After the Revolution’s best first half in ten seasons, all was well in New England. Their 7-4-6 mark and 27 points put the club firmly above the red line in fifth place in the Eastern Conference. They were even nipping at the heels of the four squads ahead of them, primarily Crew SC over whom they had two games in hand.
However, not much has gone right for New England since then, whether home or away. A listless 0-0 draw against an entrenched Sounders FC side was followed by a gut-wrenching 3-2 stoppage-time loss to a Zlatan-less LA Galaxy, both at Gillette Stadium. And just last week, the first two matches (in four days) of a three-game road trip also ended in defeat, giving the Revs their longest losing streak in more than a year.
As expected, many supporters blame this recent poor form on the dreaded “summer swoon”. Historically, they say, the Revs wilt like a flower in the hot summer months. Is this really the case, or does it just seem that way? Has perception become reality, or is reality, well, real?
This season, the Revolution are just 2-4-5 since late May for an overall record of 7-7-7. That means they were 5-3-2 before “summer” arrived. Without getting into statistical nuances, I guess you could say that has the makings of a “swoon”. Time will tell, though.
Let’s peruse the annals of Revolution history and check it out for ourselves, looking back at all past seasons of New England’s MLS regular season play:
Revolution Record: Summer vs Spring / Fall
|Season||Summer Period||Summer Record||Spring / Fall Record||Final Record||Swoon?|
|Season||Summer Period||Summer Record||Spring / Fall Record||Final Record||Swoon?|
|2017||Late May - Late August||4-8-1||9-7-5||13-15-6||Yes|
|2016||Late June - Late August||2-8-2||9-6-7||11-14-9||Yes|
|2015||Late May - Late July||1-7-2||13-5-6||14-12-8||Yes|
|2014||Late May - Late August||1-9-1||16-4-3||17-13-4||Yes|
|2013||Early June - Early September||5-7-3||9-4-6||14-11-9||Yes|
|2012||Late May - Early September||2-8-6||7-9-2||9-17-8||Yes|
|2011||Late May - Early September||1-8-8||4-8-5||5-16-13||No|
|2010||Early June - Mid September||4-8-1||5-8-4||9-16-5||No|
|2009||Mid June - Mid September||5-5-3||6-5-6||11-10-9||No|
|2008||Mid June - Early September||3-4-2||9-7-5||12-11-7||Yes|
|2007||Late May - Early September||7-5-4||7-3-4||14-8-8||No|
|2006||Late May - Early September||4-6-9||8-2-3||12-8-12||Yes|
|2005||Late June - Late August||5-5-2||12-2-6||17-7-8||Yes|
|2004||Early June - Early September||3-7-6||5-6-3||8-13-9||No|
|2003||Mid June - Early September||2-7-6||10-2-3||12-9-9||Yes|
|2002||Early June - Mid August||4-10-0||8-4-2||12-14-2||Yes|
|2001||Late May - Early August||3-6-5||4-8-1||7-14-6||No|
|2000||Late May - Early August||4-8-2||9-5-4||13-13-6||Yes|
|1999||Mid June - Early September||3-11-0||9-9-0||12-20-0||Yes|
|1998||Mid May - Early August||3-14-0||8-7-0||11-21-0||Yes|
|1997||Mid June - Early September||3-12-0||12-5-0||15-17-0||Yes|
|1996||Early June - Mid August||7-10-0||8-7-0||15-17-0||No|
Again, for the sake of argument, we can call it a “swoon” if there’s a fairly significant drop off from the spring/fall record to the summer record. Summer here is loosely defined as a period between late May and the middle of September, although we know in actuality the summer season is generally regarded as occurring from June 21 to September 21. Of course, we’ve overlooked such important factors as home and away records, weather during these months, etc. For example, maybe a slump was the direct result of poor road play, and there just happened to be more road matches in the summer. Regarding the weather, maybe it wasn’t warm or hot at all in May or early June or even mid-September. This is all just a general assessment of how the Revs have performed in the months primarily between spring and fall.
