FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – When head coach Brad Friedel referred to “a lot of changes” in his New England Revolution side following last weekend’s match against Columbus Crew SC, he was, in part, referring to new faces on the 2019 roster like Carles Gil, Juan Fernando Caicedo, and Edgar Castillo.
But Friedel was also referencing subtle changes in the Revolution’s system and approach, which have been readily apparent through the first two games of the new campaign.
In his first year at the helm Friedel installed a high-pressing system in New England, and while the degree to which the Revs pressed did vary from game to game, they often relied upon their ability to force turnovers in dangerous areas to create the bulk of their attacking opportunities. As a starting point, the Revs were often set up in a 4-2-3-1 formation, which looked a bit more like a 4-3-3 in possession.
That’s been a bit different in 2019.
“We moved to a 4-4-2, more or less,” said right back Brandon Bye. “It’s changed a little bit, but the philosophy is still the same. A little less of a press up front, but we’re looking to win the ball in the middle of the field and attack.”
The new setup has already proven beneficial on the defensive side of the ball, as the Revs have been more resolute in allowing just 15 shots through their first two games, the lowest total in the league amongst teams who’ve played two games.
Friedel wants to see much more from his group going forward, however, and he stressed urgency in the attack after what he called a “static” first-half performance against Columbus. That could be partially down to working out the kinks of the new system, which still implements a press, but more selectively based on the opponent and the circumstances of each match.
“It’s a little bit different,” Teal Bunbury said of this year’s tactical approach. “We have some new pieces in, and (we’re) kind of starting a different philosophy in terms of when we start our press – maybe not as high at times, but we’re fully capable of changing that and putting teams under pressure if we need to.
“I think it’s just getting an understanding. I think through preseason we were able to kind of lock that in a little bit better, and I think we still need to just improve on that. It’s something where it’s game to game, and everybody has to know, ‘hey, this team is showing something different,’ so we might have to change our tactics in that aspect.”
Something that won’t change, according to Friedel, is the Revolution’s aggressive approach, even as the tactical details are adjusted from game to game.
“We’re going to have some games press high, some games not, and you’re going to have to play both systems,” Friedel said. “One thing that’s going to stay true is you’re going to have to be very aggressive.”