Forward Thinking Revs Incite Excitement

Yes, yes, I know. Positivity is a scary ledge to perch on in the world of the New England Revolution. I’ve been there many times in my 25 seasons with the Revs. Let’s try and tip-toe across the ledge and get to the other side.

We’re sitting with a roster which is has been bolstered by 7 signings (it would have been 8, but Samba Camara’s contract was just voided due to denied Visa) over the offseason. It leaves us with 26 spots full. None of the picks after Kessler has been signed to either Revs or Revs II at this point. The major signings being Adam Buksa, Alexander Büttner and the return of Kelyn Rowe.

Signings show a path to a bright future…

Buksa is a tall, young Polish center forward from the Ekstraklasa. He has been tearing up that league with several world-class goals before he was picked out by Arena and his scouting department. He is 6’3″ and around 170-180 lbs. He has comparable foot skills to Gil and Bou and is ambipedal. The goals that you’ll see below in his highlights see him beating people to the ball. He can also beat people off the ball which is a great thing that our CF has been missing forever. I am happily positive on this get and hope he continues to develop here with Bruce.

via EkstraklasaORG on Youtube — Adam’s goals in the Ekstraklasa

Alexander Büttner has major upside in his experience of the game of football. He has played in the Eredivisie, Premier League, Belgian First Division A and the Russian Premier League for teams such as Manchester United, Vitesse, Anderlecht and Dynamo Moscow. He now lands in MLS for the Revs with a much-needed strength at the left-back position. He is 5’9″ and has a very strong shot, also extremely talented with crosses from the left side. He is always willing to go for the ball to the last moment, most of the time providing an assist afterward, or a goal whenever he can. If he brings the usual skills to the table, it will be a major upgrade from Castillo, Somi and even Tierney. Watching a few of his recent games, he still has amazing crosses and that is something we would be missing, especially with the addition of a tall CF like Buksa.

It’s the return of the Rowe. Kelyn Rowe has graced New England with his presence once again and it seems as though Bruce is absolutely loving it. He loves it here and I think he knows where he belongs now. Bruce and Kelyn go back to his short stint with the USMNT, which is a great connection to have. I think we see Kelyn as an extremely often super-sub. His long distance strikes late in games cause problems for the other team. He also is a very decent holding midfielder.

Positivity abound in Twitter and Facebook alike…

Between the Season Ticket holder event this weekend and preseason starting, the #NERevs has been buzzing with hype and excitement for a team that looks invested into winning for once. Bruce tapped into the team’s core being last year and got amazing out of a team that produced next to nothing the first half of the season. Everyone is looking forward to what Bruce can do with a full year and a few more Bruce buys. We’re all looking forward to the first preseason games. The first games will not be streamed, but I have heard that the ones in Portland will be.

I am also extremely excited as the closer preseason gets to closing, the closer the season opener is in Montreal which I am heading to with my wife and 4 year old daughter! It seems as though there will be a large Revs contingency up there so it will make for a fun game all around! Let’s keep this positivity heading into the new year and get completely behind our boys!

New England Revolution Roster Part II

Midfielders

There seems to be depth in the midfield for the Revolution going into 2020. But breaking down the positional sense, some concerns show up in the defensive midfielder role. Some role adjustment, similar to what was seen at times with Juan Agudelo last year, may happen.

Issac Anking – Anking is a curious case of unfortunate circumstances over the past two seasons. Signed to a homegrown contract going into the 2018 season, Anking is a highly touted midfield prospect for the Revolution. 2018 got off to a rough start when a non-soccer injury (rumor is that he swallowed a toothpick and had complications). He did end up making three appearances all as a substitute throughout the year. 2019 had a similar disappointment with the youngster needing knee surgery in late March. He never saw the field for the Revolution in 2019, making three appearances in five games on loan with Charlotte in the USL, as well as being on the bench of a game with Hartford Athletic. Honestly, I believe he needs to have an impressive pre-season, or I would expect his minutes to come from Revs II as he still needs some development.

