A lot has happened since the New England Revolution last played a competitive match. The Audi 2021 MLS Cup Playoffs field has been reduced by nine, Carles Gil experienced his first American Thanksgiving with Matt Turner and his family, and Bruce Arena was named MLS Sigi Schmid Coach of the Year for the fourth time.
The Polish striker, though, declared himself 100% fit for the Supporters’ Shield winner's first postseason match Tuesday (7:30 pm ET | FS1, FOX Deportes) against New York City FC in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. On the club's injury report, Buksa is listed as questionable.
"I'm ready. I'm ready for tomorrow. Ready for 100 percent," Buksa declared Monday." There is no doubt about that, and it was a good time of preparation, I would say, because I work hard on my physicality. I work a lot with physical therapists, so a little bit different style of training. I had to let my foot rest a little bit, but that doesn't mean that I was out. I was just trying a different way. Now I'm back on the field. I've had four training sessions with the team and I feel very good, so you can be sure that they'll be ready for 100 percent tomorrow.”
Buksa’s return will certainly calm nerves from Revs fans, who are hoping their club can buck history by completing the double and winning their first-ever MLS Cup title.
Of everything that's transpired since a Decision Day defeat to Inter Miami CF, the Revs playing a competitive match isn’t one of them. But Buksa isn’t worried about a lack of match sharpness against an NYCFC side that has a playoff win under their belt, a 2-0 victory over Atlanta United in Round One at Yankee Stadium on Nov. 21.
"It's not a problem. We can’t use it as an excuse," Buksa said. "Obviously, it would be better to play every week to the playoff game, but I think we dealt with that problem pretty well. We had some inter-squad games, and we're fully ready to step on the field and win. So I don't want to even talk about that. I would treat it only as an excuse in case we lost, but that's not going to be the case. It’s not going to affect our game.”
While there was talk of finding an opponent for a friendly match to maintain peak levels, Arena joked it was “very friendly. We played ourselves twice.”
Arena also shot down concerns about the layoff. And while he has a good handle on what makes NYCFC a dangerous No. 4 seed, Arena is unsure how the match will unfold at Gillette Stadium.
“I really don't know, to be honest with you. You never know," Arena said. "Things can happen early in the game, maybe a team gets an early goal and it changes things. If you've watched these playoff games to date, I think they're highly unpredictable."
Buksa said he’s observed the same dynamic while awaiting the Revs playoff opener. As the East's No. 1 seed, their Round One bye was further elongated by the November international break.
"I'm confident because obviously, this league is unpredictable," Buksa said. "That's great proof because in the Western Conference the top three teams are out. That's pretty normal for MLS, but it shouldn't affect our approach, our preparation because it doesn't influence us in any way. We just have to focus on our game with everything, with what's behind us, what's next to us."
The pressure is on New England after they set a single-season points record (73). But that’s a good thing as they face NYCFC for a fourth time this year, according to Gil, the club's captain, playmaker and an MVP finalist.
"I think all that type of pressure is good for me, for the team because it’s why we had an amazing season this year," said Gil, the 2021 Comeback Player of the Year. "So yes, we know that we’ll have a difficult game tomorrow against a very good team. But we’ve trained hard these three weeks and we’re ready.”