A playoff regular over the past three seasons, the Revolution came back to earth in 2016.
The club drafted a proven defender, acquired a perennial golden-boot contender and signed a menacing DP to replace Jermaine Jones. But by early fall, the team had dug itself into a hole that ultimately proved to deep to evade.
So, what went wrong? Our staff takes a closer look:
1. Inconsistent play from the back line
The Revs leaked goals in 2016. Much of the blame falls on an inconsistent back line, which fielded 12 different personnel groupings between March and August. During this span of 27 matches, the Revs conceded 47 goals. The unit cleaned up its play in September and October, conceding just seven goals in seven matches, but the damage had been done; a -12 goal different heading into Decision Day ultimately made the difference between the sixth-place Union and seventh-place Revs.
Injuries also carried weight. Chris Tierney missed seven starts while battling various injuries. And Je-Vaughn Watson, arguably the club's most consistent defender, missed significant time while nursing wounds of his own.
In 2017, bolstering this unit should serve as a top priority for Jay Heaps, who—even when fielding a healthy back four—has yet to find a sound replacement for center back A.J. Soares. - Nick
2. Resurgence of the annual summer slump
It's often said that nothing in life is certain except for death and taxes. Perhaps that phrase should include the New England Revolution's annual summer swoon. As has almost become characteristic of the Jay Heaps era, the Revs endured a dismal stretch when the weather turned hot and sticky.
Unlike years past when the Revs rescued themselves in the fall, their midseason run of form proved fatal. From July 31 to Aug. 28, New England went 0-5-1 in MLS competition, with all five of those losses coming against Eastern Conference foes. And in a season where goal differential of all things knocked the Revs out of the playoffs, even salvaging a solitary point changes 2016's storyline entirely.
Instead, there's a dreary shadow hanging over Heaps and co., one that will sting all winter until the 2017 season likely kicks off next March. Of course hindsight is 20/20, but managing one out of a possible 18 points mid-summer is dismal. Ultimately, it was too much to overcome. - Jon
3. Too much roster complacency
With a talented group that included the likes of Juan Agudelo, Lee Nguyen, and Kelyn Rowe, the Revolution's roster looked settled heading into the season. Perceptions didn't translate into reality, however, as it soon became clear that the team had gaping holes. For starters, the back line was far too shaky, which led to constant changes in personnel. On the opposite end, the attack struggled to stay healthy and consistent.
With the Revolution's off-season transfers proving not to be enough, which isn't a knock on Gershon Koffie or Je-Vaughn Watson, it seemed logical that the team would be active in the summer. They did trade away beloved forward Charlie Davies, which could ultimately prove to be a good piece of business depending on what's done with the bounty, while later adding elite goalscorer Kei Kamara. Kamara's arrival elicited a lot of excited but failed to produce results. The former Crew SC man only got hot during the season's final games before ending the year with seven goals in 21 appearances.
The 2016 season is proof that teams should always be looking to upgrade. - Seth
4. Failure to capitalize on partnerships
To echo Seth's points, the Revolution ended the 2016 season with just 24 of 28 roster spots filled. And if we're being honest, the club really only used 13 outfield players this season. We all know the regular players and subs, but aside from them, Daigo Kobayashi and Femi Hollinger-Janzen racked up subs appearances but hardly any consistent minutes. So if you want to count both of them, that's 15 players. For a team that was desperate on the back line and struggled mightily for long stretches, the only thing that really changed at the end was the formation. Jordan McCrary saw zero MLS minutes this year, Michael Gamble was released and is now on another plane of existence and Samba got all of one MLS start and a one minute cameo at some point before being waived and going back to Sporting CP.
The Revs sent a grand total of three players to Rochester for a grand total of three games among them. And with apologies to now fourth keeper Matt Turner and his stint at the Richmond Kickers (7 games, 3 GA, 0.43 GAA), this was a travesty. Injuries played a part in the Revs not being able to release some of these players, but if you look down I-95 to the New York Red Bulls and their USL championship and prospects gaining valuable playing time, you have to wonder just how far the Revolution are falling behind their rivals in player development when the team doesn't have even one full roster, let alone two.
There's no reason why the Revs didn't have Jordan McCrary in Rochester from the get go—and for that matter, Gamble as well. Femi was able to get solid shifts with the MLS team with the early injuries but once the team got healthy and traded for Kei Kamara he should have had minutes with the Rhinos as well. The front office did very well under the circumstances, losing Xavier Kouassi before he got here and then trading for Kamara, but the depth of this team was an issue and it was never tested until it was too late. Perhaps some earlier minutes for guys like Darrius Barnes, Steve Neumann and others in Rochester might've helped the Revs salvage a dismal MLS season. - Jake