Welcome A.J DeLaGarza

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Many thanks to fbref.com for making gathering these stats easier. Please check them out! Featured Image credit: LA Galaxy v Colorado Rapids at StubHub Center on September 5, 2014 in Carson, CA. Photo by Mora/LA Galaxy.

The New England Revolution recently announced the signing of versatile veteran defender AJ DeLaGarza. The 33-year-old veteran of the league for 12 seasons has made his career at both center-back and right-back.

Teal Bunbury and AJ DeLaGarza MLS Cup Final Dec. 7, 2014 Photocredit: AP Photo/Jae C. Hong

DeLaGarza comes to the Revolution after what to him will be a disappointing 2020 season where he played and started in 6 games for expansion side Inter Miami. In those six games, Inter Miami had a record of 3-0-3, though the play-in round loss to Nashville may have been more of a lack of first-team attackers than anything else. Overall in those six appearances, including the playoffs, DeLaGarza played 516 minutes, going the full 90 in 5 of the six games. While he did not score any goals or assist this season, he did have an 84.8 percent passing completion percentage. Defensively DeLaGarza completed 6 of 11 tackle attempted and made eight blocks, 5 of which were shot blocks. He was also on the field for the full 90 of 1 of their three clean sheets, and the only victory when keeping the back end clean.

AJ DeLaGarza began his career with the LA Galaxy after being the 19th overall pick in the 2009 MLS Super Draft and spent the following nine seasons within the Galaxy’s organization. He amused a nice trophy collection as a prominent figure in the 2011, 2012, and 2014 MLS Cup Championships. In his eight seasons with the Galaxy, he amassed 204 appearances, of which 196 were starts, contributing two goals and four assists. In both 2011 and 2014, he started 4 of the playoff matches; in the playoff success to 2014, he added an assist. Revolution fans will remember him going 120 minutes in that final against them and keeping the Revolution offense at bay for the majority of the match.

2014 MLS Cup Final: LA Galaxy final training session at StubHub Center on December 6, 2014 in Carson, CA. Photo by Mora/LA Galaxy.

DeLaGarza departed the Galaxy for the Houston Dynamo in a trade in January of 2017. He spent three seasons with the team, and while healthy, was a crucial piece in the Dynamo backline. In the seasons that DeLaGarza was healthy, he had 57 appearances and 57 starts for the club. DeLaGarza’s 2018 season was shortened due to recovery from an ACL injury at the end of the 2017 season. Still, he was back and on the bench for the 2018 US Open Cup Final victory over the Philadelphia Union.

In a defense depth move by the Revolution, AJ DeLaGarza gives this team a veteran defender. With the experience he brings from 12 years in the league, DeLaGarza provides the Revolution with an experienced option. For the entirety of his time in LA, he has already worked with Bruce Arena, bringing in someone who will be familiar with the coaches playing style and expectations. His previous work with Arena will allow for an easier time acclimating to the group and scheme. New England is also getting a proven winner, who knows what it takes to get over the finish line, with his 3 MLS Cups and 1 US Open Cup.

I think having someone with DeLaGarza’s knowledge can only help the young Revolution defenders from a development side. Henry Kessler had an outstanding rookie campaign, but where he goes in his sophomore year can only improve by having more people to help him learn. Similarly, Brandon Bye and Tajon Buchanan can both learn from DeLaGarza’s experience at right-back. Buchanan is still developing his knowledge of the position, and while Brandon Bye is quite sound on the defensive side, he could use some assistance going forward.

With the lack of playing time and lack of opportunities in Miami, DeLaGarza has a chip on his shoulder to prove that he still can offer something to a club. While 2020 was an interesting season with the Covid break, DeLaGarza would have expected more playing time when signing with Miami. While he may not come straight into the side, if he works hard, he can challenge for the starting position at right-back and possibly push Buchanan back up on the wing.

Since joining the club, DeLaGarza has made a fantastic first impression with the fanbase. He has done nothing but show support and understand the club’s history in his social media posts. From his welcome message, including the two supports ground, The Midnight Riders and The Rebellion, to arriving in Boston quickly after signing to get incorporated in the team sooner. Finally, possibly one of the classiest gestures, DeLaGarza, who has routinely worn the number 20 throughout his career, informed the Revolution community that he needs to find a new one due to what that number has meant club for his time with the Revolution. Everything he has said is nothing more than pure class from DeLaGarza, making me want to see him succeed even more.

