2019 has been an exciting year. Through the soccer world that I live in supporting two clubs (Chelsea FC and New England Revolution), mainly, there have been highs and lows. The emotional roller-coasters are enough to remind you why sports can have a stranglehold on your life.
New England Revolution
I am going to start with the New England Revolution. February rolled around, and with incoming DP Carles Gil, things were looking optimistic. The Revolution added a target number 9 on loan, and players were coming in off up and down preseason. The results, while not always fantastic, seemed to have the team looking to be on the correct path. But things ended up going downhill fast. They started looking well with a draw against FC Dallas, given the Revs away record over the last couple of years, but home form was nonexistent.
It is a struggle to watch your team when they are playing like trash and seemingly do not want to listen to the coach. Four points in their first five games, with two home losses in there, brought a cautious optimism down to a mundane feeling. Even the 2-1 victory over Minnesota did not do much to improve spirits. As March turned to April, things continued to spiral downward. With only four more points entering May, a timely victory over New Jersey (whoops York) Red Bull when they were struggling, combined with dropped points against Sporting KC, put everyone on edge. Looking in the mirror, the players seemed to finally have hit the tipping point of being done with the manager. One cannot blame them, rumors swirl about making them run sprints after poor performances, and just creating a dressing room that did not respect him.
May was the tipping point for fans and ownership alike, with back to back five-goal drubbings (6-1 in Chicago and 5-0 in Philadelphia) left the Revolution sitting at 2-8-2 through the first 14 games of the season. Brad Friedal was sacked, and there was slight happiness as Mike Burns was still in charge of bringing in the next manager. The match, May 11, 2019, was something interesting in the supporter’s section. There was belief behind the team, but outrage for not enough changes. I will say roughly 90% off the traditional chants included wording towards firing Mike Burns. Again timing may have helped; the Revs won the match 3-1, and the following week, Burns was gone. Bruce Arena was brought in as Sporting Director and Coach. There were celebrations and shots in the parking lot before the charity match against Chelsea, and spirits were high again.
What followed was nothing less than brilliance. Freed from the shackles of Friedel’s tactics, the team flourished and went on an unprecedented (especially for the summer) point streak. A special note to Mike Lapper, who guided the team from the Friedel sacking to Arena, fully taking the reigns at the end of May. He brought the team together and got them playing free expressive soccer again before Arena came in and brought his philosophies across. People will point to the quality of appointment as part of the reason for the resurgence, but you can only play the teams in front of you.
Possibly the biggest surprise of the season was the signing of Gustavo Bou. His signing showed an intent that had not been seen in recent years. FOr those who will bring up Jermain Jones, he went to New England because of a coin flip, therefore sorry but not sorry he does not count. The bringing back of now USMNT goalie Matt Turner into the starting line up helped create situations where the Revs could have 3 of the best players on the field at any given time. Friedel does deserve some credit for starting him in 2018.
Making the playoffs was a significant step in the right direction, and yes, this is going to be a biased thought, but the Revolution gave Atlanta everything they could handle and then some. I went into the playoff game, hoping they kept it close and came out of the playoff game feeling that the Revolution could have won the match.
This offseason continues to perplex me, with new signings and the training facility finally opening. 2019may has started rough but has ended with some more optimism than I have felt in a long time for this team going into 2020.