MLS Regular Season | Match #33
New England Revolution at Nashville SC
Saturday, October 14 | 8:30 p.m. ET
GEODIS Park | Nashville, Tennessee
Watch: Free on Apple TV
English Talent: Tony Husband (Play-by-Play), Ross Smith (Analyst)
Spanish Talent: Jose Hernandez (Play-by-Play), Tony Cherchi (Analyst)
Radio: 98.5 The Sports Hub HD2 (English); 1260 AM Nossa Radio (Portuguese)
Radio Talent: Brad Feldman (Play-by-Play), Rachel Wood (Analyst)
New England Revolution
5th in Eastern Conference (14-8-10, 52 pts.)
Last Result | 3-2 loss at Orlando City SC
With just two matches of the MLS regular season left to play, the New England Revolution’s fate in the battle for a top-four finish lies in their own hands. Currently sitting two points behind the fourth-place Columbus Crew, the Revs travel to fellow playoff contenders Nashville SC this weekend, looking to take advantage of a game in hand over the rest of the top six. Saturday night’s fixture was rearranged from its original August date due to Nashville’s involvement in the Leagues Cup Final. Victory at GEODIS Park could prove pivotal in the Revolution’s campaign, lifting the team a step closer to clinching homefield advantage in the playoffs, and setting the squad back on track after successive defeats to Columbus and Orlando City SC. Despite a Carles Gil brace, the visitors suffered a 3-2 reverse at Exploria Stadium last time out, and must find a quick cure for their travel sickness, having last triumphed on the road 11 games ago against Toronto FC in May. With the third-place Philadelphia Union to visit Gillette Stadium on Decision Day (October 21, 6 p.m. ET), two wins from their final two Eastern Conference matchups would see New England secure third spot, guaranteeing homefield advantage in the Round One best-of-three series in the Audi MLS Cup playoffs.
7th in Eastern Conference (12-10-10, 46 pts.)
Last Result | 0-0 draw at Philadelphia Union
Nashville SC enter this weekend’s encounter having also punched their playoff ticket, occupying seventh place in the East. Tallying 12-10-10 in their 32 games, the Boys in Gold have had a mixed campaign but secured their place in the top seven, with the chance to finish higher if results go their way. However, with just one win in their last 11 league games – and without a goal scored in their last three – they have endured a rough patch in the buildup to their postseason campaign, seemingly suffering a hangover from their Leagues Cup Final defeat to Inter Miami CF. After playing out a 1-1 draw against the Herons at GEODIS Park, the Tennessee side were edged out 10-9 in a dramatic penalty shootout, and have triumphed just once in their eight matches since. Held to a goalless stalemate against Philadelphia last time out, Gary Smith’s men are the fourth-lowest scorers in the East (36) but have also conceded the fewest goals in the division (29). Though they hold a strong record on home soil (8-3-4), the 2020 expansion side have failed to score in their last two home matches, and will hope to rectify their recent shyness in front of goal in their penultimate regular season clash on Saturday, when they entertain the Revs before rounding off against the New York Red Bulls on Decision Day.
Saturday’s encounter marks just the sixth meeting between the two sides in what has been an evenly-matched series. First locking horns in 2020, the pair have each recorded one win, with three draws and only five goals scored in the previous five fixtures. New England claimed their first triumph over the Boys in Gold in March this year, courtesy of Gustavo Bou’s solitary strike at Gillette Stadium. This weekend’s trip will see the Revs step out at GEODIS Park for the first time, looking to earn a first road victory against Nashville.
Overall Record vs. Nashville: 1-1-3
Away Record vs. Nashville: 0-1-1
Last meeting at Gillette Stadium: Revs 1, Nashville 0 (March 18, 2023)
Last meeting in Nashville: Nashville 2, Revs 0 (May 8, 2021)
Revolution defender Henry Kessler
The center back’s return has provided a welcome boost with the Revolution struggling for defensive options as the regular season draws to a close. Making his first appearance since suffering a hamstring injury in April in Saturday’s trip to Orlando, Kessler helped the Revs to an improved second-half showing, as the visitors tightened things up at the back. Fresh from signing a new contract with the club, the defender says he is thrilled to be back in contention in time for New England’s playoff charge, and with DeJuan Jones and Christian Makoun (both international duty), Andrew Farrell (leg) and Brandon Bye (ACL) all absent for this weekend’s Tennessee trip, the timing of his comeback could prove critical. Pushing for his first start in more than six months, the 25-year-old – the club’s first-round pick in the 2020 MLS SuperDraft – has made 80 regular season appearances for the Revolution, and had lined up for the first seven games of the 2023 campaign. Twice capped by the USMNT, Kessler is highly-regarded as a competitive, strong and composed center back, and the club’s 2020 Defender of the Year will hope to help shore up the backline to aid his side’s chase for postseason success.
