The Revs had a rocky start to 2022. After starting strong, earning a point at MLS Cup finalists Portland Timbers, then winning at home vs Dallas, things took a turn for the worse. From March 12th through April 23rd, the Revs lost 5 of 6 league matches. In those defeats, they allowed 13 goals for a per game average of 2.6 goals against per game. Since then, things have started, slowly, to trend in the right direction.
What was, perhaps, strangest about that section of heavy losses in March and April, was that the team was performing well in most statistical categories.
#NERevs also statistically good defensively at: aerial win percentage (7th best in MLS), tackles vs the dribble (2nd), pressure success rate (9th).
They do slump towards the bottom in terms of total pressures (5th fewest in MLS)
— Andy From Revs Nation (@AndyRevsNation) May 2, 2022
Since April 30th, the results appear to have caught up with the stats. New England have gone 3-1-3 in their last 7 matches, putting them within striking distance of the playoff positions. While the results have been better, there’s a marked sense among fans that the team is still under-performing.
This brings me to the crux of this article. In the course of my usual researching, I came across an astounding stat.
The Revs only allowed 12 shots on target in the month of May.
Since April 29th (I wasn’t able to find “stats-by-month” anywhere) they have the second fewest shots-on-target allowed. Only NYCFC allowed fewer shots on frame than the New England Revolution. Big whoop, you might say. That’s not that confounding a stat, you might say.
On those 12 shots on target in May, they conceded 7 goals. That’s a conversion rate of 58%. They conceded on shots-on-target at the 5th worst rate in MLS since the end of April.
So, what’s going on here?
I’ll admit, my first thought upon reading these numbers was “this is not good for Matt Turner fans”. The overwhelming narrative since Turner’s return from injury has been that he doesn’t look the same as he did last season. That he’s lost a step. That, perhaps, the USMNT should look elsewhere as they prepare for the World Cup.
The main justification for that mindset, as far as I can tell, is that the Revolution are allowing lots of goals. The Revs have the 5th highest goals allowed per 90 in the league, after all. It stands to reason that with numbers like that, the goalkeeper isn’t doing enough to earn national team call-ups.
Seeing as those 7 goals allowed in the month of May encapsulate the sum total of goals conceded by Matt Turner in 2022, it seemed easy enough to take a look at all of them case by case. Now, having gone back and rewatched those goals, it’s clear that they fall into 3 categories.
Little Bit o’ Luck/Lotta Bit o’ Skill
THIAGO ALMADA D⚽️N'T STOP ‼️ pic.twitter.com/9uBkaxndX3
— Atlanta United FC (@ATLUTD) May 15, 2022
The lone goal that fits this category is Thiago Almada’s banger vs New England on May 15th. The deflected ball landing right at his feet combined with the quick shot taken with power catches basically everyone off guard. I don’t think there’s much blame to go around, here, as the defense is still in decent position even after the cross gets deflected. It’s just a great shot, from distance, taken quickly.
— The Crew (@ColumbusCrew) May 8, 2022
Miguel Berry’s goal at New England represents a moment of disorganization from the Revs. It begins with a turn-over in the midfield and Pedro Santos comes away with it. In that moment of transition, Farrell, Kessler, and Jones are all marking Yaw Yeboah at the top of the 18. There is nobody (and I mean nobody) on the left defensive side of the field. This allows Derrick Etienne Jr. to receive a pass with an acre of space and pick out a cross into the box. From there, Berry gets a step inside of Andrew Farrell and it’s in the back of the net.
The pancakes have officially kicked in. pic.twitter.com/jx9vUnsvDH
— FC Cincinnati (@fccincinnati) May 21, 2022
This clip shows the gravity that Lucho Acosta has. It also shows how ill-equipped the Revolution are when facing players with that type of skill. Acosta’s dribbling draws the attention of 3 Revolution players, pulling them out of position. This includes Brandon Bye, who finds himself unable to close down Nelson in time to prevent a cross, as a result. From there MacNamara loses his man and Gonzalez fails to jump to prevent a free header for Vasquez.
This connection is STRONG 💪
🇦🇷 Almada ➡️ Araújo 🇧🇷 pic.twitter.com/9dz8hBZpLS
— Atlanta United FC (@ATLUTD) May 15, 2022
I very nearly put this goal in the skill/luck category above. I don’t want to take anything away from Atlanta United here, this is a well worked sequence. The five-stipes used quick off ball movement and pinpoint passing to render the Revs defense completely ineffective. It takes a lot of skill and some luck to pull this off. However, there are also some individual errors that come into play here. Araujo leaves the usually speedy Ema Boateng in his dust. Because it all comes together quickly Turner is slow to come off his line and Andrew Farrell is caught in no-mans land. A first time finish ensures the Revs can’t do a thing about it.
No quit in this team. 💪 pic.twitter.com/LcDo39BYTh
— FC Cincinnati (@fccincinnati) May 22, 2022
It’s a pair of individual errors here, with Brandon Bye’s being the more egregious of the two. Dejuan Jones is working up the sideline against Dom Badji, and loses his individual battle. His goal here is to limit the potential for a cross, and while he fights him to the end line, Badji is able to make enough space to get the ball away. This is where Bye needs to be more aware of his surroundings. In the end, this cut back flies right into the middle of the box past Brandon Bye who is marking…air? The player he ought to have been marking, Barreal, is alone with about 15 ft of space around him in every direction. It’s not an easy finish, but it’s made all the easier by the lack of any pressure whatsoever from Bye.
— Major League Soccer (@MLS) May 8, 2022
This is similar to the above goal, with Jones allowing the cross but this time with Gonzalez getting beat to the ball. I nearly put this in the “structural breakdown” category as it begins with the Revs leaving huge gaps of space on the flanks. Jones begins this sequence, as he did in the other Crew goal, too far central to deal with Etienne on the right sideline. This leaves him playing catch-up as Etienne takes the space in front of him. As a result Jones is unable to force Etienne into a poor crossing position. The real letdown here, for me, is Gonzalez just plain-old-fashioned getting beat to the ball by Erik Hurtado. Gonzalez should be able to deal with a cross from that far away, even with the pace it had.
Capitalize on opponents mistakes.
— PhilaUnion (@PhilaUnion) May 29, 2022
I’m sure I don’t need to tell you who is to blame for this goal. And no, it’s not Matt Turner. Gonzalez tries to clear the ball across the goal, but mishits it and it falls right to Uhre. Add it to the ever growing list of Gonzalez-caused goals, and move along I suppose.