Well Deserved Call Up

A brief preface before dive into the numbers for these two guys. The statistical information gathered is from a website called fbref.com. They are wonderful and made my life extremely easier to put my thoughts together and back them up with statistics. Please visit them if you have any interest in soccer statistics.

Affectionately known as Camp Cupcake, the January USA Men’s National Soccer Team training camp roster was announced today, and two members of the New England Revolution’s squad were selected. In the senior team, goalkeeper Matt Turner received his 3rd call up into camp, and rookie phenom Henry Kessler got called into the U-23 camp. While both players will be looking for their first appearances for the national team, Matt Turner should be starting in net for the match against Serbia’s rumored opponent. Kessler may see the field but with other strong defenders in camp has less of a chance.

Matt Turner’s 2020 was another year to remember for the Revolution’s number one. After a disappointing start to the season with the 2-1 loss to the Montreal Impact, Turner picked up a slight knee injury. Starting in the MLS is Back tournament, Turner made many game-changing saves throughout the season. The main one everyone remembers due to proximity is the penalty save over Nani in the MLS Playoffs with the Revolution lead at 2-1, but Turner always seems to come up with the big save when needed. Looking at his statistics this past year, Turner had a 75.5 save percentage, good for top 5 in MLS. His goals allowed versus goals expected to conceded was a +8.2 the top in MLS, which means he allowed fewer goals than expected, and his passing, while not notable, was at 70.6% up from 63.2% the previous year. The other noticeable change was the command of the 18-yard box. Something that we could hear a lot more due to lack of crowds was Turner’s yelling at his defenders and organizational strategies. He looked more at home, telling them where to be and what he expected from them. Finally, as Matt Doyle said earlier this year, he would have had Turner starting over the current number one Zac Stefen, sooo eat your hearts out.

Henry Kessler’s rookie season was one that has Revolution fans drooling with anticipation to see how he can develop into his sophomore season. While Kessler was not projected to be a starter coming into camp by most pundits, including myself, injuries thrust him into Montreal’s spotlight, and he never looked back. Even in his rookie season, Kessler never looked out of place in the MLS. He had a poise and confidence about him that showed in his gameplay. Kessler contributed one goal in his rookie season and no assists while having an 85.2 passing completion percentage. On the defensive side of things, Kessler finished the season with the 3rd best in MLS successful pressures at 44.3 percent and 5th in MLS in clearances with 124. He completed 27 tackles in 35 attempts, which is just a shade under 80%. In what should have been a rookie of the year season, MLS changed the award. Kessler stabilized the Revs’ backline and became one of the most critical players on the field every match.

Going into the US National Team camp is an excellent opportunity for both of these players to further their careers and develop more skills. This can only be seen as a good thing for the Revolution in terms of success in the coming 2021 season.

Thank You Diego

There has been one constant in the New England Revolution squad for the past ten seasons, number 14, Diego Fagundez. Sadly this changes going into the 2021 season. As of December 8, 2020, Diego Fagundez is no longer a Revolution player.

Fagundez signed as the first Home Grown Player for the Revolution in November of 2010. His first season with the Revolution saw limited time; as a 16-year-old, he had six total appearances, of which three were starting. In 316 minutes of action, he did bag two goals, making him the second-youngest goal scorer in MLS; he is now the 4th. He continued to show promising signs with increased minutes in 2012, same goals with two assists in 775 minutes before having his best statistical year in a Revolution uniform in 2013.

2013 saw Diego seized on his increased playing time, afforded him by head coach Jay Heaps. Fagundez showed tremendous growth during his time on the pitch. He finished the campaign leading the Revolution in goals with 13 and second in assists with 5. 2013 also saw Diego get his first playoff experience, going 180 minutes against Sporting KC, in the Conference Semi-Final loss. While 2014 saw a decrease in goals and assists, Fagundez was still an integral piece to the Revolution’s attack. Contributing five goals and four assists to the MLS Cup Runner-Up season, Diego was the second-highest scorer behind Lee Nguyen and tied for second on the team in assists.

2014 Eastern Conference Champion Celebrations. Photo Credit: Revolution Communications

The next three seasons, under the steady reigns of Jay Heaps, Fagundez saw the continuation of his regular playing time and found consistency in his statistics. In both the 2015 and 2016 seasons, he scored six goals, which kept him in the club’s top performers. He also compiled three and six assists, respectively. With a revamped offense and more settled in, Kai Kamara 2017 saw an increase in both Fagundez’s goals scored and assists as he scored and supplied 7.

