Normally when we do this question and answer series, we talk to another writer covering an MLS team the New England Revolution are playing this week. And we’ll be chatting with Matt Ralph of our Philadelphia Union blog, Brotherly Game, in a few days. However, instead of a big combined MLS Preview on SB Nation, we’re doing individual posts explaining who are teams are and what they did this offseason among other things.
We’re just going to have a pleasant chat with ourselves, because that’s completely normal and no one will judge us at all for doing so.
Who are the New England Revolution?
They’re one of the original MLS teams from 1996, they play in Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts (yes, where the Patriots play) and they’re owned by the Kraft family (yes, the same owners as the Patriots). They finished 7th in the Eastern Conference standings last year and missed the playoffs. The Revs last made the playoffs in 2015 and lost the 2014 MLS Cup Final to the LA Galaxy which was the fifth time the club lost in the MLS Cup final in five appearances.
What’s the best trophy New England has ever won?
As far as I’m concerned, it’s the 2008 North American SuperLiga, a little spinoff tournament that’s now defunct that was similar to the Europa League. But I am highly biased when it comes to my love of the Superliga, and since the five Eastern Conference playoff trophies don’t really count, that leaves us with a 2007 US Open Cup title where the Revs bested FC Dallas.
What was the biggest move of the offseason for the Revs?
Hiring Brad Friedel as coach who replaced Jay Heaps - Friedel has never coached at the professional level before but has experience with the US Youth National team and his UEFA coaching licenses. Already players have mentioned a new sense of professionalism in the locker room, and we’ll see how that translates on the field.
What were the rest Revs offseason transactions? Who left the club and who joined?
Striker Kei Kamara was traded to the Vancouver Whitecaps. Midfielder Gershon Koffie’s and Benjamin Angoua’s loan spells ended and they went back to Hammarby IF in Sweden and EA Guingamp in France respectively. Defenders London Woodberry and Donnie Smith were released and found homes in the USL.
As far as new additions, the Revs signed midfielder Wilfried Zahibo from France, left back Gabriel Somi who is a Syrian international and Columbian winger Cristian Penilla. Veteran MLS defender Jalil Anibaba joined from the Houston Dynamo and the Revs drafted three defenders in Brandon Bye, Mark Segbers and Nicolas Samayoa to go along with homegrown midfielder Issac Angking.
Who is Lee Nguyen and why were we hearing his name a lot this offseason?
Midfielder Lee Nguyen requested a trade earlier this offseason and then held out of training camp when the Revolution didn’t listen to offers for him. Nguyen signed a new contract that pays him $500,000 a year a few seasons ago, but is one of just four players that had double-digit goals and assists last year. Nguyen reported for training camp and preseason late and has been doing conditioning drills to get into game shape. His status for the opening game in Philadelphia is not clear at the moment.
What’s going to be the Revs starting lineup/formation this year?
More than likely it seems that Friedel will stick with a familiar 4-2-3-1 look, though there’s a lot of attacking options for him to change that either late in games with substitutes or by playing two strikers up top from the start. For now, we’ll keep it simple:
GK Cody Cropper; LB Gabriel Somi, CB Claude Dielna, CB Antonio Delamea, RB Andrew Farrell; DM Wilfried Zahibo, DM Scott Caldwell; LM Cristian Penilla, CM Kelyn Rowe, RM Diego Fagundez
There could be a lot of variety as far as those three attacking mids go since Friedel liked Diego in the middle during preseason. Teal Bunbury and Kristian Nemeth are both legitimate options as well and Teal in particular had a good training camp. Fullback depth is significantly improved, with Somi and Chris Tierney on the left and Farrell and rookie Brandon Bye on the right.
What will be a successful season for the Revs? Is this a playoff team?
I think the biggest problem for the Revs under Jay Heaps was inconsistency. They were streaky in both good and bad ways, rattling off long winning streaks just as often as losing spells. Additionally, the Revs were notorious for taking off stretches of games, sometimes early and sometimes late, meaning they spent a lot of time either behind early or giving up leads. Ideally, if Friedel can get the Revs to play for all 90 minutes, results should come, even if it’s not wins.
Making the playoffs alone doesn’t mean your team had a successful season. Half the league makes the postseason and getting trounced in the first round on the road by a team that’s likely far better than you is to be expected. Obviously, most teams would prefer to make the playoffs rather than miss them, but being a one and done team in the MLS Playoffs isn’t a success either in my book.
I, and many others, are probably tempering our expectations for this year. Toronto and Atlanta are still likely the best teams in the conference and it will take a tremendous effort to be on their level in 2018. At best, I think the Revs are going to be fighting for that 5th/6th seed in the middle of the East. Could we be pleasantly surprised? Of course, because on any day the Revs can compete with anyone in this league. But at the same time, they’ve been known to play down to opponents just as often.
Even with Lee Nguyen happy and in the starting lineup, it’s a tough sell to say the Revs are a playoff team. Without him, there are too many questions right now to be confident this team will be wrapping up a playoff spot in November. They’ll be in the chase, but beyond that is anyone’s guess.
Who are the Revs Supporters Groups and how much are tickets?
That would be the Midnight Riders and The Rebellion primarily, and you can watch games in Gillette Stadium from The Fort behind one of the goals. Tickets range from $30 to about $50 in the lower area of Gillette and the average attendance has been a little over 19,000 fans the past few years. The supporters groups organize bus trips to New York, New Jersey, Philly and Canada regularly and you can always buy away tickets regardless of membership.