Nashville midfielder Hany Mukhtar
Impressing with another superb year for the Boys in Gold, it is no surprise to see the reigning MLS MVP and Golden Boot winner in contention to retain his crowns this season. Tallying 17 goals in all competitions, he stands top of his side’s scoring charts once again, and ranks amongst the third-highest scorers in the league (15) – four goals behind LAFC’s Dénis Bouanga. Though Mukhtar has not proven as prolific as in his sensational 2022 MLS campaign (23 goals and 11 assists), he has remained the club’s top contributor with the most assists (10), shots (109 – 44 on target), key passes (54), crosses (36) and dribbles (58) in 2023. Boasting European experience, the No. 10 has bagged 67 goals in 128 appearances since joining Nashville as their first Designated Player in 2020, earning back-to-back inclusions in the MLS Best XI (2021 and 2022). One of the top talents in MLS, the midfielder has contributed to 25 of his side’s 36 league goals this term, and with the Tennessee side having drawn blanks in their last three games, Mukhtar will hope to reignite his golden touch in time for their playoff challenge.
New England Revolution
Henry Kessler could make his first start since April, having returned to action at halftime of Saturday’s trip to Orlando, while goalkeeper Tomáš Vaclík was named in the matchday squad for the first time at Exploria Stadium. Ian Harkes, however, remains unavailable with a head injury, and Andrew Farrell (leg) has also been ruled out. Elsewhere, DeJuan Jones (USMNT), Noel Buck (England Under-19s), Esmir Bajraktarevic (U.S. Olympic Team) and Christian Makoun (Venezuela) are away on international duty, Damián Rivera (knee) remains sidelined, and Brandon Bye (ACL) and Dylan Borrero (knee) are long-term absentees.
Fafà Picault is away on international duty with Haiti, while Daniel Lovitz could return for the Boys in Gold after missing the draw with Philadelphia due to suspension, following his red card against Orlando. Shaquell Moore was back in action against the Union after injury had ruled him out of the Lions defeat, and head coach Gary Smith confirmed Lukas MacNaughton is also back in contention this weekend after suffering a lower body issue. Nick DePuy (lower body) has not featured since September 2022.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
Revolution interim head coach Clint Peay on closing the regular season against playoff-caliber opponents:
“They are teams that we’re going to see in the playoffs. Comparing yourself to them at this point is important to kind of see how you match up. They are tough games that make you think a little bit about your decisions and everything that you do, how you execute plays. You always want to have competitive games as a player and as a staff to be able to prepare your team for the next thing. I think for us it’s about growth in terms of where we started when I took over until where we want to get to. That’s what we’ve been trying to do all along.”
On preparing for Nashville SC this week and the importance of ending a tough run on the road:
“That's a team that's going to make it difficult to score goals and even create chances. They're a team that's going to look to be opportunistic and catch you with set pieces or counterattack moves. Last week was difficult because we didn’t have a lot of ability to train. This week, we have more time to train, so hopefully we can some positive steps forward and try to be a little bit more solid in the back and limit the quality opportunities for the opponent. Obviously, going on the road is difficult. We suspect that this weekend will be no different. We certainly are going to go in and fight and do our best to get three points. It’s simple: we’ve got to score goals and not concede any goals.”
On the threats of Nashville midfielder and 2022 MLS MVP Hany Mukhtar:
“Speed, power, he's good in the one-on-one, very direct in what he does, so he's not scared to run at you. He can do it with the ball or without the ball with his movements, so those are the attributes that makes him incredibly difficult to deal with. He's a good finisher, so give him a half-chance, he puts it on frame and has to make you make a save or he scores a goal. We've got to be really good in how we deal with him, in particular in transition moments.”
On collaborating with his players and implementing new tactical systems:
“We want to make sure that everything that we do, there's buy-in with the players. There's an understanding of what we're trying to do, there's clarity, and so that's why there's collaboration with the players. We want to understand what they feel like they're capable of doing and what we are capable of doing as a group. We want to make sure that we have those discussions, look at film, talk it through, and then as we think about moving forward it's definitely something where we have to say: ‘Alright, what helps us as we look to play in the playoffs? What's the core identity of this team’, and maybe: ‘how do we get back to that?’”
On defensive options in DeJuan Jones’ absence and players stepping up in place of those on international duty:
“It's challenging – we don't have any natural right-footed players who really play that role, so we have to be a little creative in this game in order to make up for that loss of DeJuan being out. I think it’s important [for players to step up]. We’ve always talked about the strength and the depth of our team. This will be a moment where that will be on center stage.”
Revolution defender Dave Romney on what the team can improve on in the final two games of the regular season:
“A little bit of everything. For starters, we need to be a little bit cleaner in the back – we’ve given away a little too many chances, and we were late [leaving training] today because we were doing a defenders meeting, looking at clips and how we can clean ourselves up. That’s one of our big factors, and just being more cohesive of a unit of what we want to do to the other team; what we are expecting from the other team, and how we want to defend it. Getting a little bit more clarity this week will hopefully help.”