2018 saw a new manager Brad Friedel come in for the released Jay Heaps and a more creative role of Diego with the eventual departure of Lee Nguyen. Combining well with speed from new winger Cristian Penilla and interchanging with the false nine of Teal Bunbury, Fagundez took the most of his opportunities. In possibly Diego’s most complete season in Revolution uniform, he scored nine goals and provided eight assists. He was proving himself to be a vital cog in the Friedel machine.

2019 brought changes and challenges to deal with. Incoming creative force Carles Gil took the number ten responsibilities from Diego. These changes pushed him out wide and brought him into a new role as a holding defensive midfielder. Combined with a mid-season change of management and the incoming of an additional attacking midfielder in Gustavo Bou, saw Fagundez’s time diminish and continued to see his role more focused as a holding midfielder. 2019 saw a downtick in his numbers, but Diego still contributed with two goals and three assists, his lowest totals since his second season in the league. 2020 was a weird year all around for most players, but Diego again saw his minutes diminish. Played more on the wing than through the creative outlet in the middle, Diego scored the only goal in the midfield during the regular season. On October 28, 2020, his final appearance against New York Red Bull was the 261st of his tieing him with another legend, Shalrie Joseph, for the club’s most regular-season appearances.

Diego at home vs Toronto Oct. 7, 2020. Second to last home appearance. Photo Credit: Revolution Communications

Diego Fagundez’s performances on the field for the club were always ones of effort. No matter the situation he was coming into for the game, he would always push and try to ensure the club a victory or strive to turn around a result. No matter what was going on off the field, he always put his heart and soul on the line for the club, and the fans understood, appreciate, and love him for it. His final stat line from his ten years at the club reads: 261 appearances, 186 starts, 53 goals, and 37 assists; not only for these stats but his drive and determination had him named to the Revolution All-Time 11 for the first 25 seasons, but also a club legend.

If his on-field accomplishments were not enough to cement his status as a club legend, what he has meant to the New England Revolution off the field firmly shows that he is a legend at this club. Being the first homegrown player signed by the Revolution, this gave local youth soccer players an example of what hard work could get you. He laid the groundwork for players like Scott Caldwell, Justin Rennicks, and Damien Rivera to have a pathway from the Academy to the first team. Diego always had time for the fans, especially the younger generation. He was one of the players who were available for pictures and autographs. His interactions with the younger fans, and his appreciation for the fans, made him a favorite and secured his status as a club legend.

On a personal note about all that can be said to Diego is thank you. Thank you for all the happy memories. Thank you for all the fun goal celebrations. Thank you for always giving your all on the pitch no matter what was going on. Thank you for always coming over to salute The Fort after any performance, good or bad, by the team. Thank you for bleeding for this club for ten years. Thank you for helping to show the youth that they could make it to the first. Finally, thank you for representing the club with the utmost professionalism during your time here. While parting can be a feeling of sorrow, wishing you nothing but success and happiness in your future endeavors. Hope to see you back in a Revolution kit. – Jeremy

I own somewhere around 100 kits, and typically I do not put names on them. For the two clubs I support, Chelsea and the Revolution, I have purchased three name sets and had them put on. For what Diego has meant to the club and what he has done off the field, I added him to what is currently looking like the final home kit he will have worn for the Revolution.

New England Revolution: Playoff Roster Preview Pt. 5: Bruce

The New England Revolution made the MLS playoffs for the second consecutive year under head coach and general manager Bruce Arena. In contrast, their form over the last two games has not been the most promising, sloppy defending against DC United and just a lackluster performance against Philadelphia. With that being said, let’s take a look at Bruce Arena and his coaching heading into the playoffs.

Manager – Bruce Arena

Bruce Arena brings years of MLS playoff experience to the table but will it be enough to get the Revolution over the hump. After the performances against D.C. United and the Philadelphia Union, it will be seen how he re-energizes this team. Going against familiar opposition in the Montreal Impact to start the run, can he continue to get one over on Thierry Henry. His decisions and preparation of the team will go along way to deciding how far this team goes. It will also come down to how he reads the game situation and manages the substitutions. I expect him to get the Revolution through the playoff game and have confidence he can lead them on a deep run in the playoffs.

Overall Thoughts:

This team and roster have the pieces to go deep in the playoffs. In Matt Turner and Carles Gil, they have two players who can change a game’s complexion. In the supporting cast around them, there is depth and talent to cause problems. What remains to be seen is can this team gel? Can they play with the fluidity that was seen in the first game in the MLS is Back tournament, when they ran over the Impact but could not finish? If that is the team that shows up, the rest of the league should be on notice.

