When looking at the Revolution 2020 roster as it stands, there are not many changes from the team that made the playoffs in 2019. Here are some big questions the I have going into the season about this roster.
The backline was the most significant issue for this team last year. The team allowed 57 goals Two new pieces in Buttner and Sinovic have been added to the backline, but the rest of the defense returns. Will these additions sure up the left side, allowing for more prominent stability across the back? Can Bruce Arena get this defense sound? With them playing in front of one of the best keepers in MLS in Matt Turner, it could make for a very successful season. I would like to believe that Farrell and Delemea, who were involved in all six of the clean sheets from 2019, can develop a strong partnership, to help anchor the defense. Experience can always improve, and the growth of Bye and Jones in the offseason coupled with those additions mentioned early, should bring a better defensive record. It still is the most important question facing this team going into 2020.
It may seem weird to have the star goalkeeper, who is just starting to earn calls ups to the US national team as a question going into 2020. What I am worried about is his ceiling and whether or not he has hit it. His distribution needs some work, and he is possibly the best shot-stopper in MLS with his 2019 stats proving this (see part I). What can he do in 2020 to raise the bar? Personally, while is positioning and reflexes are above average, he does need to improve on his strength in the box. Can he take that next step forward this season?
One of the few areas the Revolution did not adequately address in the off-season the defensive/holding midfielder role. The only midfield addition outside of the homegrown option was Kelyn Rowe, who is more of a number eight than a number 6. Currently, the roster has Scott Caldwell, Luis Caicedo, and Wilfred Zahibo are the three natural players to fill this position. Similar to the questions about the defensive stability going into this year, all three players are returning and were part of the team last year when there was that horrible defensive record. Yes, can Kelyn Rowe slot in and offer an engine and creativity out of a deeper-lying role, as could Diego Fagudez, as seen in a couple of occasions last year. But a true enforcing CDM is absent on this roster, so how will this role be filled?
Carlos Gil and Gustavo Bou
Two of the three standout performers on the Revolution roster last year, teams will be keying their defensive plans on them going into 2020. Similar to Turner and how will he grow, how will these two adjust to the growing focus on them. They looked to be able to make the adjustments towards the end of last season, but teams will have more tape and more time to learn their patterns. Penilla suffered from the league adjusting to him and has not entirely adjusted back. Yes, Adam Buska will take some focus away, but their link-up and connection on the field were apparent from day one. What can these two do when the league fully adjusts to them.
Bruce Arena came in and changed the mood around this team. Optimism was suddenly a word that fans were willing to use, and going into this season; there is a large amount of confidence within the fan base. My question here is, was last summer a fluke? The team made the playoffs but largely feasted on a weaker schedule when Arena took charge. You can only play the teams in front of you, but once the schedule got more stringent, the team started missing points and seemed to run out of gas at the end of the campaign. Players are coming through and stating that this is a fantastic pre-season, but that will only get you so far. It remains to be seen if Arena has unlocked the potential of the Revolution, or if it was a quick hit and will be a miss going forward.
Get Over the Hump
I will die on this horse, the New England Revolution, could have and maybe should have won that game in Atlanta. They were the better team throughout the 90 minutes of action. If they had gotten through Atlanta, I think they could have made the MLS Cup final, because there was not a single team remaining that they had not played well against or beaten once Arena took over. Can they get there? Atlanta has owned them in Atlanta, and their road form over previous seasons has not been the greatest. I think on paper, this team can challenge the top of MLS. But in actuality, can they get over the hump and get back to an MLS Cup final and possibly finally lift the most elusive trophy and end a quarter-century of heartbreak.