Two months and eight games into the 2018 MLS season seems like a good time to ask this question.
The New England Revolution are in fourth place in the Eastern Conference, with a 4W-2L-2D record for 14 points and their 8 goals allowed in second in the league. The Revs also have claimed four points on the road, almost all the way to the entire six point road campaign the Revs had in 2017. These are good things.
However, it’s still early enough in the year to pause just a bit lest someone goes out and claims the Revs are off to win the Shield or the East. Five of the first eight games have been played in the friendly New England confines of Fortress Foxboro. Also, we will now understate the Revs first four wins as follows: Walk off Tierney free kick, first half red card, first half red card again, and Dammit, Teal isn’t offside.
So are the New England Revolution even good at soccer? Are they bad? Is it somewhere in the middle? Maybe they’re a solid playoff team? Let us know in the comments below as our staff weighs in on the Revs 2018 season so far.
Jake C: They’re not bad at soccer...
To me, the Revs began the year with expectations around where they left off 2017. I didn’t think last year’s team was bad, but inconsistent play on both sides of the ball plagued the Revs at the end of the Jay Heaps era. Now under Brad Friedel’s pressing and countering style, the Revs have been piling up good results and for the most part they’ve been playing well and piled up results against 10-man teams which they didn’t do in years past. I hesitate to say the Revs are absolutely good because I still don’t think they’re at the same level as NYCFC, Atlanta or Toronto, but I do think the Revs have jumped up from “team battling for 6th playoff spot” to maybe a team capable of getting a 3rd or 4th seed hosting a playoff game in the first round in November.
This next month is a big test for the Revs and if we ask this question again next month we might see wildly different answers. A road trip to Montreal is on deck this week, a place where the Revs have had a ton of success of late, followed by May home games with Columbus, Toronto, and a midweek clash with Atlanta to end the month. If the Revs take say, 10 or more points from the five games this month, that would be a fairly significant haul against a tough schedule. The defense is still in bend but don’t break mode with Matt Turner having a breakout year in goal and the Revs rather frantic style at times makes them both fun and terrifying to watch in the same game. They have a solid road record so far but in a rare scheduling quirk, have played a lot of early games at home and in order to make this early run of results hold up, the Revs will also have to pile up road results in the summer.
The Revs aren’t bad, the question I think that gets answered this month is just how good they might be.
Corey Major: No, not yet.
There’s no doubt that the team is energized by Brad Friedel’s philosophy, and clearly very physically fit as a result of what sounds to be a significant increase in the coaching staff’s demands compared to Jay Heaps’ tenure.
But to me, I’m still waiting to see this squad win *consistently* without the good fortune they have enjoyed early this season (red cards, VAR, etc.)—that’s not to say that I don’t think they are capable. The emphatic home opener win against Colorado was a clear sign to me that what this squad lacks in top talent compared to many other clubs around the league, it makes up for with a fight-for-each-other, balls-to-the-wall attitude that can take on any team in MLS.
But, dark clouds still loom over this Revs locker room that make me concerned for the team as we turn sights toward the always tumultuous summer stretch. Lee Nguyen needs to be traded before the May 2nd deadline. What the Revs recoup in assets at this point isn’t as important as removing any piece of the puzzle that doesn’t want to fit. Obviously we can’t peer inside Nguyen’s brain, but Mike Burns and the rest of the FO staff have always valued a positive locker room filled with players who want to be there.
If the re-tooled Brad Friedel Revolution can sort that out while building on these early season successes—however lucky or fortunate they may be—then I think we can see the real potential of this squad flourish come summer rather than barely hold on like we’ve come so accustomed to.
Tony M: I think the jury’s still out after just 25% of the season.
There’s not much data with which to work. We do know that three of the four wins came against teams below red lines, with two of those being 10-man squads. The wins over Colorado (last-second, deflected free kick) and Sporting KC (on a technicality) really felt like draws. Matches against two Cup contenders at home earned one point, a draw against David Villa-less NYCFC. On the flip side, the Columbus draw was a solid road result, and the wins against 10-man sides might have been draws (or losses) in recent years.
The team is definitely exciting, gritty and fearless. That was evident in preseason, as they played with a chip on their shoulder, and that’s carried into the 2018 campaign. Are they good? Yes. Are they great? Too early to tell. Are they a playoff team? Probably. Can they win a trophy this year? There’s likely too many hurdles to jump in terms of top-tier teams in MLS, especially in their own conference.