New England Revolution: Playoff Roster Preview Pt 4: Goalkeepers

The New England Revolution made the MLS playoffs for the second consecutive year under head coach and general manager Bruce Arena. In contrast, their form over the last two games has not been the most promising, sloppy defending against DC United and just a lackluster performance against Philadelphia. With that being said, let’s take fourth look at their roster heading into the playoffs.

Goalkeeping

There were lofty expectations for incumbent number one goalkeeper Matt Turner coming into this season, and he exceeded them. While the opener in Montreal left something wanting, he had injured his knee on that piece of shit that was the turf. Outside the one game Brad Knighton started, Turner has had another exceptional season. Matt Doyle, one of MLS’s analysts, even called for him to be the USMNT starter over Zac Stefan. It is the position where no questions are asked as we enter into the playoffs.

Matt Turner has another stand out season for the Revolution. The one nice thing about not having fans in the seats is that you can hear his growth in his box’s confidence and command. While he holds himself accountable, he also has set an expectation for his defenders and will ensure they are not doing their part. His distribution has also improved immensely. I came into the season saying he needed to show a step up, and he exceeded even my expectations. The playoffs will be his moment to shine. After losing out to Andre Blake for Goalkeeper of the Year (I still think that’s the wrong decision), he will continue to have the chip on his shoulder. He will be the main reason the Revolution have confidence they can take on any opponent in the playoffs.

Brad Knighton covered well in his one start for Turner. He is a serviceable MLS keeper and good backup. He does command his box well and can make an important save or two, but if we see Knighton in the playoffs outside of the game against Montreal, the Revolution will need the backline to step up.

Jeff Caldwell did not see the pitch, so if we see him in the playoffs, the Revolution is in serious trouble.

New England Revolution: Playoff Roster Preview Pt. 3 – Defenders

Revolution Team

The New England Revolution made the MLS playoffs for the second consecutive year under head coach and general manager Bruce Arena. In contrast, their form over the last two games has not been the most promising, sloppy defending against DC United and just a lackluster performance against Philadelphia. With that being said, let’s take another look at their roster heading into the playoffs.

Defense

Outside of the last two games and the first match against NYCFC (the 2-0 defeat that got me ranting again), the New England Revolution defensive is as reliable as I have seen it in several years. They were tied for the 6th best goals against in the league and improved immensely from last year. The addition of Henry Kessler through the draft and the signing of Alexander Büttner, coupled with the development of DeJuan Jones and Brandon Bye, have helped secure the backline for the Revolution.

Brandon Bye has an excellent start to the season before seeing his playing time shrink up with the emergence of DeJuan Jones. Bye is an excellent on-ball defender who was shutting down wide playmakers throughout the season. While his crossing leaves something to be asked, he continues to grow as a defender. He did leave the game against Philadelphia with a slight injury, but if he has recovered, I still only expect him to come from the bench if Jones is healthy. Otherwise, he is the starting right back.

Alexander Büttner had an overall good season. He came into the Revolution, having not played in almost an entire calendar year. He struggled with a small injury initially but once MLS is Back rolled around saw plenty of time. His class and leadership helped solidify the defense, he also has created a very good relationship with star newcomer Henry Kessler. His cultured left foot was also on display, and while I think he would have loved to add a goal or two, he did tie for the team lead in assists with 3. I expect him to whip a couple of balls into the box against Montreal and, if the Revs go on a prolonged run, contribute some assists.

Antonio Delemea outside of the Montreal game, I think Delemea provided good depth in the center of defense for the Revolution. Another player who came into the season injured but saw his playing time diminished because of the emergence of rookie phenom Henry Kessler. I feel like he should be on the bench throughout the playoffs, but I am unsure.

Henry Kessler should have been the Rookie of the Year, but MLS got rid of that award and created Young Player of the Year. Kessler led the Revolution outfield players in minutes played and all defensive categories. He has become a rock in front of Matt Turner and might be the second most important piece in the team sheet currently. Kessler’s relationship with Turner and the rest of the backline shows his command and knowledge of the position. He also scored the lone goal from defenders this season. I expect him to continue to provide that steady presence in the back, and if Montreal defends the way they did against DC, possibly a goal from a corner.

