The New England Revolution saw their season end much sooner than expected.
After a record-breaking season that saw them lift the Supporters’ Shield, the Revs were knocked out in the Eastern Conference semifinals as NYCFC prevailed in penalty kicks.
With the game now in the rearview mirror, the staff of The Bent Musket grades New England’s performance in 2021.
Sam - B+
The New England Revolution do deserve credit for all the work that they did in the regular season. They were the most dominant team in the league and could go down as one of the best regular season teams in MLS history.
If you told fans that New England would be the best team in MLS prior to the start of the season, they probably would have thought that you were insane. The Revolution exceeded expectations in a boatload of ways. Adam Buksa developed into the striker that fans were hoping for, Carles Gil had a magical MVP season, Tajon Buchanan played so well he was transferred to Club Brugge, and DeJuan Jones turned into one of the best left backs in the entire league.
But the Revs deserve to be docked for showing up as flat as a month old can of Coke against NYCFC. While the absurdly long break didn’t do them any favors, it isn’t an excuse for how they performed.
2021 looked like the year that New England finally broke its MLS Cup curse, but fans were once again reminded of what life is like rooting for the Revs.
Jake - A
2021 was arguably the best season in New England Revolution history. Losing a one-off match after a three-week break doesn’t change that. Not having jerseys in stock for most of the year doesn’t change that. Killing the Crayon Flag doesn’t change that.
What the New England Revolution accomplished this year was tremendous, wrapping up the Supporter’s Shield with weeks to spare and running away from an Eastern Conference with a quartet of MLS First Team Players and several others who I think would’ve made the league’s proverbial second and third teams. It is a season worth celebrating and being proud of not just individually with MVP Carles Gil, Golden Boot contenders Gustavo Bou and Adam Buksa, Keeper of the Year Matt Turner, and now Club Brugge and Canada MNT star Tajon Buchanan - but for the team as a whole.
However, with this momentum and rebrand comes a warning...the last major offseason the Revs had after MLS Cup ‘14 was a disaster. The organization didn’t do anything to improve the first team roster and took so many steps back in the years following that it took hiring and firing Brad Friedel to largely undo those steps.
The Revs organization have to not just use this momentum from 2021 to bolster a first team roster that was exceptional this year and build upon a new branding but also improve on and off the field. Prove to the fanbase on the field you’re not an MLS 1.0 team anymore and prove to new fans that this branding isn’t the same old Revs. Despite a Shield winning campaign the merch and rebrand launch issues (more thoughts on that here) still highlight the room for growth that is still very apparent for this team.
We expect you to be worthy of this season's accolades and prove it wasn’t a fluke, particularly as an organization. Or you will be hearing about it.
Josh - A-
Look, seeing what this Revolution team did throughout the 2021 regular season and seeing them fall short in their opening match was nothing but gutting to see. Yet to call 2021 a failure is ludicrous. Bruce Arena said it best himself. “I think any sensible, reasonable person would say that. If you think otherwise, I think you need to have your head examined.”
Bruce Arena, Carles Gil, and Matt Turner were able to bring three of the most important end-of-season awards home as the trio took home Coach of the Year, MVP, and Goalkeeper of the Year respectively. While not an MLS Cup, a single club bringing four end-of-season awards home is nothing but impressive and something to be extremely proud of.
2021 also saw the likes of Matt Turner, Tajon Buchanan, and Arnór Traustason represent the Revolution first team on an international stage as the trio were able to factor into their respective national teams during World Cup Qualifying and continental competitions.
Speaking of Tajon, a move to Club Brugge is a win-win situation for both parties. Tajon Buchanan will continue to grow as he plays in elite competitions like the Belgian Pro League and UEFA Champions League. While the departure of Tajon may sting, the Revolution received a reported fee of $7 million, which will go to good use building the future of this club.
Whether it was 73 points on the season, 2.15 points per game or the other records this club shattered, this 2021 Revolution squad was one of the top statistical teams in MLS history. While it’s not the same as an MLS Cup, it’s hard not to be proud of what this squad accomplished statistically.
While the failure to secure our first MLS Cup stings, the progress experienced on and off this field can only be seen as a success and will allow this team to return ready and hungry at the start of the 2022 MLS season.
Seth - B+
The ultimate goal in MLS is to lift the cup at the end of the season. The Revs fell short of that, succumbing to eventual champions New York City FC. That doesn’t mean the season was a complete failure though.
The Revs did lift their first-ever Supporters’ Shield and set a new single-season points record. More importantly, however, they gave fans hope that the club is on the right track.
We’ve long talked about the benefits of using all three Designated Player slots, having a second team, and building depth. The Revs did this in 2021 and found success. Carles Gil, Gustavo Bou, and Adam Buksa were excellent, Maciel and Jon Bell got time to shine, and most players on the roster contributed at some point. It certainly seems like the Revs understand how to put together a competitive roster, which is why fans are optimistic about the future.
That said, the Revs didn’t lift the MLS Cup in 2021, which is why I can’t give them an A. Bruce Arena himself said on multiple occasions that the goal was to lift the cup. They didn’t do that, so I think B+ is perfectly fair.