Luis Caicedo – Caicedo followed up his successful 2018 campaign with the Revolution with another solid year as a defensive midfielder for the Revolution. 2019 saw him start 27 games and feature in 31 games. His shooting leaves something to be desired, 22 shots only two on target in 2019. Caicedo’s work rate and engine were evident throughout his time on the field. He may be the purest defensive midfielder on the roster currently. In a position that has some lacking depth, he will most likely get a significant amount of playing time — guessing starting 11 opening day in Montreal.

Scott Caldwell – Second ever homegrown player in Revolution history, continued to be a key piece not only on but off the field in 2019. While only starting 12 games and playing in a total of 20, he still was always a solid defensive midfielder for the club. He is one of the three true defensive midfielders on the roster walking into pre-season this year, so expecting to see him on the field more often. He is a workhorse in the midfield, with a fiery passion for the club. Caldwell did wear the captains’ armband at the start of last season. He is thus showing his importance to the club on and off the pitch. While people do not talk too much about having locker room guys, that is also what Caldwell is for this club. I expect to see him have a similar role, perhaps more this season.

 Diego Fagundez – Entering his 10th season as a member of the Revolution, the team’s first-ever homegrown signing is only 24 and hoping to rediscover his form of years past. 2019 saw Fagundez featuring in 25 games, starting 13 of them and contributing with two goals and three assists. In comparison to 2018, he featured in 33 games, starting 30 of them and added nine goals and ten assists. He did end up functioning at times in more of a defensive holding role, which did provide fewer opportunities for shots, as he shot total dropped from 68 in 2018 to 22 in 2019, and his hots on goal dropped from 30 to 8. I still have a belief that he can find that form again or develop into a holding defensive midfield presence cause he does have good vision and link-up play — thoughts for 2020 mostly bench role player or may be developed into trade bait.

Nicolas Firmino – Firmino was signed as a homegrown prospect that featured in the 18 once in 2019. Mainly still played with the academy side. Most of his minutes on the field at Gillette came in the international friendly against Chelsea, where he played 60 minutes in the loss but showed well. There is talent in front of him, so hopefully, the training not only helps him learn but develops into a future regular in the 1st team. I would hope to see him get at least cup minutes with the MLS side this year but most likely expecting him to get most of his minutes with Revs II. 

Carles Gil – MLS Newcomer of the Year for 2019, Carles Gil, made an enormous impact on the Revolution in the 2019 season. The premier acquisition in the winter window, there were massive expectations on his shoulders, and he lived up to the hype. Started and played in all 34 games for the Revolution in 2019, leading them in goals with ten and also contributed 14 assists. Named club captain for the last 23 matches of the regular season, he led the team with a fiery passion on the pitch. While the league eventually focused the majority of their game plan to stop Gil, he still found a way to create for his teammates. I think with the additions this season, and the continued development of the relationship and other impressive season is on the horizon for Gil. Captains Armband and one of the few untouchable people in the starting lineup from last year to this coming season.

Wilfried Zahibo – In his two seasons with the Revolution, Zahibo has become a critical defensive midfielder. Last year he featured in 24 games with 18 starts chipping in one goal and one assist. He continues to confuse me, though. Sometimes his passes are spot on with the tougher diagonals, and then a simple pass will go astray. If he can find that consistency of his passing, he could become a vital cog in this side. I think 2020 is a crucial season for him in terms of longevity with the club. A marked improvement in 2020, and he could become an essential piece as he is coming into his prime. Poor season and he may not be back. I think he will share minutes with Caicedo and Caldwell in the defensive holding position.

Damian Rivera – the newest homegrown signing for the Revolution, having spent the last three years in the development academy. He had a lot of good qualities, but like Firmino, I think he needs to learn from those around him. Will get most of his minutes with Revs II.

