The New England Revolution didn’t have lofty expectations for 2016. Yes, they made the playoffs last season and crashed out in the knockout round with their biggest name player lashing out at a referee, causing him to get suspended for the first six matches of the year. They cut ties with him, but didn’t try all that hard to replace him. Their best XI was largely the same as it was last year, at least until Kei Kamara came aboard.
New England Revolution 2016 Season Review
Kamara was great for the Revs. He tied for the team lead in goals with seven after coming over from the Columbus Crew. However, his contributions were not enough to overcome their defensive weaknesses and they missed the playoffs on goal difference behind the Philadelphia Union.
What Went Right
Kei Kamara is obviously the best thing about the Revs season. His seven goals after coming over from Ohio were tied with Juan Agudelo for the team lead, and he was at Gillette Stadium for the entire year. Kamara scored 12 times overall if you include his time with the Crew.
Agudelo was another strong spot. His seven goals went with four assists. Holding midfielder Scott Caldwell also showed that he can be an important lynchpin in the central midfield. His season long passing percentage of 86.8% puts him right up there with the top passers in MLS. He ranks 11th in passing accuracy among players with more than 1,500 minutes played.
By some measures, 25 year old Kellyn Rowe could be seen as the team MVP. He showed a lot of promise by being a strong all around player. He scored five times, notched a team leading six assists, and made a habit of tracking back to play strong defensively. Rowe could very well be the short term future of this team in the attacking midfield and/or along one of the wings, where he spent most of his playing time.
What Went Wrong
All of this promise up front, especially they goal scoring force of Kamara alone, was still not enough to propel the Revs into the playoffs. With all that talent, they still scored only 44 goals on the year. Only the Chicago Fire bagged fewer in the Eastern Conference. Their finishing was certainly the culprit. New England averaged 14 shots per game, which was third in all of MLS, yet they couldn’t convert those chances into any sort of respectable goals scored number.
Their defense also had a lot of issues. Their 54 goals conceded were fifth in the East, but it would have been the leakiest defense in the Western Conference if they played in that division.
They also didn’t have great goalkeeping throughout the year. Bobby Shuttleworth was average at best in his 20 starts. Brad Knighton wasn’t any better when he got the call. Thankfully, American U20 and U23 international goalkeeper Cody Cropper joined the team in August after being released from MK Dons in the English second tier. His lone appearance of the season was a clean sheet agaisnt Montreal Impact on the final day of the season. So there does appear to be some future between the sticks.
If the Revs want to return to the playoffs in 2017, they will need to evolve. They have a strong spine down the middle of the pitch with Caldwell, Rowe, Agudelo, and Kamara, but they will need to get better defensively and provide those players with a little more support.
They will also need to start moving along from some of the old guard so the youth can step in. Lee Nguyen is going to be 31 next year. Although he scored six goals, his time as a productive player may be running out. He should step aside and allow a player like Diego Fagundez to get 33 starts instead of having to come off the bench ten times. Kamara, despite being the leading goal scorer for this side, is also on the wrong side of 30 and could start crumpling down at any time. Finding a young striker for the future could help alleviate his potential decline.
They did sign Ivorian midfielder Xavier Kouassi from FC Sion in Switzerland to a designated player contract in February, but he did not make an appearance with the club. About a week after signing with the club, he went down for the year with a knee injury. He was supposed to join the Revs over the summer, but will now make his debut on a hopefully healed knee in the spring. He very well could add a little more strength in the central midfield and will very much feel like a new signing when he takes the field.
New England does have another designated player slot open and could use it to add a secondary strike option who could actually finish some chances or an experienced center back who can bring some extra organization to the back line.
The Revolution are not that far off, as evidenced by their close brush with the post season this year. With a little more defensive stability, some fresh legs in the midfield, and some better finishing ability, New England could find themselves in a great position to make a return to the playoffs in 2017. They just need to do more than bring this band back together like they did for this year.