Lemieux Previeux 2020 | Andrew Farrell

Audi MLS Cup Playoffs Preview | Revs, Lions vie for spot in Eastern Conference Final

Audi MLS Cup Playoffs | Eastern Conference Semifinals
New England Revolution at Orlando City SC
Sunday, November 29 | 3 p.m. ET
Exploria Stadium | Orlando, Fla.

Watch: ABC (English), ESPN Deportes (Spanish)
Listen: 98.5 The Sports Hub (English), 1260 AM Nossa Radio USA (Portuguese)
Revolution Pregame Live presented by Dan O’Brien Automotive Group (2:15 p.m. ET)
     - Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, revolutionsoccer.net

CURRENT FORM

New England Revolution
8th in Eastern Conference (8-7-8, 32 pts., 1.39 ppg)
Last Result | 2-0 win at Philadelphia Union

First-half goals from Adam Buksa and Tajon Buchanan helped the Revs pull off the Round One upset over the Philadelphia Union, taking down the Supporters’ Shield champions with a 2-0 win at Subaru Park. Carles Gil was credited with assists on both goals, and after his stunning volley in the Play-In Round victory over Montreal, the Revolution captain now has one goal and two assists in a pair of playoff appearances.

Tuesday’s win in Philadelphia was the Revolution’s first in six meetings with the Union this year, but Sunday’s game in Orlando presents an entirely unique challenge. Regional travel has largely limited opponents in 2020, and this will be the first meeting between the Revs and Orlando City SC since last September.

The winner of Sunday’s game will move on to the Eastern Conference Final, setting up a showdown with either Columbus Crew SC or expansion side Nashville SC next weekend.

Orlando City SC
4th in Eastern Conference (11-4-8, 41 pts., 1.78 ppg)
Last Result | 1-1 draw vs. New York City FC (6-5 win in penalty shootout)

Orlando’s first-ever playoff game ended in the most remarkable fashion last Saturday, as reserve defender Rodrigo Schlegel was forced to stand in as goalkeeper when Pedro Gallese was sent off in the midst of the penalty shootout. Schlegel improbably saved the second penalty he faced, lifting the Lions to a 6-5 shootout win over New York City FC after the game finished 1-1 through 120 minutes of regulation and extra time.

Oscar Pareja, who finished second in Sigi Schmid MLS Coach of the Year voting, guided Orlando to one of the league’s best records in his first year at the helm, going 9-2-6 in the last 17 games of the regular season while losing just a single game at Exploria Stadium (6-1-3) all year.

KEY PLAYERS

Revolution midfielder Carles Gil
New England’s first two playoff games have been prime examples of Carles Gil’s impact, as the crafty playmaker has had a hand in three of the Revolution’s four goals while nearly scoring another with an absolutely audacious chip that hit the woodwork in Philadelphia.

Including his six regular-season appearances Gil has registered one goal and a team-leading four assists in just 545 minutes of action this year, while his presence as a leader both in the locker room and on the field also cannot be overstated. Against an Orlando City team that conceded just 25 goals in 23 games this season – same as the Revs – Gil’s guile will again by key in breaking down a resolute opponent.

Orlando City midfielder Nani
Chris Mueller was statistically Orlando City’s top attacking threat this season with 10 goals and seven assists, while rookie forward Daryl Dike has been a force with eight goals and four assists of his own. But it’s Nani who presents the biggest threat to do something special on the playoff stage.

The Portuguese veteran notched six goals and five assists in the regular season, and he registered his best MLS performance to date the last time the Lions hosted the Revs in Orlando, bagging two goals and one assist in a wild 3-3 draw last September at Exploria Stadium.

STATUS REPORT

Revolution
Tajon Buchanan was forced off in the 50th minute of the Revolution’s win over the Impact last Friday night, but he recovered in time to start – and score New England’s second goal – in Tuesday’s victory over Philadelphia to book their spot in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.

Outside backs Brandon Bye and Alex Büttner have both missed New England’s first two playoff matches, with Buchanan and DeJuan Jones starting at right and left back, respectively.

Orlando City
Orlando will be missing a pair of starters through suspension on Sunday as both goalkeeper Pedro Gallese and right back Ruan were sent off in the Lions’ shootout win over NYCFC. Veteran goalkeeper Brian Rowe – who played five seasons under Bruce Arena with the LA Galaxy – will be expected to replace Gallese, having made four appearances this season, all since early October, going 0-1-3 but with just five goals conceded.

Head coach Oscar Pareja revealed on Friday that midfielder Sebastián Méndez, who appeared in 19 of Orlando’s 23 regular-season games, is also unavailable as he quarantines following international duty, while young defender João Moutinho is not yet ready to return from the injury that has sidelined him since late August.

Dom Dwyer also remains out following knee surgery at the beginning of August.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

New England Revolution head coach Bruce Arena
“They play. They’re certainly a different style than Philadelphia, and certainly very effective. If I’m not mistaken, they were probably pretty close to the top of the table most of the year. They’ve done a great job and they obviously had that advantage to start in the bubble being at home, for the most part. That was an advantage for them, and they took advantage of it. They played very well in the bubble, and that momentum carried over and they had a very good regular season.”

New England Revolution midfielder Matt Polster
“Obviously with knocking the Supporters’ Shield winners out of the playoffs it’s a massive boost for the team. The performance with that win definitely helps. I thought it was a really good performance from everybody and, like I said, we’re a very hard-working team that’s willing to work for each other. I think we have the quality when it comes down to it to win games. We have Carles [Gil], Gustavo [Bou], [Adam] Buksa, Tajon [Buchanan], we have a lot of pieces and even guys coming off the bench that can make a difference within the game. We’re just super dynamic and you’re starting to see it. It’s the perfect time to have that happen obviously so we’re just going to ride the wave and see what happens in Orlando. The boys are confident, I feel like everybody is confident right now to go down there and win.”

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