The Pigeons got here thanks to a pair of second-half goals last weekend to beat Atlanta United 2-0, while New England picked up a first-round bye in a record-setting regular season, finishing first overall with 73 points.
It has been 23 days since the Revs last played a game, which seems like an eternity, but at long last, they are back looking to finish what has been a magical season for the team from Greater Boston.
Bruce Arena not only broke the record for regular-season wins by an MLS coach this year, surpassing Sigi Schmid, but his side rewrote the record books in several league and franchise categories in 2021.
The American coach knows better than most, however, that none of that means anything unless you come away with the title at the end of it all, and Arena knows a thing or two about winning, having claimed five MLS titles during his illustrious coaching career, but it has been a while since his last one, which came with the Los Angeles Galaxy in 2014.
New England breezed through the year, losing only five times, although one of those defeats came at the hands of the Boys in Blue, who defeated them 2-0 in the Bronx back in August.
Having the best record in the league heading into the playoffs may increase your odds of getting your hands on the MLS trophy, but as former Supporters' Shield winners will tell you, it does not guarantee you anything, as only seven of the previous 25 teams with the best regular-season record went on to win the cup, with the last one being Toronto FC in 2017.
In 2020, they made it to the Eastern Conference Final before losing to the eventual champions, the Columbus Crew, but the difference this time around will be the fact that the expectations will be far more significant, which is to be expected when you are coming into the postseason with a 750 winning percentage and an MLS record for points per game of 2.15.
When you put up the kind of numbers that New England did this year, it is hard to find of flaw in this side, but they were often a little slow starting matches this year before finding solutions in the second half, which is something to keep in mind heading into a win or go home scenario which will be the case from here on out.
The playoffs are a chance to prove your critics wrong and create a surprise, and New York will look to do just that this week with a spot in the Eastern Conference Final up for grabs.
There was a point in October when many people were doubting that this team would even qualify for the postseason, but at the moment, they are in fine form, unbeaten in their previous six matches, including their 2-0 win in the first round of the playoffs last Sunday.
Like the Revs, New York have many dynamic individuals who can take control of a game and make the difference, and they have played this team as well as anyone in recent memory, narrowly losing by a single goal to them twice in 2021 and with only one defeat against them at Foxborough in their last three visits there.
Controlling the middle of the field will be critical for them if they are to pull off this upset as the Revolution have built their play around an extraordinary playmaker who has often been given far too much space to pick out their dangerous attacking options, and that is something that New York must try to neutralize.
The identity of this team in 2021 has always rested on a possession-based approach to control the pace of a game, and when they can do that, they are a difficult side to beat.
Expect to see them try to take the crowd out of the game early by clogging up the midfield to slow down the energy and enthusiasm that the Revs will be feeling, not just because of the regular season New England just experienced but also given that it has been over three weeks since they last played.
This will be the first appearance for the Pigeons in the second round of the playoffs since 2019, and they will be hoping that their previous experiences will come in handy, having lost out at this stage of the postseason on four consecutive occasions from 2016-2019.
Adam Buksa, who led the Revolution in goals during the regular season with 16, picked up an undisclosed injury in their previous match versus Inter Miami and is questionable for this one, so the team may have to look to Gustavo Bou, who had himself an impressive campaign as well, scoring 15 times and adding another eight assists.
This could be the last match in a Revs uniform for Tajon Buchanan, with the Canadian set to join Club Brugge in Belgium at the end of the season, while Brandon Bye will be in New England for a few more years, recently re-signing with the club until 2024.
As you would expect, the Supporters' Shield winners have come away with numerous regular-season awards, including Carles Gil, who led the league in assists and key passes with 18 and 117 respectively and was recently named the MLS Comeback Player of the Year, while Matt Turner received the award for Goalkeeper of the Year.
Valentin Castellanos, who won the MLS Golden Boot in the regular season with 19 goals, scored the winner in their playoff victory over the Five Stripes, with Alexander Callens notching his second of the year to provide a little insurance.
Last weekend, they were missing Gedion Zelalem, who was suspended following his red card in their regular-season finale versus the Philadelphia Union, so it will be interesting to see if he returns to the starting 11 or if Ronny Deila decides to move the versatile James Sands up to midfield once against after the American defender played great higher up the field in their opening playoff fixture.
New York will not have Anton Tinnerholm available because of an Achilles injury, Nicolas Acevedo is doubtful with a lower-body injury and Keaton Parks will not return this season after undergoing blood clot surgery.
New England Revolution possible starting lineup:
Turner; Bye, Farrell, Kessler, Jones; Buchanan, Polster, Boateng; Gil; Bou, Buksa
New York City FC possible starting lineup:
Johnson; Gray, Chanot, Callens, Sands; Morales, Zelalem; Medina, Moralez, Rodriguez; Castellanos
We say: New England Revolution 2-1 New York City FC
These teams have a great deal of respect for one another, and for good reason, as they each possess a ton of quality in the final third with strikers who rarely miss even half-chances, plus it is a knockout game, so we are likely to see a lot of hesitancy in the early stages from both sides before things open up a little.
The Pigeons have given the Revs a lot to deal with, but there are just so many match-winners on this New England side that it is hard to bet against them even if their top goalscorer does not play.
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