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Can the Revolution Revive their 2014 Magic?



Can the Revolution Revive their 2014 Magic?

With only 10 games to play, the future looks bleak in New England. The Revolution currently sit seven points beneath the red line and behind the sixth-place Montreal Impact after 24 games played each. Equally worrisome is the six points they trail behind seventh-place Atlanta United FC and their one game in hand.

With only one Western Conference match left on the docket, the Revs do have an opportunity for some six-point swings. And an under-performing Revolution team did turn a summer swoon into a barnstorming run to the MLS Cup final not long ago. Could they do it again?

Comparing 2014 & 2017

Both squads found themselves in a similar place with 10 games remaining. Both were below the red line. Both were playing like a whole less than the sum of their parts. Both had a pretty similar set of results overall- 30 points in 2014 with a negative-five goal differential, compared to the 29 points and negative-one goal differential today.

The 2014 Revolution picked up a staggering 25 of the final 30 points up for grabs (going 8-1-1) and cruised to second place in the Eastern Conference- a comfortable 13 points above the red line. Their form carried them through the playoffs past D.C. United and the New York Red Bulls until LA Galaxy denied the Revolution an MLS Cup Final victory for the third time.

So why not a cup run again in 2017? A few of the pieces are in place already. Summer drought? Check. Recent return to form? Taken three wins from their last five matches. Summer DP signing? A DP and a TAM-level signing! Hey, maybe it’s possible! Even the pesky Galaxy are out of the picture this time around!

Why it’s… not possible

First of all, they have more ground to make up. In 2014 the Revs were outside looking in at a playoff spot, but just barely. Take a look-

They sat only one point under the red line set by the New York Red Bulls after 24 games a piece. The competition around them wasn’t much to shout about either. The Philadelphia Union weren’t terrible in 2014, but none of those squads on the bottom four deserved a playoff spot.

The Eastern Conference is better in 2017. The East has come up 41-29-25 against Western opponents so far this year. At this point in 2014, the East was a less impressive 21-33-25. It will take more to make the playoffs in the East in 2017. I wouldn’t count on much help from the other side of the country either.

The Revs themselves face stiffer competition as well. Their remaining opponents currently average 1.50 points per game, (more than the Revolution themselves at 1.21). Compare this to the average of their last 10 opponents in 2014 at 1.24 points per game. Measured by this season’s averages- that’s the difference between a 10-match run against a FC Dallas (1.5) or Montreal Impact (1.5), instead of an Orlando City (1.24), San Jose Earthquakes (1.27) or Real Salt Lake (1.19).

Jermaine Jones isn’t walking through that door. Claude Dielna looked the part on Sunday and Krisztian Nemeth is an excellent player, but I don’t anticipate these new signings providing the momentum or leadership Jones did in the second half of 2014. His immediate impact has only rarely been replicated by a summer signing in MLS (see: Nico Lodeiro, 2016).

This year’s squad has a steeper hill to climb in a tougher conference against more considerable competition with less impactful reinforcements. A run to the top of the table and deep into the playoffs is likely not in the cards. That said, a playoff appearance isn’t out of the question just yet.

So you’re saying there’s a chance?

Blowing another late lead and failing to win yet again against NYC FC on the weekend doesn’t fill anyone with optimism. Yet, Dielna may solve their problems at center back. Teal Bunbury continues to score, Kei Kamara has finally started to look the part in recent weeks and a proven attacker in Nemeth should be ready to contribute soon. Key players Lee Nguyen, Xavier Kouassi and Diego Fagundez are expected back in the squad after injury scares in the Bronx. The Revolution next face a woeful DC United side on short rest with an opportunity to build confidence.

Even so I would temper expectations. I don’t know exactly how, where or when Nemeth fits in, no one in the league knows what’s going on at left back for New England and losing Kelyn Rowe for 6-8 weeks is massive.

There are reasons for concern and glimmers of optimism aplenty, but one thing is certain- three points on Saturday make the Revs playoffs hopes look a whole lot brighter.

University of Alabama alum who watches far too much soccer. Writing about the New England Revolution for Trifecta Network. Previously covered SKA Saint Petersburg of the KHL and high school sports in the state of Maine.

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New England Revolution

Revolution To Lose Kelyn Rowe For 6-to-8 Weeks With Right Knee Sprain



Revolution To Lose Kelyn Rowe For 6-to-8 Weeks With Right Knee Sprain

This not what New England Revolution fans wanted to hear.

According to the team, Kelyn Rowe is expected to miss 6-to-8 weeks with a right knee sprain.

This timeline would put his earliest return at September 23rd against Toronto FC and his latest return on October 15th against NYC FC.

This news comes just hours after Coach Jay Heaps had this to say about Rowe’s status.

