Editorial (May 10, 2018) – Roughly a quarter of the way through the season observers in most sports are able to get a sense of where their team is at. Are they racing toward the playoffs or are they flailing toward the bottom of the standings? For the New England Revolution, the answer is unclear at the moment. Even in a league as nonsensical as MLS can be some conclusions can still be made this early in the season.
The New England Revolution: Contender or Pretender?
With a new coach, a new playing style, and a new lease on life (though still no stadium) the New England Revolution have been one of the more interesting cases so far this season. Roundly counted out in most preseason analyses, they have undeniably overachieved so far. So are they headed toward being a playoff contender or another disappointing rebuilding year? First, some reasons for optimism and then some for supporters to still be nervous.
Roots of a contender
The Revolution needed a strong replacement head coach for Jay Heaps and they got it in Brad Friedel. While new to the coaching ranks, he is qualified and hungry for success. He brought in a strong staff to join him and has implemented his game plan from day one to make the Revolution a contender every week.
Being biased toward hard work is never a bad thing and Friedel has this as the centerpiece of his philosophy. All the players say this has been the hardest preseason they have ever experienced. Their high press nearly brought down NYCFC and has produced the Revolution’s second-best start in team history. This is truly remarkable given the transitional nature of this season.
It is also encouraging that amidst an awkward and testy standoff with Lee Nguyen, the squad has been 100% committed to Friedel’s philosophy. Players have been fighting for spots every week and, win or lose, they are not complaining about it.
Players such as Teal Bunbury, Jalil Anibaba, and most notably Matt Turner have benefited while players such as Antonio Delemea have surprisingly fallen off the map. But players are working hard and getting results. All this leaves fans considerably more optimistic than they were on March 3rd.
Still a pretender?
Now for the pessimism. The Revolution, arguably, have not done anything yet. They have four wins. One came in the last minute versus Colorado, another on a fluky goal against Kansas City. Another came against a 10-man Impact squad without their star Piatti. Then this past weekend, in 20 minutes of madness, Piatti and the impact waltzed through the Revs defense for four goals. The Revolution fight hard and have been fun to watch but they need some wins against quality Eastern Conference opponents.
This next month provides them that opportunity. Four home games against Toronto, Columbus, Atlanta, and the NY Red Bulls provide a key platform against the league’s best and a critical opportunity to get some points before the summer. It is doubtful they can measure up to a high-flying Atlanta or full-strength Toronto squad just yet but the Friedel era is still very much in its infancy.
He will continue to put his stamp on this team and the summer transfer window will undoubtedly bring a strong addition or two to the squad. The jury is very much still out but if the Revs can get to the start of the World Cup above the red line they will be a playoff contender. If they don’t they won’t. Let the fun begin.