With preseason in the books, we’re now less than a week away from the New England Revolution’s season opener against the Philadelphia Union. Given the unpredictable nature of MLS, it’s hard to know what 2018 will bring. That said, here’s three reasons to be optimistic about the Revolution.
1. A new coach. Jay Heaps’ time in charge came to an end in September after a horrid two-game road trip. Tom Soehn took over as the interim coach, helping the Revs get their first away win while also setting a club record for most home wins. Even with this success, there was a general feeling that a new direction was needed.
Insert Brad Friedel, who was given the reigns in November.
It might be Friedel’s first head coaching job at the club level but there are plenty of reasons to be excited. The former goalkeeper is calm and confident, and has been called a true professional by many on the roster. He’s bringing with him some fresh ideas and players. Furthermore, he’s experienced the game at the highest level. Time will tell how he’ll do in MLS, but Revs fans should be happy with their new coach.
2. New players. Although the Revs returned 17 from last year’s roster, there are some new and exciting pieces. The biggest off-season acquisition comes in the form of Cristian Penilla. The 26-year-old attacker, who is on loan from Pachuca, has been an absolute force during preseason, collecting two goals and two assists. Sure, it’s preseason, but it looks like Penilla has the speed and skill needed to torment MLS defenders.
Gabriel Somi is another player that fans should keep an eye on. The left back has European experience and has represented Syria at the international level. His preseason minutes showed that he has the ability to get into the attack, which should produce some goals.
Wilfried Zahibo has great size and has shown some promise after getting a red card just 10 minutes into his debut. If he settles in, he could be the defensive midfielder the team has been looking for. Brandon Bye will likely be on the bench when the season starts but could prove to be competition for Andrew Farrell. Fans should also be looking forward to full seasons from Claude Dielna and Krisztian Nemeth.
3. Preseason success. The first rule of MLS preseason is to not over-analyze MLS preseason. I respect this rule but also thought we saw some good play that could result in regular season success.
For starters, Kelyn Rowe looks like he’s playing with a chip on his shoulder. Featuring exclusively as a midfielder (thanks, Friedel), Rowe has provided crafty passes and bold shots. It’s the type of play that could earn him league-wide recognition. He, of course, will face competition, especially if he wants play in the middle.
Speaking of Rowe’s competition, Diego Fagundez has put in some promising shifts. His chemistry with Penilla has been particularly encouraging. The regime change could be good for Fagundez, who is only 23.
There were good and bad moments during preseason, but the last image we got was the Revs hoisting the Mobile Sun Mini Cup after defeating the Houston Dynamo in penalty kicks. Will this be the only trophy the Revs win this year? We’ll have to wait and see, but there are certainly reasons to be optimistic.