Andrew Farrell continued to grow back into a dominating center back. His partnership with Kessler was quite apparent, and the two of them continue to lead the backline. His understanding of the right-back position works from his time there has also helped him with coverage when Bye or Jones gets caught upfield. I do not expect goals from Farrell though his sole professional goal came against the Impact. I am hoping to lead the line and keeping Turner’s goal free of ridiculous chances.

DeJuan Jones, outside of Henry Kessler, Dejuan Jones has the most surprising rise in this season. His pace was always evident, but his ability to become an on ball defender progress steadily throughout the year. Initially providing cover at left-back when Büttner was injured, Jones made cameo appearances off the bench. After consistent playing time, due to another Büttner injury, he took over the right-back starting role from Brandon Bye. I hope to see him get his first assist or two of the season in the playoffs if healthy.

Michael Mancienne was a hot mess at center back this season. With 0 completed tackles and only three attempted in his five games, coupled with his inability to read where the threat is coming from, he caused significant issues when on the pitch. While he saw some game time, we are in trouble if we see him in the playoffs.

Seth Sinovic played 14 minutes this season due to Bye’s injury. While he may be on the bench, we are in trouble if we see him on the pitch.

New England Revolution: Playoff Roster Preview Pt. 2 – Midfielders

Revolution Team

The New England Revolution made the MLS playoffs for the second consecutive year under head coach and general manager Bruce Arena. In contrast, their form over the last two games has not been the most promising, sloppy defending against DC United and just a lackluster performance against Philadelphia. With that being said, let’s take another look at their roster heading into the playoffs.

Midfield

While frustrating this season on offense, the Revolution midfielders did an outstanding job helping out on the ball’s defensive side. The loss of Carles Gil for most of the season did not help, but the midfield only contributed one goal from open play and two goals overall. They also only added four assists to the team, which needs to improve in the postseason. Defensively, they contributed to one of the best defensive records the Revolution have had in recent seasons and will hope to continue that in the postseason.

Scott Caldwell has become a regular starter again towards the end of the season for the Revolution. Caldwell played well in his defensive midfield role but offered very little going forward. Simultaneously, his passing accuracy has always been towards the highest in his matches and offers good leadership in the locker room and pitch. I expect him to continue to start, though Polster is healthy and ready to start moving to a bench role. No assists, but more hard defensive work is expected from him through the playoffs.

Diego Fagundez provided one goal this season and no assists out of the midfield. While he did provide good cover tracking back, Fagundez was used more as a utility midfielder than an attacking midfielder. He does seem to slow play down but continues to provide adequate depth. I don’t expect him to see starting minutes, but he will get playing time from the bench. I honestly hope he can provide assists, but I am just counting on the work rate from him.

Carles Gil is welcomed back into the squad the last month of the season after being out for most of it with an Achilles injury/ bone spur surgery. With these matches being more pre-season for him than anything else, he looked solid in creating offense for the Revolution. The last time he faced Montreal, he created 15 scoring chances (per fbref.com, check them out!). Expect huge things from him in terms of time and creation in the playoffs. He could be the final piece to unlock the offense.

Tommy McNamara came in mid-season and has become a steady player for the Revs. He always looks to pass before shot and has one of the four midfield assists this season. McNamara has played in a defensive midfield position and a winger, and a more creative team role. He has a very high work rate and continues to impress whenever he comes in from the bench or is in the starting eleven, depending on how the Revs line up in the playoffs to either start or be a critical substitute, hopefully adding an assist or two.

Lee Nguyen came in as a mid-season acquisition and has provided depth and creativity to the midfield. Contributing one of the two goals from the midfield, all be it from the spot, he also contributed one assist. For someone who came into the team as having played only 90 minutes the whole year, he has become an excellent impact sub and added creativity when started. I can see the Revolution starting him and Gil together if they want to go more offensive, but I expect him to contribute from the bench. Hoping for a couple of assists from him and maybe a goal.

Matt Polster – Since acquisition from Rangers before his red card and subsequent concussion, Matt Polster had a significant impact. He added steal and aggressiveness on the defensive side of the ball. Polster worked hard and led the press often to good effect in his role as a defensive midfield. He also contributed with one assist. I expect him to come off the bench as defensive reinforcement late in games, but I hope he gets in from the stat because it could free up the Revolution to play a more fluid and attacking line.

Kelyn Rowe gives me fits when trying to preview him for the playoffs. He started to fill the number eight role of box to box midfielder with creativity but has become more of a late cameo player. His passing and vision are usually excellent, plus Rowe can hit a shot from distance. Hoping he gets minutes off the bench and maybe ships in a goal or assist or two.

