The New England Revolution were knocked out of the playoffs on Tuesday due to a penalty kick loss to New York City FC. My colleague Sam Minton had three thoughts after the game, but here are four more (because we all have thoughts on this one).
1. Bruce Arena needed to make adjustments
I don’t blame Arena for going with the formation and lineup that he did. The 4-4-2 allows the Revs to get their best players on field and it brought success during the regular season. That said, things weren’t clicking against NYCFC. Gustavo Bou wasn’t getting enough touches, Tajon Buchanan wasn’t in the right spots, and Matt Polster looked overwhelmed in the center of the park.
While players did move around the field, most notably Buchanan and Carles Gil, a major change didn’t occur until the 90th minute when Polster and Tommy McNamara made way for Arnor Traustason and Maciel.
I would’ve liked to see Arena make a change earlier. McNamara was virtually invisible and could’ve been replaced by Maciel or Wilfrid Kaptoum. Traustason was also an option, but his play during the season was underwhelming. Arena could’ve inserted Ema Boateng but that probably would’ve required a change in the formation.
Another option was to sub off Bou or Adam Buksa and switch to a 4-2-3-1 with Boateng and Buchanan on the flanks. If he wanted to keep all three DPs on the field, which certainly makes sense, Arena could’ve moved Buchanan to right back so that he could attack from wide areas.
As you can see, there were plenty of tactical options that the Revs could’ve deployed. I’m not sure what the answer was, but would’ve liked to see them try something because they were being outplayed at home in a playoff game.
2. Tuesday was a missed opportunity
Tuesday’s crowd was a vocal one with approximately 25,000 fans ready to do whatever they could to propel the Revs to the Eastern Conference final. If they advanced, the crowd was expected to be even bigger for the Sunday showcase.
Tuesday’s game also came with an uptick in the media coverage. The Boston Globe, Boston Herald, and The Sports Hub had more representation in the press box and Scott Zolak was tweeting about the game. The Revolution were prominently featured on Wednesday’s episode of Felger & Mazz.
A big win on Tuesday would’ve created more excitement for a team that is often an afterthought in the New England sports community. The loss made long-time fans ask if the team is cursed and newer fans wonder if the team is worth following.
3. All eyes now shift to the transfer window
After the game, Arena told media, “We don’t have the best roster in the league. It’s got to get a little bit better, for sure.” This type of bluntness has to be followed by an active transfer window to prove that the Revs are committed to finding sustained success.
The Revs will of course need to replace Buchanan, who is on his way to Club Brugge and they’ll need to add a starter on the opposite flank. They should add another central midfielder to play alongside Polster, especially if they might shift away from the 4-4-2. Depth along the back line and at striker is a must. Of course, they could be looking for a starting striker if Buksa heads to Europe.
The Revs won’t fill all of these spots, but they will certainly add pieces. They need to be the right ones, especially since last year’s transfers were lackluster. Maciel, Jon Bell, and Ema Boateng were pretty good but Christian Mafla, Wilfrid Kaptoum, and Traustason didn’t show much. The team was then silent during the summer.
4. Tuesday’s result doesn’t define the season
There’s a lot of negativity in the thoughts above, so let’s end with something positive. Tuesday’s result wasn’t a good one, but we all knew it was a possibility that the Revs would get knocked out after their 23-day break.
It’s important to recognize that this season isn’t a failure just because the team didn’t win the MLS Cup. Yes, the Cup is the ultimate prize, but the club did lift their first-ever Supporters’ Shield while breaking the single-season points record. The goal is to now find sustained success so that the Revs can be counted as one of the elite clubs in the league. Arena’s involvement—as long as he stays involved—is a major factor in this.