The games aren’t played on paper, though, and the month of May will certainly provide us more useful data. A solid road win over Montreal would be a good start. However, I really want to see how the Revolution perform against Toronto, Atlanta, the Red Bulls and NYCFC (again). That’s who they’re chasing. Can they hang with them?
Sean C: The Revs are definitely good at soccer. The real question is; how good are they?
So far, the Revs are certainly better than they were last season under Jay Heaps. In three away matches to date on the season, the Revs have won once and drawn once. It was unfortunate in the Revs one away loss to concede two red cards, where if it wasn’t for those mistakes, there could’ve been a different result.
The Revs are 3-1-1 at home and that comes as no surprise, as they continue to be a dominant team to play at home. Although the Revs have only played three away games, they’ve put strong performances in matches where they’ve picked up points. There’s nothing so far that’s telling enough to claim that won’t continue to happen.
In years past and leading up to this season, there were big questions marks surrounding the defense, as individual mistakes and inability to defend as a team haunted the Revs in dropping points. Now through eight games into the season, the Revs currently have the second-best defensive record, only allowing eight goals against and picking up three clean sheets, per Jeff Lemieux.
In terms of the Revs offense, Teal Bunbury and Diego Fagundez with four and three goals respectively, means that other players will need to put the ball into the net to bring the team to next level. Whether that’s finding players within the team to score more such as Cristian Penilla or sorting out Lee Nguyen and getting him into the team or trading for assets, everyone will have to chip in to make this season successful.
For now, the Revs are just good at soccer. Nothing special. There’s room to grow for the Revs but this squad should make the playoffs, but it’s unsure as to whether or not they’ll be a threat in the playoffs.
Seth M: Yes
Taking the “wait and see” approach is the safe bet, but the internet is about hot takes. As a result, I’m ready to say that this team is good enough to make the playoffs.
In 2017 the Revs missed the playoffs by five points while their 2016 season was cut short because of a tiebreaker. The 2018 version of this team is much better in terms of players and coaching and their competition isn’t much different.
As I see it, there are four elite teams in the East: both New York teams, Atlanta, and Toronto. There are also four cellar dwellers: D.C., Montreal, Philadelphia, and Chicago. That leaves Columbus, Orlando, and New England to fight over two spots. This is a comfortable position for the Revs to be in.
More than that, I think the Revs could find some success in the playoffs if they sneak in. The team has looked organized and determined, plus Cristian Penilla can perform a bit of magic at a moment’s notice.
Call me an optimist, but I like what I’m seeing.
Jim H: The Revs are good at soccer.
Former Patriots coach Bill Parcells use to say “you are what your record says you are.” Using that standard, the Revs are pretty good at soccer since they stand at 4-2-2 and are in fourth place
They have also one win and one tie on the road, hinting they are a mentally tougher team than last year when they didn’t win away from home until the end of the season. There is also a grittiness that was lacking in recent versions of the team but perhaps some folks are slow to warm up to this team because it lacks stars.
There are no Zlatans, Giovincos or Villas on this side and there likely never will be on a Kraft-owed team. But, there are not even many familiar faces as old favorites such as Lee Nguyen and Chris Tierney have been pushed aside. Newcomers like Christian Penilla, Gabriel Somi and Wilfried Zahibo were unknowns to Revolution fans before being brought in by new coach Brad Friedel.
So fans have little to base their faith on. There was also the horrid opening game 2-0 loss to Philadelphia. The Revolution back line received four cards in the embarassing loss and fans were given an awful first impression of Friedel’s new squad. But, the coach and players have turned things around quickly and the team is playing pragmatic soccer and getting results.
That makes them good at soccer.
Rick S: The Revs are an improved team
The Revs, by the acquisition of Penilla and Somi, have done a lot to solve the lack- of- speed problem they had last year on the left side of the field. Fagundez looks much more comfortable at the 10 position. Caicedo, with his agility and passing abiity, has helped at DM. He can shoot, too. An effective high press, which the Revs do fairly consistently, gives evidence that the team is in pretty good shape. It is nice to see players like Bunbury and Agudelo work hard at this very important tactic. The Anibaba-Dielna duo is getting better with every game.
I would like to see the Revs improve their possession game. Nonetheless, the Revs are an improved team, a team that can cause problems to all others in the MLS.