New England Revolution: Playoff Roster Preview Pt. 1 Forwards

Revolution Team

The New England Revolution made the MLS playoffs for the second consecutive year under head coach and general manager Bruce Arena. In contrast, their form over the last two games has not been the most promising, sloppy defending against DC United and just a lackluster performance against Philadelphia. With that being said, let’s take a look at their roster heading into the playoffs.

Forwards

The Revolution forwards have produced 22 of the 25 goals for the team this year. 88% is a significant percentage, but also shows the reliance on the forwards to produce. If they do not produce, this team has shown its struggles. While Gustavo Bou is returning from a hamstring injury, the two weeks between matches will help ensure he is up and running for the play-in round match against Montreal.

Adam Buksa had a turbulent regular season for the Revolution but ended with six goals to his credit. He gives the Revolution an excellent hard working number 9. His hold up play is pretty good, and he continues to make good runs off the ball. I think you should expect Buksa to get at least one or two goals in the playoffs, possibly three depending on how deep the team makes a run into the playoffs. With Gil and Bou coming back, the hope is that he can find more space, and they will be able to create more opportunities.

Teal Bunbury has another consistent year for the Revolution. He ended up with the most goals on the team with 8. With Bou and Buksa finding form, he may find his role either on the substitutes bench or more out wide than as the false number nine. His form is good with two goals against DC, but he barely saw the ball against Philadelphia. His work rate will be extremely useful in the playoffs in either roll. I expect him to chip in with at least one goal, though if he gets hot, I could see him hitting 3 or 4 depending on the run in the playoffs.

Gustavo Bou is coming in off a hamstring injury that sidelined him for almost a month. With that, he finished the regular season with five goals. You could see the rust coming off against Philadelphia, so the Revolution are going to need him to find his form and his connection with Gil. IF he can get right, the Revolution will have a potent weapon amongst the goals.

Tajon Buchanan has improved over the year and become a significant threat out wide for the Revolution. He contributed two goals and two assists in the regular season. Buchanan tormented the opposition backs and as he grew in his role and confidence, especially after netting for the first time. I think that Bruce trusts him, and he will get starting minutes throughout the playoffs. He gives you such pace and attacking threat while working back, that combined with Teal on the other wing, you get good coverage.

Kekuta Manneh, a midseason addition of the Revolution, has shown some pace and added width when he has plaid. He has had two starts and six appearances over, and outside from the first two, he has shown good energy and helped create some issues out wide. Manneh and Buksa have developed a good connection with each other’s solitary assist coming for each other. Substitute to hopefully make a late-game impact and contributing with an assist or two.

Justin Rennicks could be an outlier in playoffs for the Revolution. His time down with Revolution II will have given him confidence in his abilities. While it did look at times to be men against boys, he got valuable minutes. While I am not sure if he will make the 19 in any of the playoff matches, he could be used as a late impact attack option for the Revolution.

What the Hell Am I About to Watch: Maple Syrup Derby

The Montreal Impact come into Gillette Stadium for the third Maple Syrup Derby of the 2020 season. Each team has come away with a victory so far this year, Montreal, on their home turf (or whatever you want to call that nightmare field) and New England down in Orlando for the MLS is Back tournament.

The opening game of the season was in the Olympic Stadium, where the Impact hosted the Revolution. The game ended in a 2 – 1 victory for Montreal, though the turf it was played on was a travesty. Teal Bunbury opened the scoring for the Revolution, with a beautiful volley off a Christian Penilla cross. The joy was short-lived as the Impact answered back with two goals sandwiched between a VAR reviewed disallowed goal for the Revolution.

The two teams lined up again in their opening match of the MLS is Back tournament, this time the Revolution came out with a 1 – 0 victory. Gustavo Bou supplied the goal this time, but the Revolution should have scored more. They completely outplayed the Impact, but a 95th minute save by Matt Turner was needed to hold onto to victory.

The Revolution come into this game off of an excellent performance against NYCFC. While they did not find the back of the net, many things showed potential. Montreal is coming off back to back losses, both of them ended with them down to ten men.

Nguyen’s Influence

Lee Nguyen was instrumental in the performance of the Revolution. His ability to see a pass and control the midfield helped the Revolution control the game. His passing vision also created some fantastic opportunities. With more time working with the attackers, the connection between Nguyen and Gustavo Bou could start to bear fruit for the Revolution. They almost got a goal, but Bou was called back for offsides against NYCFC, and his understanding with Bunbury created two excellent shooting opportunities. They were able to carve apart the Impact in Florida with Gil pulling strings; hopefully, Nguyen can step into those boots and create more of the same.

