The New England Revolution are set to open preseason camp on Jan. 9. It’s an important year for the club as they missed the playoffs in 2022, just one year after setting a new single-season points record.
Can the Revs rebound? Here are three questions we have ahead of preseason.
1. What will the final roster look like?
The Revs had a quiet start to the off-season with Bobby Wood being their only signing ahead of the MLS SuperDraft. At the draft, the club selected midfielder Joshua Bolma, as well as a pair of defenders in Victor Souza and Andreas Ueland.
On Monday, the club made a splash when they traded $400,000 in 2023 General Allocation Money to LAFC for midfielder Latif Blessing. LAFC can receive more money if certain performance metrics are met.
The Revs are also set to re-sign midfielder Nacho Gil, according to Caleb Pongratz and Tom Bogert.
The recent transactions have led to speculation regarding the Revs’ starting lineup in 2023. In a must-read early preview, Matt Doyle projects that the Revolution will utilize a 4-5-1 with Carles Gil, Dylan Borrero, Nacho Gil, and Giacomo Vrioni leading the attack.
#NERevs depth chart according to Doyle https://t.co/rSRZbO3kDt pic.twitter.com/ZyM14MabS4— Sam Minton (@Sam_Minton22) January 3, 2023
This makes sense because the Revs used this formation at the end of 2022, but it does leave one of two DP strikers on the bench.
It’s possible that Gustavo Bou heads elsewhere, but if he stays, maybe Bou plays out wide instead of Nacho Gil, or perhaps Bou and Vrioni—as well as Bobby Wood and Jozy Altidore—are competing for minutes.
Another option is a 4-4-2 diamond because Bruce Arena likes to play with two strikers. Matt Polster would sit deep while Borrero and Blessing man the wings. This setup requires a lot from Polster, but the Revs were successful while using a similar look in 2021.
Here’s the predicted starting lineup that I posted recently. I could definitely see Blessing playing the role of “New Signing.”— Seth (@SethMan31) January 3, 2023
The biggest issue with this lineup is that it asks a lot of Polster. That said, a similar lineup won the Supporters’ Shield in 2021. #NERevs https://t.co/60KkFqftWN pic.twitter.com/4bO2ixDXgB
I could also see the Revs going with a 4-5-1 with Gil playing as a right midfielder. It takes the maestro out of the middle but he does have a very good relationship with Brandon Bye. It’s not what I’d prefer to happen, but I could see it happening.
In short, I need to know what the final roster looks like before making any big claims. Does Bou stay? How about Altidore? What other additions are made before first kick? What happens during the summer transfer window?
2. Can the Revs stay healthy?
The Revs had three big players leave before or during the 2022 season as Tajon Buchanan, Matt Turner, and Adam Buksa said their goodbyes. It’s always difficult to replace players, but the tsunami of injuries made it even more so.
Injuries are part of the game, no question, and you can certainly argue that the Revs could’ve had better depth, but the mass of absences the team struggled with in 2022 shouldn’t be ignored.
Henry Kessler played 22 games, Bou played 19. and Borrero played 12. The midseason acquisitions of Vrioni and Ismael Tajouri-Shradi didn’t play off as Vrioni featured in seven games and Tajorui-Shradi didn’t play at all.
It’s especially crucial for the Revs backline to stay healthy. Right now, DeJuan Jones, Henry Kessler, Andrew Farrell, and Brandon Bye are expected to protect Djordje Petrovic. There isn’t much depth behind them with Ryan Spaulding, Christian Makoun, Omar Gonzalez, Joshua Bolma, and Earl Edwards, Jr. being the top prospects.
It is worth noting that the Revs parted ways with their Head Athletic Trainer at the end of the 2022 season. Will this have an impact on the team’s ability to keep players on the field?
3. Can the newcomers produce?
As noted earlier, we saw little of Vrioni and Borrero, who were marquee signings in 2022. Vrioni is a Designated Player while Borrero was signed using the U-22 initiative.
The Revs need both players to be successful if the team is going to make a run at the elusive cup. It’s certainly possible that they both find their feet in year two as Vrioni scored 19 goals in the Austrian league while Borrero has three goals and one assist in 602 MLS minutes.
Blessing is also expected to be an important piece in 2023. The Ghanaian should be an active presence in the middle of the field as he looks to press high to win the ball. If Blessing plays his best soccer, the Revs will be able to control play.
Another player to keep an eye on is Nacho Gil. The brother of Carles showed some creative dribbling in the 202 minutes he played last year. If the Revs choose to play with natural wingers, Nacho could see significant minutes. Is he up for the task?