Coronavirus Strikes The World

Please be safe:

First and foremost, please be intelligent and stay in. I know we all want to enjoy each others company and be watching soccer together. It is just not a plausible thing at the moment, as we don’t know who is and isn’t a carrier until way too late. Our friends know we love them and vice versa.

Second of all, there is so many places to find good soccer to watch and share this day and age. So many FIFA tournaments have kicked off if you’re into video games. NBC Sports just gave their NBC Sports Gold for free out, so you can watch the Premier League replays. A lot of teams and/or leagues are playing out classic games of their past. It’s all just as good as being there, to relive some glory soccer. Just Zoom, Houseparty, Google Duo…whatever you have to do to feel camraderie.

A little story telling:

This thing hit the company I work for first out of everything. I worked for a company that designs trade show booths. I was the lone inventory manager and was one of the first people to go. Along with me went the rest of our shipping department, within a couple weeks, they had a second lay-off session of almost 75% of the company. Who knows if I’ll ever be called back to that business. Honestly, the worst part, is we totally could have prepared for this. People just pushed off that it would actually “cancel everything”. It did, it cancelled every large show that our clients were tied into.

Currently, I’m collecting unemployment and hoping to go back, but still looking for other jobs. Meanwhile, writing, music, playing with my daughter and video games are my life. As you’ve probably seen from memes, I’m one of the videogamers that saw a “stay at home advisory” and clapped my hands together and said “lets do it! I’ve been training for this my whole life.”

Missing Soccer

I’ve literally been trying to catch as much soccer as possible in the form of replays that my teams are doing. Currently, the best game that I’ve taken the time out to watch was the Revs replay of the 2014 Eastern Conference Finals Leg 1. Tonight is the replay of Leg 2. This was such a great time to be a Revs fan! I can’t wait to watch the awesome again. Juventus and Everton have also been replaying great games of their illustrious existences.

A good portion of my Riders family got together and played a few rounds of Jackbox games. It was very theraputic to laugh and enjoy time together like we would be every possible weekend. I recommend this to any supporter’s group or team. It is a worthwhile team building exercise! Also, if I didn’t have my Short Corners/ Riders family, I’m not sure that I would be sane enough to fight the stir-crazy.

Some Positive Poetry

For those who don’t know, I also write poetry, short stories and eventually would like to do that for a living at some point. I feel it due course to try to keep people in good spirits, so without further ado, my vocabulary flexing.

If we put our minds together,

And not our hands

We’ll fight this away forever,

people will understand.

You can’t forget the past,

You’ll need it in the future.

Sitting here at this computer

We network the most

So spread the intelligence

So then we can toast

To the end of this virus

Never taking things for granted

Or being over-desirous

Appreciate your friends

And all that they stand behind you for

They understand you completely

Directly to your core.

Week 1 in review: Feels good to be “home”

Final result – Montreal Impact 2 – New England Revolution 1

It felt really good to finally be back watching MLS action, even if it was well below freezing on the way to the stadium. I’d also like to thank 1642 for inviting us up to their beautiful city. If security had let us join you after the match, I would have loved to meet your people and have fun messing with each other over our maple syrup rivalry (you read that right).

13th minute – “Oh cool, another short corner kick” quickly turned in to a loud, frenzied celebration thanks to Teal Bunbury’s sweet strike off of the cross in to the bottom left hand side of the net. If more of this is in store for this year, I am all for it. What a rush to open up the year.

37th minute – Quioto draws the Impact back level.  This is why I love football more than any other sport.  The pure elation felt after scoring first can turn to utter heart break in minutes.  Roller coaster emotions along with some good back and forth gives you a formula for people to have fun and bond. 

80th minute – Urruti puts the Impact ahead for good with a cheeky little chip over an out of position Matt Turner. Does it excuse the defense for collapsing around him? No, but he was also out of position and got burned. This being only the first game of the season, I’m willing to forgive a blunder or 2, but with the rest of the league looking to capitalize on them, you have to do what it takes to make sure they don’t happen.