On what he expects from his former team Nashville:
“They’re a team that’s extremely solid defensively. [Nashville head coach] Gary [Smith] always has an extremely organized [group] of players. All of them are extremely organized defensively and hard-working. They’re good defenders one-on-one. It’s a very cohesive unit in the defensive unit. On the attack, they’re extremely dangerous. Counter attacks, set pieces are probably the two main [aspects], but they have quality all over the field. It’s defensively a solid team, and we’re hoping to go there to get a result.
“I’m doing everything possible to keep a shutout. Set pieces is something they take very seriously. They have extremely good personnel. Walker [Zimmerman] is a beast in the air and they have other guys who do their job extremely well and score a lot of goals. I remember when I was there, we scored 15 or 20 goals off set pieces, which is crazy. They’re the same team this year – I’ve seen them score a lot of nice set pieces, and they present a lot of challenges. No matter who you have on the field for us, it’s going to be difficult. You have to give away one thing if you’re going to stop another, but thankfully we’ll have three big center backs potentially. It’s just winning your battles. It’s a tough task on set pieces, but we’re going to do the best we can.”
On MLS MVP nominees Hany Mukhtar and Carles Gil going head-to-head on Saturday:
“It’s been a pleasure to play with both of them. [They have] different styles of play as a number 10. Hany is a bit more of a false nine and Carles is more of an eight or a 10 playmaker. Different styles, but both are extremely solid players. Their quality is unmatched on the field, and they’re usually the best player on the field. Hany is a little bit more goal focused or lethal in front of goal. He’s been very good these past two or three seasons of creating something out of nothing, whether he’s dribbling one or two guys, whether he’s starting an attack, or he’s just really good on the counter. Carles is the heart and soul of our team offensively. He’s extremely good in possession and extremely good at switching the point of attack and finding guys in really difficult spots on the other team. I can’t say enough good things about either one. They both are putting up like 15 goals and 15 assists. That is all you can ask from one of your DPs.”
On working with interim head coach Clint Peay and the recent tactical changes:
“[The changes are] definitely different. It’s something that the guys haven taken a liking to, and it’s been a nice collaborative process. It’s very important to remain cohesive, even with a lot of people putting in their opinions, and I think we’ve done a better job this week of figuring that out. Some of the tactical switches are a result of the squad and losing guys in certain positions –we’ve had a lot of injuries and players missing time, whether it’s with the national teams, or just random stuff. It is a tough spot as a coach. You constantly have a changing squad with guys coming back from injury, guys going out with injury, and just trying to put the best team on the field and the best formation. It’s nice to be cohesive and play the same formation week to week, but sometimes that’s not what the health of the squad presents. He’s done a good job managing that and we’re going to do the best that we can with what we have this week.”
On taking encouragement from an improved second-half performance in Orlando:
“I guess you could say that we won the second half 1-0, but that doesn’t mean anything because we lost the game. [It was] positive to take forward potentially with that formation, if we do decide to go with that in the future. I don’t know how much of it is a result of us being a little bit more solid because Orlando is winning 3-1 and maybe not sending as many guys forward. Would that have been as successful if we were up 3-1 and bombing forward? That remains to be seen, but there definitely were some positives to the second half, and I think we got more crosses in.”
Revolution midfielder Mark-Anthony Kaye on the opportunity to add six points and move up in the standings:
“We understand we’re still in control of the last two games. We know how important homefield advantage is throughout the regular season but also in the playoffs in the new playoff format. It’s the same intensity, the same concentration that we require for this next game, because we understand how important the three points are. It’s huge. That’s what you’re chasing every weekend. It would definitely give us a lot of momentum going into the last game of the [regular] season at home. That’s definitely something we’re working hard for and everyone understands the importance of it.”
On the lessons learned from the defeat at Orlando City SC and adapting to a tactical shift:
“The game didn’t go the way we wanted it to. The first half wasn’t a good representation of who we are as a team, but kudos to the entire team for fighting back and closing the scoreline. We’re still figuring out exactly how we want to go about things. Against a team like Orlando, we made too many defensive errors that led to three goals and then it’s hard to climb back. The positive is that we still have two games that are meaningful, and to get six points in the last two games would be huge for going into the playoffs.
“It’s always a process when you’re starting to implement a new system. The coaching staff are working really hard to continue to tweak things to the betterment of the styles of players we have. There’s been some positive moments. Look at from 25 minutes to 65 minutes against Columbus – a top team in terms of possession couldn’t really do much with the ball. There’s a lot of positives, but at the same time, it’s not a complete product yet and we have to keep working on it.”