 “I think he’s still being assessed. He had some pictures, some imaging, but now it’s a matter of sitting down with  doctors and seeing what the next course of action is, but we’ll hope to have him back sooner than later.”

Losing Rowe is a tough break for this New England team that is looking to capture every available point now being 6 points back of the last playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

Surgery is required on Rowe’s right knee which is the reason for the extended timeline.

More to come with information coming in from the team.

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New England Revolution

Revolution a Club of Square Pegs in Round Holes



Revolution a club of square pegs in round holes

A center back at right back. A right back at left back. An attacking midfielder at right back. A brand-new formation. The captain on the bench.

These were just a few of the curiosities present in New England Revolution’s 1-2 loss to New York City FC on Sunday night.

Entering the summer transfer window the Revolution were desperate for help at fullback and congested up top. After the addition of DP defender Claude Dielna and TAM-level attacker Krisztian Nemeth, the Revs seem to be left with an unbalanced roster and a best starting XI (or even best-starting formation) that’s as clear as mud.

Against NYCFC

Last night the Revolution started with French center back Benjamin Angoua at right back, and right back/center back Andrew Farrell as a right-footed left back.  By the end of the match, Kelyn Rowe and London Woodberry made brief cameos at right back as well. That’s three different right backs, as well as a right back playing left back, for those keeping score at home.

Meanwhile, the club came out in a new 4-3-3 that stranded the Revs primary play-maker Lee Nguyen and arguably season MVP Diego Fagundez on the bench. Add in an up-to-speed Nemeth and that may leave out the red-hot Teal Bunbury with five goals in his last six games or Juan Agudelo and his eight goals on the year going forward.

While this may make for a fearsome set of attacking subs, you have wonder how players like these fight for spots, while a team with a clear injury report fields squads that feature 1-2 players out of position every match.

The past few windows appear to have not created the “competition” the club often likes to praise or true depth. Rather, the Revolution have a roster full of square pegs being shoved into round holes.

Who’s playing where?

Kelyn Rowe is currently playing more often at fullback than in the midfield this season. The recent US international came through UCLA and US youth camps as a creative number 10 and found his opportunity to play as a wide midfielder in the Revolution squad until his recent transition to the back line.

Players are often diplomatic when asked about their preferred roles- especially when they’re playing away from where the outside world perceives their natural position to be. That said, a few Revs have voiced their opinions over the past year.

“I want to play center midfield, whether it is forward or back,” Rowe told the Boston Globe in July. “It doesn’t matter. I like being in the center. Even if you don’t have the ball, you’re kind of directing everyone. You’re the guy. I like to be the guy.”

Kei Kamara has recently puzzled over his role with Revolution since his transfer from the Columbus Crew last summer.

“Maybe I wasn’t the right piece of the puzzle to help the team move forward,” Kamara said after the 4-3 win over the LA Galaxy on July 22nd. “I want to play here, I want to move forward, but if I’m not in the right system to score those goals, to move forward and to be an impact, it affects the fans because they want to see the best from me, and I want to give this club my all.”

Rumors suggested Kamara may have been moved to another club within the league this summer, but no move appeared. The DP from Sierra Leon now belongs to an even more crowded attacking corps.

Of those attackers, Juan Agudelo has seen time as the attacking tip of a diamond midfield, a sole striker, a winger and a secondary striker.

“Just put me on the field,” Agudelo said when asked about his role on the pitch by‘s ExtraTime Radio podcast last off-season. “See what happens and I’ll try to do my best wherever you put me, but I do enjoy getting the ball more often than a sole striker would be, I feel like I integrate myself a little bit better if I get more touches on the ball. Maybe right behind another striker possible. I feel like that’s what I can do, but also, I do have that strength to be able to hold up the ball in the box and create some things.”

Homegrown Academy product Scott Caldwell made a name for himself around the league sitting deep in the Revolution midfield next to Jermaine Jones. Now he finds himself now on the bench or playing a right-sided midfielder more often than not.

The Revs appear to be too flexible for their own good. While flexibility can be a virtue in a club as deep as conference foes Toronto FC or perhaps in the American footballing side they share a stadium with- the Revolution is no TFC, and Jay Heaps is no Bill Belichick. Their 8-11-5 record tells us as much.

What’s Next?

With the playoffs looking less and less likely as points continue to slip from their grasp, I wonder what this roster looks like come 2018. Can Mike Burns move potential odd men out like Teal Bunbury, Kei Kamara or even Kelyn Rowe for value? Or even for, at long last, a fullback?

For that matter will Burns and Heaps still be around if New England misses out on the playoffs for its second consecutive year? Whatever the case, I would expect this off-season to be one of the more memorable in recent memory for the club as they strive to balance the roster and right the ship.