Kelyn Rowe – 2019 was almost a lost year for Rowe. He split his time between Sporting KC, Real Salt Lake, and was loaned out to Swope Park Rangers and the Real Monarchs in the USL. Rowe is coming back to the team he spent the majority of his career with and will be looking to rediscover his 2017 form again. I will say I was a bit curious about the signing when it first happened mainly because of struggling to find where he fits in the system. The more I thought about it, though, Arena used him to significant effect out wide during his time with the national team in so it gives him some fluidity in this side. He also had the passing range and engine to fit into the holding midfield role. I expect him to find a substantial amount of playing time either from the start in 2020 or as a critical substitute.

New England Revolution Roster Part I

Pre-season has begun! I decided to look at the current roster, full for one of the first time in years coming into a pre-season and make some comments. I am doing this analysis in segments to make my life easier.

Goaltenders

Goaltending is one area that the Revolution does not have many worries. Depth is reliable, and with the continued development of Turner, the Revolution has one of the best up and coming goalkeepers in MLS who should be challenging for at least the backup spot on the national team.

Matt Turner – One forgets that Matt Turner is heading into his 5th season as a professional. In 2018 Turner came out of nowhere to win the starting job, and in the past two years has proven he deserves to be the number one goalkeeper. In 47 starts, Turner posted a 16-14-16 record with ten shutouts, and 170 saves as well an outstanding -13.94 goals against-expected goals against. Finished 5th in the Goalkeeper of the Year voting, and I will continue to believe he should have won this award. Turner earned his first and second call up the national team in November and January, respectively, and has a bright future. I am expecting him to be the number 1.

Brad Knighton – Entered 2019 as the starter and proceeded to lose his job to Cody Cropper and eventually Matt Turner. Knighton is a good solid MLS keeper, who can make excellent saves. He did well when he needed to come in for Turner rest or fill in due to red card. He ended the season with an overall record of 1-3-4, with 13 goals conceded in 7 starts and eight games. The average of almost two goals a game is not the greatest. Still, when you look at the majority of his time being the goalie for Brad Friedel and a horrendously unmotivated team, it is better than expected. I expect him to be the back up again, or might be a trade piece.

Jeff Caldwell – Enters this season a significant unknown in the Revolution hierarchy of goalkeepers. The former UVA goalkeeper fits the mold as a player Bruce Arena may use as a backup. Coming off a season on loan at Memphis 901, which he started 28 games, I could see him either being the started for the USL Development team or challenging for that backup role for the first team. General states in the USL 28 games started, six shutouts, 42 goals allowed, 1.5 GPG, 79 saves, and a 65.28% save percentage. The numbers are not the greatest, but anything is possible through hard work, as proven by Turner.

Defenders

The Revs brought in three new defenders to add to the most glaring part of the squad last year. I do think injuries helped cause these issues, as continuity was not always there for the backline. I am expecting improvement this year, not only with the new signings but with everyone bought in at the start of the season.

Brendan Bye – Ended last season as the starting right back. Due to injuries early on in the season and issues in central defense, he earned his role when Andrew Farrell moved into a central position. Bye ended up playing and starting 30 games in the regular season. In those games, he produced two goals and two assists. He has the speed for recovery when he overexposes himself by being over-ambitious in a tackle but overall a solid year under his belt. Needs to improve on his crossing, but having more of a target man in the box this season should help. If Farrell stays in a central role, would expect him to be the starter, if Farrell moves back to RB, then anything is possible.

Antonio Mlinar Delamea – 17 games and 16 starts in his third season with the Revolution. Missing a significant amount of time to a hamstring injury, Delamea still helped lead the defense to 6 clean sheets in his 17 games (The team only had six clean sheets). Delamea also contributed with two goals and one assist in his 17 games. For a central defender who is mainly forward on corners and set-pieces, I think this is a good haul, especially since the corners and set-pieces last season. While at times he lacks closing speed, he was the best reader of the game in the backline last year. I feel like he should get a shot at the starting CB role going into this season, but again that might be my personal choice.

