Creating the Chances
Led by reigning MLS MVP Carles Gil, the Revolution have a slightly different look to their creative and attacking options in the midfield coming into the 2022 season. The Revolution midfield provided 17 goals and 26 assists in last season’s march to the Supporter’s Shield. This year they have lost young talent Tajon Buchanan due to his move to Club Brugge. They will need to find a way to replace his offensive productivity (eight goals, five assists) as well as the width and pace he added to the attack.
The midfield will hopefully bear fruit in the coming seasons by adding Sebastian Lletget from the LA Galaxy to supplement Gil with chance creation. You also have Wilfred Kaptoum and Arnor Traustason, who should be more comfortable in both MLS and with this side. There is the potential for this midfield to come together and be one of the best in the league.
We head into a breakdown of the players in alphabetical order with all of that.
Hampered by injuries, Boateng still provided both a spark of speed and creativity from the bench for the Revolution in 2021. In 12 total appearances for the Revolution, he scored twice and provided four assists. In a similar vein to other veteran signings, Boateng also offered an example of leaving everything on the pitch for the side. Always willing to work back and help out defensively, Ema quickly became a fan favorite. His pace had moments of changing the game. One of his key moments was providing the assist that sent the playoff match to penalties.
2022 could see Boateng flourish with more opportunities. In his limited time last year, he made a sizeable impact. His pace will be a welcome addition with the loss of Buchanan, and his crossing will help to continue to provide extra options out wide. He also was good at making later, and back post runs for his two goals last season. If he can stay healthy, the veteran could become an essential piece off the bench for the Revolution.
If Boateng stays healthy, I could see him having career numbers in MLS. While he is mainly a depth piece, he provided good scoring chances and found the back of the net a couple of times himself in 2021. With the additional games, combined with the loss of both Bunbury and Buchanan, he could also get good minutes. I am expecting five goals and seven assists this year.
2021 was special from Gil. Winning his first MLS MVP, Gil started the season on a single-season assist record-breaking pace. Sadly a hernia injury in mid-season cost him both matches and form. While he came back and continued to lead the Revolution from the midfield, at times, he looked to be still worrying about the injury. Overall, he had four goals and eighteen assists, but his creative ability separated him from the rest of the league. Having 117 key passes, Gil had 98 less than the rest of the team combined. He ended up with 35.58% of the created opportunities for the Revs.
2022 is a season for Gil to prove he can be that consistent threat and creator for this side. While his two semi-full years in MLS have even career years, his injury problems the past two seasons are a bit problematic. With the extra workload from the additional schedule, staying healthy will be critical for Gil. He also should get more help from the midfield with Lletget, who had 31 key passes last year with the Galaxy.
While some out there think that Gil cannot improve on his 2021 season, I disagree. He never thoroughly looked comfortable the second half of the season, and teams focused even more on him. If he can stay healthy for the entirety of the season, his output will improve. The other factor, at least for his assist total, is the Revs’ ability to finish the chances he creates. I expect him to be chasing the MVP again in this coming season. I am hoping he gets closer to ten goals and twenty assists.
Hampered by early-season injuries, Kaptoum’s first year in New England took some time to get off the ground. Once he got moving, he again sustained an injury and missed another month of the season. When he was finally healthy, Kaptoum saw most of his time in a deeper-lying role with the Revolution. Not only partners in a double pivot with Matt Polster, but Kaptoum was also deployed higher up on the wing from time to time. In his 21 appearances for the Revolution, he did score a single goal and provided a single assist.
Like other transfers from last season, Kaptoum needs to have a rebound season in 2022. He has the talent and the pedigree to find his way in MLS; it will come down to finding form and health this year. Adding Lletget puts pressure on him since it is direct competition for a place in the side. Coach Arena has shown that he can improve a player in their second year in MLS, and if he can work with the youngish midfielder, this season could help change his career trajectory. He needs to prove his spot this year.