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New England Revolution

Revolution Looking To Balance Their Roster Down The Stretch



New England Revolution Looking To Balance Their Roster Down The Stretch

The New England Revolution won a vitally important game on Saturday night at home with a 1-nill victory over the Vancouver WhiteCaps.

The importance of this game can not be understated with only 11 games to go in New England’s MLS slate. With every game becoming a must win it is getting tough for Coach Jay Heaps to balance everything out with new players joining the squad

[perfectpullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]“Ideally, we get the players earlier in the window. The concern is, how fit are they and pushing them back too soon. There’s definitely going to be a period of adjustment and trying to get them acclimated without throwing off the depth that we’re adding just by guys coming back from injury. [Xavier] Kouassi’s been a huge piece. Every time he’s played, we feel like he’s been really good. He had that significant injury where he came back from the [knee] injury last year, but his quad this year. So him coming back, I feel like, is a real positive and where he is in his fitness is good. I agree – the margins of error are tight, but we’re in the fight like anyone else and we’re going to come every day to work to make sure that we continue to push and make teams know that we’re coming.”[/perfectpullquote]

New England has had the pleasure of having Xavier Kouassi return along with several new players joining the organization. One of those new players was announced this past week with the transfer for  Krisztián Németh. Németh is expected to be with the team this week.

[perfectpullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]“Monday. He has his P-1 Visa. Now, it’s just a matter of getting the ITC [International Transfer Certificate].”[/perfectpullquote]

With having had these players coming back in the window the roles of players come into question. Even with their successes, adding more players into the fold makes Coach Heaps job even tougher.

Kelyn Rowe has been an electric player for New England this season and has been sort of a utility player for Heaps. Rowe’s ability to play in different spots and match up with different players makes him a very valuable player down the stretch.

[perfectpullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]“For us, I’ve said it and people joke about it, but I call him a jackknife. He’s got all those different tools and each one of them is razor sharp and he can play positions differently. So tonight, we just felt like if we could go east-to-west against this team, we were going to have opportunities for Kelyn in that wide spot to serve. And then we could solidify it. We also wanted to get a bigger guy in the back line in Je-Vaughn [Watson]. Je-Vaughn covered [Kendall] Waston on every set piece. So we felt like, alright, we get a bigger defender. We bring Je-Vaughn in and then get Kelyn to where we think he could be most effective, we might have a chance. I thought the service was – he’s one of those players, I just talked about [it] on TV, where he can get his head up and he can see where the run is going. He just has a really natural ability to do that and pretty special, quite frankly.”[/perfectpullquote]

In Saturday’s win, the Revs scored their first goal via Teal Bunbury, but after that Heaps went in favor of substitutions.  The reason being he wanted to slow the game down and play defensively instead of going for the second goal.

[perfectpullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]“Normally, we might go for the second goal as opposed to drawing it in a little bit, but I thought we wanted to close the game down. [Xavier] Kouassi has been itching to get back and we needed to get him more minutes. [Scott] Caldwell has obviously played so many minutes for us. And Juan [Agudelo], we wanted to get him back in. There was a little dynamic and we wanted a little bit of speed to start the game, so we went with Teal [Bunbury]. I feel like now we’re adding depth and now we’re adding [Krisztián] Németh and Claude [Dielna] is now here. So, now there’s going to be some real fight for position, but also abilities to change games with substitutions.”[/perfectpullquote]

Bunbury was the lightning rod for the Revolution on Saturday with his ability to get into the backfield and stretch the WhiteCaps defense. His role this season has been back and forth with Bunbury bouncing from the starting lineup to the bench seemingly every game. But he has had immense success as of late and Heap’s credits his professionalism.

[perfectpullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]“Even before that, because when Juan was gone, I thought he had a couple of good games as well. I think it’s great, because it makes a hard decision every time we have to make a decision on the lineup. He was in the mix. Actually, I thought he did a nice job in Chicago coming in the game as well to add a spark. For me, Teal [Bunbury], he’s a true professional. I know he doesn’t like starting one game and coming off the bench in the other, but he’s also, for me, a tactical piece, and we decide we can play a little differently with what he brings. Tonight, we really wanted that pace. We really wanted to be able to stretch their back line and find the gaps underneath and make [Matias] Laba and [Tony] Tchani get stretched, because their back line was dealing with runs in behind. It started to open up a little bit. It wasn’t all the way there, but in the second half, I thought that’s what started to happen. Their back line couldn’t deal with the pace and Teal beat them there. If they had, I think there would’ve been space underneath. So those are the things that we need to keep working on. Teal is a true professional. It’s not easy, but man, he puts his head down and comes to work every day and that’s what we love about him.”[/perfectpullquote]

Next up for the New England Revolution is a match down in the Bronx to take on NYC FC.

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