Andrew Farrell – 29 games played and started in 2019, covering both right back and center back. After starting the year at the right-back position, Farrell ended up being needed back in his original position (seriously look it up, he was a converted right back). He helped the team to 6 clean and contributed 132 clearances and 37 interceptions. He chipped in on the offensive side with one assist. Farrell was a rock in the center of defense for the Revolution. Due to injuries to the central defenders, he was moved over and formed multiple solid partnerships with both the departed Anibaba and Delamea. He may be moved back to RB but has earned a spot in the starting eleven.

DeJuan Jones – In his rookie season with the Revolution, Jones became a surprise left-back starter. He did share time between left midfield and left-back though out the season. Playing in a total of 20 games with 14 of them being starts, contributed one goal and one assist throughout the regular season. While his forays into the offensive third were not always fruitful, another player who needs work on his crossing, his defensive work needs growth. His speed was one of his greatest assets and will continue to serve him well. While he was a starter in the playoff game and had a good match, I think he ends up either being pushed into the midfield or right-back coverage.

Michael Mancienne – 2019 was marred with a foot injury that never seemed to escape him. Mancienne played in 16 matches, starting 13 of those, and part of me wants to give him a clean start. The more significant issue is the 26 game sample over two years has yet to be the greatest for him. He looked like Again, maybe it was injury issues that sidelined him for the majority of the season, and this will be a different player this year. He has the experience to be a good defender in MLS, but I am still looking for that to be realized. I expect him to be in the 18 week in and week out and challenging for a starting spot.

Alexander Büttner – One of the notable additions to this squad and a welcome one. Experienced left-back who looks up for the challenge of the MLS. I am looking forward to seeing what he can produce down the left flank for the Revolution. While he did not play much for Vitesse in recent seasons, but in the past has shown a willingness to work, and again the experience in the different league will be a blessing in the long run. I think he will be starting the left-back opening day.

Seth Sinovic – MLS veteran, left-back. Comes in from Sporting KC, where he has had a very successful nine seasons. Sinovic has four titles to his name, one MLS Cup and 3 US Open Cups. The playoff and MLS experience will be a nice additional piece to not only help teach the young developing defenders’ backs but having the knowledge and experience to come in and cover and know what is expected of him. I think he will make the 18 most weeks but is mainly going to be a cup and rotational player.

Henry Kessler – 6th overall draft pick in the 2020 MLS Superdraft. He was the player the Revolution wanted. Rumors were around that they were trying to trade up to get him, and as it never happened, we won’t know. Coming into camp, I put him at the bottom of the depth chart for CB, but with the Samba news from earlier this week, I expect him to see good minutes with the 1st team this year. UVA grad and coming through a program with a coach that Arena trust to develop talent. Another plus is he is listed at 6’4″ which makes him the tallest defender on the squad. While I have not seen much tape on him, there are high expectations. I expect him to be with the 1st team most of the time, but if he needs minutes, there is always the option of going and playing with Revs II every once and awhile.

What A Year

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.

Playoff Excitement and Haters…

I’m super pumped for this game on Saturday. I love even more that we’re underdogs. We thrive while being the underdogs and always have. It catapults the fans to a level of hype unseen, especially when the players catch on and double it down. This #RaiseYourColors tag has also kicked my feelings up a notch. The “Mama Mama” chant has been a mainstay in the Revolution realm for years now, it’s about time they assimilated to the supporter’s culture.

Atlanta will be tough…

Yeah yeah yeah, they’ve got a couple ex-Revs looking to pay the team back. Yeah, they’ve got one of the top goal scorers of the past few years since Atlanta came into the league. I’m not going to chop this up lightly. AU will definitely come out swinging. Atlanta will be coming into this with a general knowledge of the team from the game on Decision Day, fresh in their heads. This knowledge may be fake, so lets not even focus in on that. Martinez, Gressel and Pity/Barco can absolutely tear this Revs team apart and we’ve already seen it a few times within the past year. Martinez will be playing the back line as usual, hoping to catch someone sleeping.

