right now and has no problem venting or expressing those frustrations when necessary to protect his team and put the focus on himself as the captain. What others might see as an over-reaction, I see as leadership because when one of the best players in the league says something isn’t being done right, you do at least have to listen to those complaints at face value. The Revs will probably always have home games in March, but referees handing out more cards for persistent infringement for team fouls against one player is a legit gripe Gil (who has been fouled 66 times this year, second most in the league) and others have been on the wrong end of.
Want to see what Jake asked me and my thoughts? Go over to The Bent Musket to check them out.