How it could have been different – We had a goal called back due to offsides that I want to take another look at to see if that really was the correct call, the review came after the ref was talking to the Impact goal keeper, so I’m kind of curious what brought him over to the review screen.

There was a header that completely fooled the goalie and do you know what happened? IT BOUNCED RIGHT OFF OF THE POST AND NOBODY REBOUNDED IT!!!!!!! Oh my shorts was that disheartening. We were all ready to celebrate, but instead we were left feeling like somebody stole our last slice of pizza after a long day at work.

What I disliked – THAT REFEREE!!!!!! Chances are I am being a big “homer” here, but those calls were NOT going our way at all. It felt like every time Montreal looked at their own shoe laces, they’d fall down and the ref would call a foul. We had a player get tripped pretty badly around midfield and nothing happened. I don’t mind losing, but when it looks like the game is being that poorly called, it’s just heartbreaking.

Pre-Season Match 3: Minnesota United FC v New England Revolution

Final Score: Minnesota United FC 2 – New England Revolution 2

Major Talking Points

23′ Goal – Luis Amarilla (Kevin Molino) Min 1 – NE 0

Jeremy – I will not be the only one saying this, but the center backs both got caught out on this goal. Farrell got his head to the ball, but Mancienne completely missed it at the second asking, allowing it through to Amarilla. Zahibo does not get tight to Molino, allowing the cross to happen, but the additional problem is that Penilla wasn’t tracking back out wide. Penilla’s lack of backtracking caused the two of them to be in the reverse positions one would expect. Farrel’s header does seem to slightly wrong foot Mancienne, but a defender of his experience should be able to make those adjustments. Finally, Matt Turner, in my opinion, could have come and claimed the ball, but he still gets left dead footed by the goal. Feel like it is a similar goal to the first one conceded against LA Galaxy, which has some worries. Also don’t take anything away from Am

Creighton – The major worry from this play for me, was the inability of either center back to make a play on the well-placed pass. Amarilla had the perfect run, and continued his run to be able to make this happen. If one of the “attempts” on the ball actually was fully committed, this ball does not make it to Amarilla. For me, the major fail is from Mancienne, a small change like that, definitely means that you need a heavier commit with the body to make sure that the ball is cleared. He slightly raises his leg higher, instead of just moving his body through the ball to clear it. Even so, if he gets a tip to it towards goal, Turner is there to make the stop, and he should know where Turner is located. Turner is definitely to blame here too, as usually everyone is communicating heavily enough to not allow a crazy occurence like this to happen.

28′ Goal – Adam Buska (Teal Bunbury, Cristian Penilla) Min 1 – NE 1

Jeremy – Buska gets his first goal in a Revolution uniform. The goal came from some lovely interplay by the Revolution forwards. Bou wins the ball back up high against the right side of the Minnesota defense. This gives the Revs a good counter. Penilla’s cross to Bunbury was exquisit and while Bunbury’s touch back to Buska was slightly off, if we are being nit picky, the finish by Buska was clinical. The attack looks like it is slowly coming together, and should start to scare the rest of the league. Bou’s work rate off the ball continues to be high, and Bunbury’s run was really well executed. Small note, Brandon Bye made a very good overlapping run that made the right back unable to fully commit to Penilla, giving him more freedom for the cross. Buska’s finish was clinical and good to see, hoping to see more of this going forward.

Creighton – 100% of this goal goes to Penilla’s perfect cross to Teal. Teal for once was not selfish and saw Buksa being wide open. He laid it off and Buksa, as had been seen in training, slotted the ball lower corners. We need more players to try these simple shots to get the ball on frame.

35′ Goal – Luis Amarilla (PK) Min 2 – NE 1

Jeremy – Farrell at fault here. He got beat over the top, and in an attempt to recover, run the player over from behind. No complaints on the penalty, and if this were not a pre-season game, he would most likely have seen a yellow card for the foul. Turner guessed wrong, but nothing against him for that.

