ALLSTON, Mass. — The New England Revolution enter their match with the LA Galaxy as one of the hottest clubs in MLS. Unbeaten in four games across all competitions and currently riding a two-game winning streak in league play, much of New England’s recent success can be traced back to their play in the midfield.
Running a 4-1-4-1 formation that seeks to overwhelm opponents with extra numbers in the center of the park, the Revolution have scored 10 goals this season while also conceding just nine, giving them the best defensive record in the league.
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The Revs attack isn’t solely about extra numbers in midfield, however, as offensive-minded midfielders Lee Nguyen and Juan Toja often wander in the final third in an attempt to aid flank players Diego Fagundez and Juan Agudelo. Protecting the Revolution’s attackers during their high pressure barrage is defensive midfielder Scott Caldwell, who has excelled this year in his ability to recover possession and snuff out opposition counterattacks.
With the Revs on a roll as of late, the Galaxy understand that they’re in for a challenge on Sunday.
“They remind me a little bit of some of the teams that have been historically successful in this league. They’re not giving up a lot of goals, but not just because their back line and goalkeeping has been good, but because their midfield has been really good,” said Galaxy midfielder Landon Donovan. “They possess the ball well and they’re doing a good job of defending well as a group and they’re doing a good job of keeping teams at bay. It’ll be a challenge for us to break them down and lately, they’re scoring a lot of goals so we have to be wary.
“They put a lot of numbers in the midfield so we’ll put together a plan to try and combat that,” added Donovan. “We’re playing very well over the last few weeks and we want to continue that into tomorrow and make them have to deal with us.”
Donovan’s role in defending against New England’s midfield will primarily be in support, however, as the task will fall to LA’s central midfield tandem of Marcelo Sarvas and Juninho.
The job of containing a high pressure midfield like New England’s is perfectly suited for Sarvas, who has excelled this season in his ability to cover ground on defense and recover possession. Partnered alongside Juninho, who often takes a stay-at-home approach in midfield, Sarvas is free to drift across the field on defense and use his physical nature –he leads LA in fouls committed with 36—to help win possession.
But as they look to handle New England, the Brazilians won’t be going it alone.
“We always ask for one of the forwards to help a little bit and take the space of the guy that sits in front of the defense,” Sarvas told LAGalaxy.com. “Normally, we have to deal with those three players so it’s just a lot of talking [amongst ourselves]. You have to read the game before [them] and make the movements before them.”
If LA can be cognizant of New England’s movement, it will allow them to be the aggressors and place pressure on the sturdy Revolution defense, which has kept a clean sheet seven times this year.
“We’ll try to make something different,” said Juninho. “We’ll try to collect the ball and force turnovers and just be aggressive [in attack].”
Although the Galaxy will be under considerable pressure from the opening whistle on Sunday, Sarvas believes LA can handle themselves just fine against New England.
“Every team that plays at home, they always press us, so for sure, we’re going to have a hard job,” said Sarvas. “Let’s see how we do. We are prepared.”
Adam Serrano is the LA Galaxy Insider. Read his blog at LAGalaxy.com/Insider and contact him at LAGalaxyInsider@Gmail.com