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At the start of their match vs FC Cincinnati last night, the Revs entered the second half of the MLS regular season.  New England’s 18th match of the season would finish as an entertaining, if frustrating, 2-2 home draw.  The Revs took two separate leads with goals from Dylan Borrero and Gustavo Bou.  Unfortunately a Kessler own goal and a late Brenner equalizer would see the teams share the points.

While it was disappointing to see New England drop points from a winning position, the draw is the 10th game in a row without a loss.

 

As things stand, New England occupies the 7th and final place in the eastern conference playoff picture.  Let’s take this opportunity to analyze some lessons from the 2022 season.

The 2021 Revs were lucky with injuries

2021 was a good season for the Revs.  They won their first league trophy and set a bunch of records in the process.  Having 4 players of a “MLS Best XI” caliber, including the league MVP and the Goalkeeper of the Year, certainly helped in that effort.  What also helped was the Revs having a relatively healthy season.

New England was without star midfielder Carles Gil for 6 matches last season.  Gustavo Bou also missed a pair of matches in September.  Likewise they missed some of their best players for international call ups but, on the whole, the Revs were remained fairly healthy last year.

This season has, of course, been a different beast.  For starters, the Revs lost a trio of star players to Europe. Buchanan left before the season began and Turner and Buksa both left in June. These absences have made it somewhat more difficult to compete at the same level, but compounding that issue has been the plethora of injuries the Revolution have had to deal with in 2022.

Of the 11 “day 1 starters” in New England, only Carles Gil, Tommy MacNamara, and Dejuan Jones have managed to avoid the injury bug. Especially impactful have been the injury-related absences of Gustavo Bou, Matt Polster, and Henry Kessler, who have now missed a combined 21 games.  To say those absences were detrimental would be an understatement.

These injuries have coincided, as I mentioned, with the departures of Turner, Buchanan, and Buksa. At times this season, the lineup on the field has seemed a far cry from the quality on display last season. To that degree, perhaps it’s impressive that New England remains firmly in the playoff hunt.

New England has struggled to hold leads

If the defining difference from the season at large has been squad rotation, the result of that has been blown leads. New England has held a lead in 15 of 18 games this season. They have managed to hold on to win just 6 of those.

Of course, a lot of that can be chalked up to an ever-rotating cast of injury backups and players returning from injury.  Some blame, sure, can be laid at the feet of Omar Gonzalez.  But in addition to the lack of continuity, it seems like the Revs don’t have that killler instinct of last season. New England has conceded 9 goals after the 75th minute in 2022, behind only DC United with 10.  They lead the league in this category for much of the season.  With much of their defense and goalkeeper missing time, New England struggled to keep composure late.

The replacements have lived up to billing

That segues nicely into the next major talking point of the Revs 2022 season so far. With Matt Turner missing most of 2022 with a combination of injury, USMNT duty, and his sale to Arsenal, the Revs have had to make due without the star keeper.  Likewise the sale of Buchanan to Brugge left the Revs lacking a sense of dynamism.  Now, too, Adam Buksa has officially transferred out of New England.

These moves were not unforeseeable.  However, coach/sporting director Bruce Arena opted to use the offseason to bring in veteran depth, with championship experience.  So much of his tenure with New England has focused on getting the Revolution over the hump and to deliver the first MLS Cup to Foxboro.  To that end, his offseason signings were all players that he knew and trusted from teams that had won trophies.

This meant that New England would have to deal with key departures as they arose.  While this may be a somewhat more risky way to build out a roster, New England has had some success so far.

To demonstrate, I don’t even need to look further back than this past week

Tajon Buchanan left for Club Brugge over the winter, and his pace and dynamic abilities on the ball were sorely missed as the Revs slumped through the early season.  The Revs signed Lletget to, on paper, replace Buchanan on the field, but they have very different skill-sets.

Enter Dylan Borrero.  The Revs acquired Borrero on April 22nd from Brazilian side Atletico Miniero.  He has taken no time to adjust to MLS and already looks comfortable taking on defenders.  He has contributed 2 goals and 1 assist in about 400 minutes of play.  The clip above shows his quickness and attacking instincts, both qualities Buchanan excelled at.

Goalkeeper Matt Turner was the next player sold, to Arsenal.  New England had some time to find a replacement.  Turner got injured in preseason, leaving Bruce Arena with a chance to test his roster’s depth.  Backups Brad Knighton and Earl Edwards Jr. both showcased some skill, but niether did enough to replace Turner’s consistency.

To replace Matt Turner’s level of shot-stopping ability, Arena turned to the international market.  Djordje Petrovic did enough with Cukaricki to impress the Revs GK coach, Kevin Hitchcock.  Petrovic has long arms, a quick reaction time, and gets a good push when diving to make saves.  All of those are on display in the above clip from Sunday.

Both of those replacements have been the right signing.  And both were roughly like-for-like with the player they came to replace.  That trend may continue as New England has just signed Albanian striker Giacomo Vrioni to replace Adam Buksa.

If the new players can grow and develop the way that Buksa did, when he arrived, this could be the new model for the Revolution.  Acquire talent.  Develop talent.  Sell for a profit.  Hopefully along the way, the Revs can get a few trophies out of the deal.

 

photo credit: Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports
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