Creighton – I absolutely abhor this play from Farrell. He allows a player to get in behind and cause problems. His poor positioning also leads him to stumble over himself and cause the foul for the penalty. Let’s just move on from this, because if we see this in the regular season, I will personally start “Bench Farrell” chants.

71′ Goal – Gustavo Bou (Unassisted) Min 2 – NE 2

Jeremy – Bou continues to be a scoring machine for the Revolution. Yes, it was a mistake by the Minnesota defense, but you still need to put it away. He annoyed and was a force in getting the ball turned over.

Creighton – I will love these goals over and over and over. Bou’s pressure during the preseason thus far has been on point. If he continues into the regular season, I forsee that we’ll see a few more of these pressure-caused giveaways in the back.

Overall Thoughts

Jeremy – I get this is pre-season, but Penilla needs a reality check. His lack of work on the defensive end through three pre-season games gives me doubts about the season. His lack of backtracking has directly resulted in two goals, this pre-season. His crossing has been a bright spot, but if he is a liability on the defensive end, he may need to be relegated to substitute. DeJuan Jones has earned a starting spot on either the right or left flank going into this season, in my opinion. With Büttner still having a niggling injury, he may get the start on the left, but even thinking of a combination of him and Bye on the right, with the pace and defensive awareness the two of them have, it could become a strength of this team. He also has had an excellent attacking presence, providing a number of good crosses, something he needed to improve upon this off-season. Overall, the attack looks like it is starting to come together. Buska and Bou are getting closer to being on the same wavelength, and without Gil orchestrating from the middle, the team has still looked sharp. The youth seemed extremely fluid against the Rapids, and at times, this group was running Minnesota off the pitch. Defensively I have worries. I think Delamea is a big miss so far, and after the issues, Mancienne had this past game, right now I am leaning towards Kessler and Farrell opening day if Delamea is not fit. Turner was quite vocal, which was good to see and rebounded nicely from the opening day against LA when he looked out of position at times. He made several good reflex saves, but I still think he needs to improve his presence in the air and the box.

Creighton – The major take from this game for me are Jones’ continued proving of his skill as a defensive power and an offensive support. His speed and foot skills continue to shine in each game leaving him as a young star who should see a serious uptick in time out. At this point, with players out with injury, we may see him as a starter in Montreal.

Penilla continues to make amazing offensive plays, but ends up a problem on the back end. His inability to get back and provide support creates a problem when the back is double teamed. Let’s hope in the next games that we see Arena correct this problem.

I hope to see the 2nd string that hasn’t been getting starts against Vancouver, I think it’s one last hurrah to try and prove they belong in the first team.

Pre Season Match 1: LA Galaxy v New England Revolution

Final Score: LA Galaxy 2 – New England Revolution 1

Major Talking Points:

8′ Goal – Ethan Zuback (Cristian Pavon)

Jeremy – Kessler and Sinovic both looked like they missed the mark on the goal. Kessler miss timed his jump and Sinovic was somewhat caught in no man’s land between two attackers. Penilla also did not track back, and if you listen closely, you can hear Bye yelling for Penilla to help cover. If Penilla gets back, that cross may not get through. I understand Turner not coming for it but his positioning could have been slightly better, if he comes out a bit to challenge Zuback, he may have been able to cut down the angle.

Chris C- There’s too many poor defensive plays on this goal. Bye and Penilla are unable to switch man-marking fluently. As Jeremy touched on, Bye calls on Penilla who doesn’t track back to allow Bye to cover on the second player, Danilo Acosta, causing a hesitation from Bye closing down Pavon. Pavon gets the well-placed cross off to Ethan’s waiting head, who merely had to nod due to superb placement. The second issue lies between Kessler and Sinovic. Sinovic needs to believe that Kessler can handle his own with Zubak in this instance, because if he doesn’t, Katai is also looming behind him. Sinovic notices the mistimed jump by Kessler and wants to help out, but in a true pace/ effort game, if Zubak knows he can’t do it, Katai’s got free range when Sinovic goes to save the day. Kessler needs to have his jumps on time if he’s going to be one of our CBs. That ball was well placed, but putting a body back against Zubak would’ve thrown him off. And finally, Turner could have definitely gotten himself positioned better due to no immediate threats besides Zubak.

