The air is crisp. The leaves are changing. The smell of pumpkin spice emanates from every open cafe window. It must be that special time of year when an out-of-the-playoffs-Revs team travel to Chicago to play a meaningless match against an also-eliminated-Chicago Fire team.
Breathe it in.
It is somewhat sad that there will be no Revolution matches to watch until next year. However, with the World Cup being played in the fall this year, there will be plenty to keep the avid soccer fan busy. And, what’s more, it gives us plenty of time to reflect on the season that was.
Rationale vs Reality
All of my predictions come from mid-February 2021. The Revs had just won the Supporters Shield. Wordle was sweeping the nation. It was a simpler time.
As such, my predictions tended to brim with optimism. I wasn’t necessarily alone. Most pundits predicted a top 1-4 season from New England. The Revs were sooo much better than the rest of the league last season, after all, that they could afford to get worse. They could afford to take a step backwards, drop some points here and there, and still be among the elite in MLS. That was the thought, anyway.
As we now know, that may have been a bit too rosy a prediction for a team that relied heavily on the top tier talent that they knew they couldn’t hang onto forever. That said, keep in mind the time and place these predictions came from.
Prediction Number 1: Carles Gil will triple his 2021 goals output.
The rationale here was simple. Carles Gil scored just 4 times in 2021. Triple that and you’d end up with 12 goals as a target for 2022. He scored 10 goals in his inaugural season with the Revs in 2019, so it didn’t seem farfetched he could surpass that in 2022. The Revs also took very few penalty kicks in 2021, and with Carles as the team’s primary PK-taker, regression to the mean would only help boost his numbers. Combine this with the expected departure of Adam Buksa, and the increased goalscoring pressure that places on the midfield, and 12 goals seems very reasonable.
Right idea, wrong number. He nearly doubled his goals, bagging 7 in 2022, but didn’t quite rise to my lofty prediction.
The Revs did end up taking (and conceding!) more penalty kicks in 2022. In fact, Carles Gil scored as many goals just from the PK spot this season, as he did in total last season. It could have been higher, but he did pass off some PK work to both Gustavo Bou and Giacomo Vrioni through the season.
— Major League Soccer (@MLS) June 16, 2022
Gil also took on more goal-scoring responsibility in 2022. He saw his total shots rise by about a third in 2022 up to 69 scoring attempts, 26th most in the league. He would find the back of the net on three of those.
In the end all of the goal-scoring production I expected would fall to Gil, after Buksa left, ended up kind of falling to… nobody? With so many injuries and so many absences, the team’s entire attack took a hit.
Prediction Number 2: The Revolution Will Be Playing A 4-2-3-1 by Midseason
There were already rumblings, by this point, that Adam Buksa wasn’t going to remain a Rev for the full season. Seeing as the 4-4-2 diamond was put in place in order to accommodate both Bou and Buksa being on the field at the same time, it follows that losing one of them would make a 4-2-3-1 a more suitable formation.
The added benefit of the 4-2-3-1 is that it allows the defensive midfielder (usually Matt Polster) to have a partner. When New England played good teams, they struggled up the middle of the field. Mostly because Polster just had to cover so much ground, often left to cover 2 or even 3 attacking players. Adding a second D-mid would make New England tougher to play through.
The Revs did, indeed, switch away from the 4-4-2 diamond formation. Both earlier than I thought they would, and much later than they needed to. Gustavo Bou spent a large chunk of the early season on the bench injured. This meant that New England really only had Adam Buksa as a primary striker.
That didn’t stop Arena from trying to roll Jozy Altidore or Justin Rennicks out there next to Buksa (or eachother) in a 4-4-2. By the time the Revolution did make the switch to a single striker formation, substantial damage had already been done.
Further injuries would cause Arena to roll out a slightly different lineup/formation week to week as the season went on. Oftentimes that was a 4-2-3-1 but occasionally a 4-3-3 as well. With a mid-year focus on acquiring wingers, it seems like a 4-2-3-1 may be the formation of choice for 2023.
Prediction Number 3: Adam Buksa is Sold for $12M
The rumors from Revolution media that Adam Buksa could leave New England were in full swing even mid-way through 2021. The Polish striker had put it all together in Foxboro, scoring 16 times and assisting 4 times last year. Add in his performances with his national team, and interest was virtually assured. Add in the fact that Adam made no bones about his desire to return to Europe, and it seemed inevitable he would leave.
It seems like Adam Buksa just doesn’t miss lately.💥
— Major League Soccer (@MLS) May 26, 2022
As for the valuation? $12M seems high, but given his performance in 2021 and existing offers the Revs FO had turned down, it wasn’t out of the question. Bruce Arena and Co. apparently had a valuation of $10-15M for Buksa, and given how much Ricardo Pepi had sold for just a month before time of writing, $15 seemed more than possible.
Right idea, wrong number yet again. Buksa signed a deal with RC lens in June. Reports vary, but the gist appears to be about ~$10M after bonuses. It was one of 3 major sales from the Revs in 2021. Ultimately, not having Buksa would prove to be damaging to the Revs attack in ways they never truly recovered from.
— Seth (@SethMan31) October 9, 2022
New players have arrived to replace Buksa, Turner, and Buchanan. More players came in and went out over the summer. With rumors now swirling about Dejuan Jones, and Bruce Arena indicating 4-5 more starters to be added, there’s plenty of instability in New England. The hope is that the team can build rapport with a full offseason, and hit the ground running in 2023.