The biggest plus on Atlanta’s half is that they’ll have 50,000 or more fans in the crowd making noise. I’ve heard a decent section of Revolution fans may be heading down for the game, but I still think it will be less than 30-40. I hope I’m wrong. Needless to say, the New England players will have to believe the fans are making a ruckus for them up in 329, very unlikely to be heard.

The major subtraction I can take from this team, is this team is not coached by MLS Cup winning Tata, they’ve got FDB. I cannot assume the same level of ability to keep players composed in the face of the Revs coming out and scoring first. I think this is where we may have a chance to change up people’s minds. We have an MLS Cup winning head coach, they don’t.

Hype Train Rolls On…

I will start at the top. As soon as Bruce Arena took a hold onto this team, they became a different entity entirely. We’ve seen cohesion between players and even some singular players having major confidence boosts. Right here, is where I start this hype train. I know a lot of us fans are tainted by performances past, but this coach, with this team. Arena seems to make these players want to run through walls for him. He definitely makes the fans want to jump out of their seats and run onto the field and hug him.

We have MLS Newcomer of the Year, Carles Gil on our team. He has been a part of this team since during the Friedel downfall and he still came out unscathed. He scored 10 goals this season and provided 14 more people with goals. Bou and him have vibed so well together that I don’t see this game not having a Bou to Gil to Bou goal. He will lead us to victory. oh capitán mi capitán

We have LA PANTERA, Gustavo Bou. He has 9 goals and 2 assists in 13 games started, 14 games played since he joined the team. At the moment, he is likely to strike again, as he hasn’t gone two games without a goal all season. On average, he scores a goal every game and a half. With that stat, if he was here all year, he would have been closing in on Martinez’s trail with around 24-25 goals in 34 games. He is the real deal and willing to do anything and everything to try and score. I hope this panther strikes again this upcoming game!

We have Matt Turner, our Goalkeeper of the Year in our hearts. His stats are unreal, even if it’s only part of the season. At one point in the season, this guy was supposed to have let in 28 goals. He allowed 20. There were no other goalkeepers even in his range for G-xG. He is the main reason this team stands in the playoffs. He is also the reason I’m consistently ready to run through a wall. Turner has shown me that he can step up and keep people motivated to make it all happen. In most of his interviews, he is always speaking on how the team is working together and working hard. It shows!

The team on the whole has been legit through this run of 5 and a half months since Arena stepped into his position as Head Coach/ Sporting Director. Agudelo, Fagundez, and Penilla have all had great showings in their various starts and super-sub moments. Luis Caicedo has continued to be the backbone of the team, always ready to sacrifice himself for the greater good (tactical fouls). He has great soccer IQ and it’s awesome to see. Big Wilf has showed he can be a great asset in keeping possession. He also manages to send some great passes through from time to time. The whole back-line in the past few games have worked their asses off. From Farrell, Delemea, Anibaba, Mancienne, to Jones, they all have shown some amazing work and I can’t wait to see the pumped up version of the defense they showed a week and a half ago.

All the haters…

Beware. The underdogs are ready to go. We will show up on Saturday. We will make as many strikes on goal as we did a week or so ago. And we will score them this time. We will keep your “strikers” out of our end with great ease. We will keep our calm and strike when the moment is right. Our supporters will be partying up in 329 singing “Glory Glory”, with an amazing emphasis on the part “Undivided…F UNITED”. I can’t wait to go to the bar and annoy the regulars when I’m jumping around the lounge area screaming my lungs out.“Mama Mama, Can’t you see, What New England’s done for me…” This is the Revolution and we will not back down. “Raise your colors, Raise them up.”