From the table, it’s apparent that the Revolution have, in fact, experienced a summer swoon more often than not (over two-thirds of their history), as they’ve dropped a bunch of points during their previous twenty-two summertime periods. It’s been particularly pronounced in the past six seasons, starting near the tail end of the Steve Nicol era and continuing through the entirety of Jay Heaps’ tenure. However, before this period, it seems a summer slump was hit or miss during Nicol’s time, which happened to be the glory years of Revolution soccer. We can certainly point to the early days of MLS — the late 90s — and see where hot weather fails got their start in New England, as the Revs were awful in the summers before Nicol arrived.
Are there possible explanations for this summertime rut? Many supporters will offer that, thanks to ownership, Revolution squads over the years have lacked depth. Coupled with summer weather, overused players can get worn out. In a league where there is general parity, small disadvantages such as this can turn a win into a draw or a draw into a loss.
Let’s look past that, though, at other potential factors. Certainly, the weather must be considered. Warmer than usual New England summers, or just plain summer weather in the South and Midwest, can be significant, especially for a northern team like the Revs not accustomed to it. Adding fuel to that fire, many temperature records have been broken since the turn of the century. Nationally, nearly half of the years since 2000 have seen above-average summer temperatures. In fact, these same years are in the top 11 all-time for hottest summers in the US, interspersed in the table with only 1934, 1936, and 1988.
Hot weather affects everybody, though, right? Throw in a high number of road matches — even a cross-country trip or two — and sprinkle in some games against teams headed to the playoffs, and then maybe you’ve got a recipe for New England Summer Swoon.
For example, the summer of 2016 was the fifth hottest on record in the US. The Revolution played seven of twelve matches from late June thru late August on the road, including trips to San Jose and Salt Lake City. They also faced seven teams that ended up making the playoffs that year. The result? New England produced an abysmal 2-8-2 record in that period, with a respectable 9-6-7 mark otherwise.
In 2015, Earth’s hottest summer ever recorded according to CNN, the Revs had a pitiful 1-7-2 record from late May through late July. They also played six road matches against the likes of FC Dallas, Sporting KC, the Red Bulls and Portland, all playoff teams. Moreover, nine of their ten summer matches were against post-season participants that year, including five Western Conference clubs. Portland ended up winning MLS Cup in 2016, defeating another summertime Revolution opponent, Columbus Crew SC.
The summer of 2014 had been the hottest ever globally until 2015 arrived. From late May to late August, the Revs barely registered a pulse on the pitch, going 1-9-1. The schedule featured a well-balanced six home and five away fixture setup, so we can’t point to that. However, New England did square off against six playoff teams, including three from the West on the road. Their forays to Los Angeles, Salt Lake, and Dallas were forgettable. Ironically, their 2014 season ended on an unseasonably warm December afternoon in LA, but let’s not go there.
By comparison, the summer of 2009 wasn’t particularly hot, the Revs played a balanced schedule, and they faced some poor teams such as Chivas USA twice and a fledgling Toronto FC. There was no swoon that year. Similarly in 2007, although it was a hotter than usual summer across the country, another evenly-disbursed schedule against weak competition probably helped New England avoid a slump. Of course, these were high-cotton years for the Revs, as they possessed plenty of talent and adequate depth.
From this brief review of several recent seasons, we can draw some conclusions. It seems clear that some combination of warmer weather, extra road matches, and tough-luck scheduling of playoff-caliber opponents — not to mention a perennial lack of roster depth — foments the nearly year-by-year New England Revolution summer swoon. When some of these factors are mitigated, the Revs seem to put forth a consistent performance all year.
Will a summer rut continue under first-year manager Brad Friedel? The odds aren’t in his favor, as 2018 has already been another scorcher. Moreover, five of the next seven matches through the middle of September are away from Gillette, including another trip to California. Fortunately, the Revs will only face three teams currently in playoff position, so that may help them avoid a slump. Regardless, with just a 2-4-5 record since late May, we may already be in the midst of the notorious summer swoon. Let’s hope not, as it may cost New England a playoff spot.