34′ Goal – Cristian Pavon (Sebastian Lletget)

Jeremy – Sinovic got beat over the top and Turner was off balance not allowing for a good plant or push off to attempt a save. The run was good by Pavon but Sinvoic was somewhat exposed for not having as much pace. Turner’s backpeddling did not help with his balance, which can either be he just was not expecting the ball over the top or just misread the flight of the ball. Either of these two options is a little concerning.

Chris C – The pass from Lletget allows Pavon to decide how he wanted to beat Sinovic. Sinovic’s run to follow the ball was very poor and allowed Cristian the time to think about how he wanted to beat Turner. Turner wasn’t correctly shutting down the angles. He misstepped to allow himself to be beaten far side, since he was back-pedaling to try and cover the angle better.

42′ Goal – Gustavo Bou (Adam Buska)

Jeremy – Buska dragged his shot wide and Bou was there to poach it in on the back post. While it may have been close to offside, it is good to see that Bou is looking at the back post for scraps. Penilla does make a good run into the box in order to get to the ball to Buska, but again, I would like to see fluidity in the attack.

Chris P. – OH MY GOD DO WE ACTUALLY HAVE SOMEBODY THAT IS GOING TO FEED OFF REBOUNDS/POACH MISSED SHOTS?!?!?! Overall great to see Bou with the heads up play to draw back within one. Hopefully we see more of this in the regular season, as it could increase our goal output.

Overall

Jeremy – I thought that the first half was disjointed at times. Penilla looked disinterested in the entire affair, and while he would get the secondary assist on Bou’s goal, he did not trackback on the first goal, and just had this walk about the park feel to his game. Similarly, Fagudez on the other flank looked both out of shape and honestly not that great in both getting forward and tracking back. He also missed a couple of simple passes but, that may have just been some cobwebs. Bou looked like he was fooling around for a bit, and eventually, he and Buska started getting a feel for how each other play. Bye made good runs forward and tracked back, yes he got beat on for the cross, although it was a two v one situation. Sinovic got beat on both goals, the first one stuck in a who do I cover, but the second one got exposed for pace and positioning. I hate to admit this, but Turner showed why he did not get named in the 18 for the USMNT game; his positioning on the second goal was below expectations. Getting caught off balance and backpedaling did not allow him to have a chance to attempt to make a save.
Jeremy (cont) – I think Jones had a banger of a second half. Playing at both right and left-back, he got up and down the wing well, covered his defensive duties while taking on defenders and getting in some good crosses. Will be honest, and he looked gassed at the end of the second half, but it is the first preseason game. Teal and Buchanon both had very poor misses in the final ten minutes of the match, which again first preseason game but would have been nice to see them bulge the old onion bag. The kids looked good and full of energy and had some cohesion over the last 90 minutes, and in my opinion, due to both those missed chances, they should have at least gotten one goal, if not more. I think there are more positives than negatives, and with the team still missing Gil, Delamea, and Büttner, I still have the same optimism I have had this offseason.

Chris – I have to believe this game was at 70%. Bou was making turns that he wouldn’t normally take during a regular season game. He seemed like he was having fun out there. He had a few times where his pressure up top almost created problems at the back for LA.

As Jeremy pointed out, the outside mids were slow to move. Fagundez was a good problem when he applied himself to the situation, for the rest of the time he seemed to be invisible. Penilla was caught out all game leaving Bye to clean up the mess.

An important positive was the passing out of the back was mostly on point. I’d like to see the analytics for it, but it looks like they’ve got the skill. A few mis-timed passes or someone didn’t make the run they looked like they were going to make. I think those instances could have turned into more goals.

New England Revolution Roster Part IV

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.

Defensive Solidity

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.

Matt Turner

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?

Defensive Midfield

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

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.

