The New England Revolution was the media darling going into the 2014 campaign. Players Kelyn Rowe, Diego Fagundez and Andrew Farrell caught the attention of pundits, many of which anxiously awaited the starlets to meet their full potential. Jon Arnold and Keith Hickey of Goal.com listed the Revolution as a surprise title contender. Sports Illustrated senior writer Grant Wahl was more confident in Jay Heaps' men as he chose them as his MLS Cup winners. The MLSSoccer.com Power Rankings positioned the Revs at 7th before the season began, saying that they were "officially high on the kids in New England, several of whom could make a run at Best XI."
Expectations fell after opening weekend as the Revs were thoroughly outplayed by the Houston Dynamo. The team looked slow and disorganized against their Eastern Conference opponent, allowing three goals inside of the first 30 minutes. Although the squad would eventually find its composure, they still ended the night on the wrong end of a 4-0 result. That week's edition of the league's Power Rankings dropped the Revs to 13th.
The Revolution would tighten up the backline, and only allowed one goal in their next two matches. The offense continued to struggle, however, and didn't break through until the year's fourth game. After 305 scoreless minutes, San Jose defender Victor Bernardez would offer an own goal to gift the Revs their first tally. Lee Nguyen became the first player to score in a Revolution jersey when he netted a stoppage time winner.
The Revs remained an enigma over the next few weeks. The team suffered a 2-0 loss to DC United, but rebounded with a 2-0 home victory over the Dynamo. The team followed up their 1-1 road tie with the Chicago Fire by taking full points from defending champions Sporting KC at Gillette Stadium.
Journalists were stumped over what to make of New England. Some believed that the team's early difficulties were nothing more than growing pains while others wanted more consistency from the Revs before they once again proclaimed them among the league elite. Uncertainties put the Revs in the double-digits of most power ranking reports.
The team's most recent result, a 2-1 road win over the deep-pocketed Toronto FC, helped ease worries about the Revs. With a roster like Jermain Defoe, Michael Bradley and Julio Cesar, Toronto was the favorite heading into the match. The squad looked to have verified this status by scoring six minutes after the opening whistle. The Revs fought back with the help of rookie Patrick Mullins and Nguyen, the PK specialist.
The victory helped renew optimism for the Revs. The most recent edition of the MLSSoccer.com's Power Rankings listed the Revolution as 4th, seven spots above their position last week. The team was also highlighted by SoccerbyIves.net, who applauded their ability to defeat Toronto despite missing Rowe and Jose Goncalves.
Individual players received attention by several outlets. Nguyen appeared on the Team of the Week for MLSSoccer.com and Sports Illustrated's Planet Futbol while also being called "the best MLS player you're not watching" by the Armchair Analyst Matt Doyle.
Mullins was named SBI's Rookie of the Week and as a bench player for MLSSoccer.com's Team of the Week. The rookie made an appearance on Extra Time Radio, becoming the second Revs player to do so in as many weeks. He's also a contender for Goal of the Week. Teal Bunbury, Kevin Alston and Bobby Shuttleworth, who is a nominee for Save of the Week, have also received recognition recently.
The often outspoken Simon Borg declared that the Revs were back on the most recent edition of Extra Time Radio, but have we seen enough to deem the statement as true? Can the defense continue its run of good form? Is the attack finally clicking? Is the consistency there to make a run at the MLS Cup?