Polster Returns

Matt Polster returns from his one-game suspension from his red card. While Scott Caldwell filled in admirably, I think his return will give more freedom to whoever is playing the number 8 role or will allow for a formation change. Polster has become a key cog in the Revolution team. His performances have allowed for a more attacking threat from the midfield. This is due to his ability to provide cover in front of the backline. He will hopefully allow Nguyen and McNamara more time in the attacking third.

Defensive Solidity

While Matt Turner has continued to be a rock at goalkeeper, the defense has also improved. Though some of the recent score lines may not show it (mainly the two against Philadelphia), the Revolution defense is better than it has been in recent years. It has allowed this team to continue to be in games while struggling to find the back of the net. Henry Kessler has had a rookie fo the year performance this season and is on track to become one of the best defenders in MLS. If they can continue to gel and improve, this can only mean good things for the Revolution.

Expected Eleven

I do not expect wholesale changes from the squad that started on Saturday. The main difference I foresee is Matt Polster to come in for Scott Caldwell.

4-2-3-1

One Final Note

Our Maple Syrup is Better than Yours, and don’t forget it.

What The Hell Did I Watch Redux

Twenty days ago, New York City FC came up to Gillette Stadium and ran the Revolution off the pitch (if you want to see the fallout from that, see my previous post). Today, the complete opposite happened. While the result is a frustrating 0 – 0 draw between the two clubs, there was a marked improvement seen by the Revolution.

Forwards, Take What Improvement You Can?

In one game, the Revolution increased their shots on goal by 30%. They put 7 of their 14 shots on frame, converting to a 50%. This marked an improvement over their season average going into this game of 27.33% or 41 out of their 150 shots. While the goals were not there, sometimes we need to take the victories where we can. They also had three goals called back for offsides, putting the totals to 10 for 17. Sean Johnson did make a couple of good saves to keep his shutout, but there were times when you could feel them coming together.

Gustavo Bou seemed to enjoy the freedom of not feeling like the entire offensive creation was on his shoulders. You can tell that he is more comfortable with Lee Nguyen on the field, helping to provide passes over the top and into the channels for him to run onto. While the timing was slightly off, you could already see the forming idea that should lead to goals. He did find the back on the net twice, both from an offside position, but catching the ball in the net for those was reassuring since, in recent times, those shots have been wide.

Teal Bunbury was back where he provides more strength for the Revolution, out wide either left or right, in this case, left. His pace and work rate on the left-hand side, combined with the overlapping runs of Alex Buttner, gave the Revolution a robust attacking threat down that side. He also wen 2/2 for his shots being on goal. While this does end his streak of converting whenever he put a shot on target, he forced two good saves from Johnson, converted for an offside goal. He also had a 24 for 28 passing accuracies with the majority of those being medium passes. It also was good to see that he and Nguyen still have the connection they had back from their playing days together.

Tajon Buchanan seemed to find his confidence after scoring his first professional goal against Philadelphia. It made me very happy that Arena gave him the start, and he rewarded that confidence with a fantastic performance. His pace and power tormented the left side of the New York City defense, allowing to get off four shots, three of which were on target. He also had a goal called back for offsides, and his lone shot off-target was an audacious volley after chipping the ball up to himself. He also chipped in on the defensive side, working back hard for the team and helping Brandon Bye. The potential everyone saw when he was drafted 9th overall may finally be coming to bear.

Substitutes

Christian Penilla came in for Buchanon in the 77th minute to freshen up the legs against a tiring NYCFC backline. While his pace has always been apparent, he has struggled to succeed from the first half of the 2018 season. He is a very one dimensional predictable player at times, and his lack of shots on target 0-1 in this game showed why he had become a substitute. His pace should allow him to attack and create good chances to make a significant impact off the bench, but it was not there against NYCFC.

Adam Buksa had a cameo appearance coming in the 89th minute for Lee Nguyen. His lone shot attempt was blocked. Not much to be said except he put in a shift for the little time on the pitch.

Midfield

The arrivals of Tommy McNamara and Lee Nguyen have transformed the Revolution midfield into a formable attacking threat. This game may have seen a complete midfield performance across the board from the Revolution. Their ability to connect with the forwards while covering their defensive duties allowed for freedom in both the attack and stability in the defensive third. While they did not provide much of a shooting threat, only one total shot and not on goal will come with time and opportunities.