New England Revolution Roster Part III

Forwards

The last group of players to take a look at are the forwards on the Revolution roster. This group does have potential; between the midseason acquisition of Gustavo Bou and the offseason acquisition of Adam Buksa, there should be more goals amongst this group. Last year’s golden boot winner for the team came out of the midfield. There will be hopes that changes this year.

Gustavo Bou – They say it is crucial to make a good first impression, and Bou made a stunner of a first impression. His first game, he scored a peach of a goal against Vancouver and went on to contribute nine goals and two assists in 14 games, 13 starts with the Revolution. Bou’s link-up play with the other forwards, as well as his connection with Carles Gil, helped to cement his place in the hearts of the fan base. Extrapolated out, Bou could have been close to 20 goals in a full season. With the additions to the top line, defenses can not just put a focus on him, which should free him up for a successful season — one of the few automatic starters going into the preseason, with lofty expectations on his shoulders for 2020.

Tajon Buchanon – The 9th overall pick in the 2019 MLS Superdraft, Buchanon made ten appearances with four starts. During this time on the field, he contributed two assists as well. Buchanon showed a lot of promise going forward and has pace, but an early-season stress fracture caused some issues. I think that he is talented enough to play but needs some development time. Probably trains mainly with the first team and gets good minutes down with Revs II.

Teal Bunbury – Teal Bunbury is entering his 11th season in the MLS, his 6th with the New England Revolution. 2019 started a bit rocky start for him, but with the change in coach, his fortunes changed as well. Teal ended up playing in 32 games with 25 starts and finished with six goals and two assists. While those totals are down from the previous year 11 goals and four assists in 2018, I think his role and not being the focal number 9 as much in 2018 were an advantage. There was a substantial drop in shots on target 33 in 2018 to 21 in 2019, but again I think part of that comes down to a team in the early season that struggled mightily under Friedel. His work rate and willingness to track back defensively have endeared him to the fan base. I think with the additions and more time getting to gel with Bou and Gil will mean a very productive year in 2020 for Teal. Personally think he will get the starting nod due to his hold up play and tracking.

Christian Penilla – Entering his 3rd season with the New England Revolution, Christian Penilla had a very successful season in 2019. While his goal total was down from the 12 he scored in 2018; he did record one more assist in almost 900 fewer minutes played. He featured in 30 games, 18 starts contributing six goals and eight assists. Overall the numbers look solid from Penilla, but at times he seems one of the more frustrating players to watch. The talent is there, but there are moments it feels that the league has figured him out. There are also times he seems to have made up his mind before seeing the whole picture and also has become predictable. I do think the additions of Buksa will help as it will alleviate some of the attention he garnered, and an offseason and a full preseason to gel with Gil and Bou will be substantial to seeing improvements. I think he will get starting minutes but could see him being an impact sub due to pace.

Justin Rennicks – Rennicks has a high amount of upside, but still seems a little raw. 2019 saw him involved in 2 games with one start, but his selection to the U-20 world, while important, did come at an unfortunate moment. He was away from the team when the regime change happened and never seemed to find his feet. Spend the end of 2019 on loan in North Carolina FC with ten games played with three starts, tallying one assist in 301 minutes of action. I think he gets his chances in the US Open Cup and with Revs II.

Adam Buksa – Big offseason acquisition. There are going to be high expectations on his shoulders to lead the line. The young talented Polish striker has over 100 appearances in his six years in the top Polish league. In that time, he has scored 28 goals and contributed 11 assists. While those totals may not be eye-watering, in the first half of the Polish 2019/20 season, he had seven goals and four assists in 17 appearances, which is improved from the 22 appearances with 11 goals and four assists in 2018/19 full season. There may be an adjustment tie, but the Polish league is known for being a bit more physical, which will suit some of the MLS styles. Preseason is going to be important as well for him to gel with his teammates quickly to settle in for the 2020 season. I am expecting him to be an easy pick to be a starter for the majority of the season.

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.

