Bruce Arena admits it is not until the MLS Cup Playoffs begin that he will get a better understanding of exactly how good New England Revolution are.
The Revs beat Philadelphia Union 1-0 last week to extend their record this season to 16 wins, four losses and four ties.
They have a healthy lead at the top of the Eastern Conference and are also 10 points ahead of closest challengers Seattle Sounders in the overall standings, albeit having played two games more.
However, Arena does not believe winning the Supporters’ Shield – something he has achieved three times before – provides a fair representation of who is the best side in MLS.
“Really it’s East plays East and West plays West. To say at the end that one team deserves a Supporters’ Shield and likely has not played a dozen other teams seems a little odd to me,” he said.
“I think it’s a great accomplishment if either winner in either conference has a great season and all. But I think even if it’s us and we come out on top in points, there’s an asterisk next to that.
“I think in MLS everything boils down to the post-season. I think people tend not to get overwhelmed by results in the regular season and the playoffs tell it all.”
The Revs’ next opponents New York City FC are well positioned to claim one of the playoff spots, despite losing 3-1 to Nashville SC in their last match and winning just two of their last six.
City have taken just two points from their last six road games, meanwhile, and midfielder Nicholas Acevedo has suggested that could be down to a lack of cutting edge.
“Away we haven’t been able to take a lot of points, but I think it comes down to different game situations and moments,” Acevedo said.
“We feel that we control matches away from home most of the time but maybe we are missing being clinical or need to have more confidence defensively, but I feel that we are doing a good job.”
PLAYERS TO WATCH
New England Revolution – Matt Polster
In a team crammed full of talent, Polster does not always get the credit he perhaps deserves. That is so often the case for a defensive midfielder, though he has turned goal-getter over the past month with strikes in the 2-1 and 1-0 victories over the Union. Should he be able to combine the defensive aspects of his game with goals, the Revs will have a real player on their hands.
New York City FC – Valentin Castellanos
After playing a direct part in all six of City’s goals last month with four of his own and two assists, it was little surprise that Castellanos was this week voted MLS Player of the Month for August. The Argentine forward started September in similar fashion with his side’s late consolation goal against Nashville, meaning he has either scored or assisted in six of his last eight games.
KEY OPTA FACTS
– New York City beat the Revs 2-0 at home on September 3, the only team to record a win over New England since early July. The 2-0 result was just the second time New England have lost by more than one goal this season, also losing 2-0 at Nashville on May 8.
– The Revolution’s 1-0 win over the Union on Friday was their 13th victory by a one-goal margin this season. The 13 one-goal wins is tied for the most in a single season in MLS history, a number four other teams have reached, most recently Colorado in 2016.
– While New York City FC have won seven straight at home, they are winless in six in a row on the road (D2 L4), including losing the last two away matches. The six-match winless run is NYCFC’s longest since going nine straight (including playoffs) without a road victory from August 2018 to April 2019.
– After a six-game absence, MLS assist leader Carles Gil returned for the Revolution on Friday against the Union. Gil’s 15 assists this season are seven more than any other MLS player and tied for the most in a single season in the Revs’ history along with Lee Nguyen’s 15 in 2017.
– Castellanos has scored New York City FC’s last five goals and assisted on the two goals prior to that. Castellanos has scored or assisted on all seven goals NYCFC has scored since the beginning of August.