Lee Nguyen was the man of the match for most people, and rightfully so. In his return home to New England, he did not look like a player with a little over a hundred minutes under his belt. In his first start of the season for either club, he filled the void left by Carles Gil admirably. His forward vision allowed for the pressure to come off Gustavo Bou to be the leading creator and let them support each other. With time, the understanding between those two will blossom, but will there be enough of it to get them over the hump.

Tommy McNamara has continued to impress since his debut with the Revolution. His flexibility throughout the midfield has allowed him to rotate and cover where he has been needed. He continued to show his good passing vision and how well he can complement the attack. Playing as a number 8, he moved from box to box, covering most of the turf and trying to help Scott Caldwell as much as possible. His commitment to the team and being a team-first player is apparent since he has one assist and always looks for the pass before the shot.

Scott Caldwell stepped into the void created by the Matt Polster red card against Philadelphia gracefully. He patrolled in-front of the back four with his usual grit and tenacity. Caldwell got stuck in primarily in the defensive third with four successful tackles in 5 attempts, three of which came in the defensive third. His four successful tackles were the most on the team. Caldwell also had the second most completed passes combined with the second-highest competition percentage, which is good to see from the DCM.

Substitutions

Kekuta Manneh is still an enigma to me. It was also a substitution I did not understand but more on that later. This was his second run out as a Revolution player but felt like a slightly more polished version of Christian Penilla at times. His one opportunity came late in the match when he had the chance on a rebound, but instead of corralling and giving himself a second, he lashed out and put it out for a throw-in. While he has limited time, Buchanon’s emergence will limit his time on the pitch, so he needs to maximize his opportunities.

Kelyn Rowe had his typical solid substitute appearance. Coming in for McNamara, he continued to show his evolution into a reliable number 8. He continued in the same vein as McNamara, consistently closing down while trying to get into the attack. Just a solid day at the office for Kelyn.

Defense

The Revolution defense continued to be the bright spot of the Revolution this season. The addition of Alexander Büttner on the left flank has solidified the position while adding attacking flair to the left-back role. Henry Kessler continues to be a rock in the backline, playing well beyond his years. While the Revs have allowed some goals in recent matches, the breakdowns have been far less than we saw the past couple of years.

Alexander Büttner continued to prove he was a worthy investment for the Revolution this offseason. There may have been some who were worried about his acquisition due to his lack of game time in the past year. His crossing and attacking threat have added to the Revolution, while his defensive prowess has helped Kessler and solidified a position that had not felt filled since the ACL injury to Chris Tierney. Also, he is a welcome addition on set pieces offering a viable left-footed threat. Buttner’s class was on display against NYCFC, where most of their more prominent attacks were down the right side of our defense.

Brandon Bye continues to show improvement, completing the most passes against NYCFC. While his accuracy was only 70.3 percent, he provided deadly crosses that need to be attacked. He also had a 100% successful tackle rate, all coming in the defensive third. The more profitable ventures forward for NYCFC did come down his side. His recovery speed to ensure he can track back from any small mistakes made. He and Buchanan combined extremely well both offensively and defensively. I hope this becomes a successful partnership for the Revolution in the years to come.

Andrew Farrell continued to be solid since his move to center back in the middle of last season. While injury’s pressed him into the position, he was drafted as a CB coming out of Louisville. He has developed a very good relationship with Kessler. Also, his movement to center back has made the backline less error-prone than in recent years. Except for the last match against NYCFC, he has not put a foot wrong this season.

Henry Kessler continues to show why he was the first defender taken in the draft. He has also become a rock in-front of Matt Turner, shoring experience beyond his years as a professional. I believe he has learned from the veterans in Delamea and Büttner from the first game in Montreal, he has shown an outstanding ability to read the play. His passing from the back has helped evolve the Revolution. If he does not even get a look in for Rookie of the Year, it is a joke.

Goalkeeper

Not much to say, except Matt Turner being Matt Turner.

Matt Turner continued his excellent season with a four save shutout. If there is one complaint, it is that his distribution was not up to his new standard. But that’s nitpicking.

Manager

Bruce Arena has shown that he has the knowledge to set up a team. some of his substitutions have not made sense this season. I do not get why he brought in Manneh over Buksa when needing a goal. While I understand the frustration with Buksa he still should have been given more time on the pitch. With the crosses that Bye was putting in and Lee Nguyen being able to thread balls through the lines, it would have been nice to give him a shot. Hopefully, Arena also saw Rennick’s movement and goal for Revs II.