Sprichst du Deutsch: A Bundesliga blog entry

Dortmund v FC Köln

Here we are! Mt first foray in to the wonderful world of the German Bundesliga. I try to watch as much soccer as I can from leagues in Europe, and every time I find myself watching Bundesliga, it’s almost magical. Captivating, fast, good contests. Dortmund will be at home on Friday against an FC Köln squad that has won 4 of their last 5 and looks to continue on an upward trend. This Friday, I think they get it done and pick up an upset win over Dortmund 2-1.

SC Freiburg v Paderborn

Padernborn is down on their luck this year, more than likely heading for relegation spot. They have 3 wins and only 12 points through 18 games. Freiburg has 29 points and sit 2 behind Bayer for the Europa league qualifier spot. This contest, like many other this year, will not go Paderborn’s way. 3-0 SC Freiburg is my prediction for the weekend.

Mönchengladbach v Mainz

Another top of table (Monchen, 3rd place) v bottom of the table (Mainz, 15th place). Mainz has lost 2 in a row and 4 of their last 5. Games either go well for them (6 wins) or very poorly (12 losses). They are the only team in Bundesliga that has yet to record a draw this season. Don’t look for that to change this weekend. Monchen is almost doubled up on Mainz in points, and 3 here would help them immensely in their chase for a 3rd star. Monchengladbach win this 2-0 in one of those contests where “the game is not as close as what the score says”.

Wolfsburg v Hertha

Wolfsburg has had about the most even season you can have. They are 6-6-6 with only a -2 goal differential and sit right in the middle of the table (9th of 18). Hertha has taken more points than dropped lately, only losing once out of 5, but seem to be struggling overall this season. I really don’t like my score prediction for this contest. My least favorite result in all of football. This game will come out as…….0-0 :/

Eintracht v RB Leipzig

These 2 squads actually play each other twice in 10 days starting with their Bundesliga match on Saturday. Their other match is DFB cup 3rd round on February 4th. Over the past 3 years, I have seen several articles about how “everybody in Germany hates RB Leipzig”. Why is that? The 50+1 rule that has seeping slowly in to the league. German football fans are understandably upset, as they don’t want their league to “go commercial”. They face a struggling Eintracht team this weekend and will end up with 1-0 win.

Union Berlin v Augsburg

Two teams in the middle of the table fighting it out to try and get a spot in the Europa League (they are 8 and 11 points away, so the time to start catching up is upon us).  Union has lost 3 of 5 and need to do something to prevent a slide further down the table.  This is their first season ever in Bundesliga, and they look to stay in the top flight. Let us not forget that their first ever Bundesliga goal was scored by Sebastian Andersson against………that’s right…Augsburg. That came in a 1-1 draw earlier this season. Look for both squads being out to prove a point against each other. This should be a great contest with Union Berlin edging out Augsburg with a 2-1 win, where the winner is scored after the 75th minute.

Bayern v Schalke 04

If you can compare one team to the Montreal Canadiens or the NY Yankees, it’s Bayern Munich.  In the league for a 55 year stretch, they have a title approximately every 2 season (28 wins).  That’s just insane.  Where were you in 2012? Seems like a long time ago, right? That is the last time somebody other than Bayern won the league (2011-12 champion was Borussia Dortmund). That is a New England Patriots level run of excellence. Schalke isn’t to be overlooked though.  They sit only 3 points behind Bayern and currently hold the Europa league group stage spot in the league.  Going off absolutely nothing at all (the all time head to head website I had up froze) I think Schalke 04 comes away with a win here 2-1.

Werder v Hoffenheim

Both squads here seem to be struggling as of late. Werder has lost 4 of 5 and Hoffenheim lost 3. This contest will see both clubs trying to turn their luck around, and Werder trying to stay away from relegation. Hoffenheim sits towards the middle of the table and it looks like that is where they’ll more than likely end up. There will be a score here, but not much of one. Werder has more to play for here and pulls it off 1-0.

Leverkusen v Fortuna

Not really much to say here. Fortuna could be having a much better season and I just don’t see them winning this one. 1-0 Leverkusen

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.