A lot of this depends on how Kaptoum is utilized this upcoming year. Like others, he will have chances with the extra competitions over last season. He needs to show if he is worth the Revolution’s time in developing him. If he can stay healthy, I expect three to five goals and five to seven assists.
Having a minor setback statistically in 2021, Lletget had a solid year for the LA Galaxy. Making 25 appearances 21 starts, Lletget provided three goals and five assists. His 91.8 percent pass accuracy would have ranked first on the Revolution on players with more than one appearance. He was a consistent provider and mover of the ball throughout the Galaxy side, combined with his 31 key passes (would have been 4th on the Revolution). The LA fan base’s welcome back in pre-season shows the type of person and player he is.
Lletget will be hoping that changing scenery will help him improve in 2022. Brought to the Revolution by the man who believed in bringing him to LA, Lletget has mentioned Arena’s coaching as part of his reason to move. Wanting to rediscover his best form, significantly ahead of a potential World Cup with the USMNT, he will want to show his abilities. With one goal in pre-season, Llertget is starting to meld, which can only help him have a successful year in New England. Also, having a playmaker like Gil to play with will take some creative pressure off him and give him more time and space.
I expect Lletget to find his form easily in New England. Paired with a solid attack and other creators around him should help to see his statistical numbers increase over the past couple of seasons. Combined with the understanding he has with Arena does bode well for him. I expect five to ten goals and five to ten assists for the newcomer.
Youngster Damien Rivera spent the majority of 2021 with Revolution II. He did make his first-team debut against FC Cincinnati, getting 28 minutes in his lone appearance. The homegrown product showed talent flourishes in his debut, albeit against FC Cincinnati. In his time with Revolution II, Rivera showed dynamism from the midfield. Leading the team, he scored six goals and assisted in 25 appearances.
2022 needs to be a year where Rivera starts to jump up to the first team. The nineteen-year-old has the potential to give the Revolution a strong option off the bench. While his pace isn’t the same as the departed Buchanan, he can add some creativity that has been lost. Bruce Arena has said he hopes Rivera will be challenging for a consistent place with the first team this coming year. This could be his break-out season with all of the competitions the Revolution is attached to.
Rivera should see playing time in 2022. There are plenty of opportunities to prove his spot with the first team with the US Open Cup, CONCACAF Champions League, and MLS games. I believe he will get the time and hopefully bag two to three goals and a couple of assists with the opportunities.
Coming in with many expectations, Traustason had a season that did not fully meet the expectations. Traustason expected more of himself by admission, which hopefully bods well for 2022. He bagged two goals and had seven assists in his debut season. There were times that he looked like he was trying to find his game, but the ability was there. Completing only 79.6 percent of his passes, there is much room for improvement coming into the 2022 season.
2022 is a swing year for Traustason as a Revolution player. Bruce Arena has shown with the evolution of Adam Buksa that giving him a year with players can help improve them overall. Not only will he have more guidance from Arena, but he should feel more comfortable in the league. These two things mean he needs to rebound. He has the pedigree but now needs to show it. Adding Lletget should relieve pressure, but he needs to find his feet, especially with the other matches.
I am willing to go out there and say that Traustason should rebound in his second season with the Revolution. He needs to find his finishing touch to help ease the burden lost by Buchanan’s departure. While he cannot replace the pace, he can add to the width and score from outside the box. I can see him getting around six goals and twelve assists if he can do this.
Final Thoughts On The Attacking Midfield
People will still worry about Tajon Buchanan’s loss, which is understandable. His overall pace going forward helped to put the opposition under pressure. While the addition of Lletget is not a like-for-like replacement, he is more creative than Buchanan. While the pace may be less than last season, a healthy Boateng and potential from Rivera can replace his productivity.
The additional creative presence will help Gil and hopefully create more space throughout the entire midfield. The past two years in the playoffs, the Revolution have gone out to teams who have flooded the midfield to close down the space allowed to Gil. Lletget is an addition to try and rectify this.
This group has the talent; the Revs should have another successful year if they can get everything going.