Happy new year, Revolution faithful! Yesterday we flipped the calendar to January 2023, which brings us ever closer to the beginning of the MLS season on February 25th.
This year will bring a lot of new wrinkles to your MLS and Revolution media consumption. For starters, all league matches will be broadcast via Apple TV, with no local OTA coverage. MLS signed a 10 year deal with the Silicon Valley giants that starts on February 1st. With all but select matches behind a paywall, it remains to be seen how MLS will attract new viewers.
Additionally, the league will take a pause from its regular season schedule in the summer to host the inaugural Leagues Cup. This tournament will pit every club from MLS and Liga MX against one another to crown an ultimate champion… or something.
The new year also represents a chance at a fresh start for clubs looking to improve upon last season’s results. The Revs certainly fall into that category. With that in mind, here are some New Year’s Resolutions I think the Revs should consider in 2023.
For the Defense: Concede Fewer Penalties
New England’s biggest win of 2022 didn’t occur on the pitch. It was, I think easily, plucking Djordje Petrovic from Serbia’s FK Cucaricki and using him to replace 2021 MLS GKotY Matt Turner. He’s been nothing short of spectacular so far with New England. By some metrics, he had the best season any MLS keeper has ever had, in spite of joining midway through 2022.
With 0.71 goals conceded for every expected goal, he takes the 2nd spot, all time, in American Soccer Analysis’ shotstopping metrics (min 500 minutes). Using the same parameters, he leads all keepers in goals minus expected goals.
A lot of that had to do with the whopping 4 penalty saves he made in his 6 months in New England. Each penalty kick has an expected return of about 0.78 goals. His penalty saves alone delivered 3.12 of his league leading 10.75 GA-xGA.
Petrovic with the penalty kick save!
This one's still level at 0-0. pic.twitter.com/P4WdjITP4n
— Major League Soccer (@MLS) September 14, 2022
While Petrovic excelled against shots-from-the-spot, I bet he’d rather not have had to face so many. The Revs defense conceded a league worst 12 penalties in 2022. That’s twice the league average.
Injuries forced New England to shuffle their starters around frequently, but that can’t be the excuse here. In a league with tight margins, conceding even just an average number of PKs could make a huge difference in both results and in the standings.
For Giacomo Vrioni: Prove he’s worth the DP spot
New England spent a lot of resources during the 2022 season trying to replace the outgoing talent from their 2021 Supporters Shield run. Petrovic was a key acquisition to replace Matt Turner after he left for Arsenal. Likewise Dylan Borrero was brought in from Brazil’s Serie A to replace Tajon Buchanan’s speed and technical skill. Both players looked the part by the early summer.
That’s why, when striker Adam Buksa made his way to Ligue 1 in June, expectations were high for Juve’s Giacomo Vrioni as a replacement.
— New England Revolution (@NERevolution) July 5, 2022
Those expectations had some substance to them. He was the leading scorer in the Austrian Bundesliga the season prior, a league that seems to translate well to MLS. He also profiles as a tall physical striker who can score with his head and both feet.
Unfortunately, things didn’t quite work out the way we’d all hoped for him in 2022.
Uh, this is a bit concerning from Vrioni.
Any good No. 9 immediately recognizes that when possession has slid out to the overlapping fullback, you've got to get into the box.
Hell, he should've been there even before Bou made that pass. pic.twitter.com/d7OU8LMRp5
— Matthew Doyle (@MattDoyle76) September 18, 2022
He scored just once, from the PK spot, and received criticism from fans and analysts alike after missing multiple sitters.
Personally, I think it’s reasonable to expect more from him in 2022. He came into the Revs mid-season (his offseason) and barely had time to acclimate to the league before sustaining a multi-month injury. I think some some shakiness in front of net, and a lack of chemistry with his teammates can be forgiven.
Hopefully with a full health and full preseason, he can regain some of the form that attracted the attention of Juventus and the Revs alike.
For Bruce Arena: Develop Bolma into the next Tajon
There is still time before the 2023 season kicks off. I feel like some of you need to hear that.
It feels like there’s no time left because there’s been near radio silence from the Revs camp since the end of the 2022 campaign. The only signings to-date are Bobby Wood as a selection in the re-entry draft and first round SuperDraft selection Joshua Bolma. The former signed with the Revs after an injury plagued season with Real Salt Lake, and the latter signed a contract with Adidas before the draft. By virtue of selecting Bolma with the #4 overall pick, he joins the Revs on a 3 year contract that will cost New England nothing but an international slot.
Arena has hinted at perhaps bringing in another player to join the midfield, in a defensive role, but no moves have materialized as of yet. This means, that unless the Revs remain completely healthy in 2023, young players are going to get minutes.
Bolma is an attacker that can play centrally as well as out wide. He’s known for his pace and ability on the ball. That said, he’s a bit raw and will need some time to acclimate to the level of MLS.
If that sounds familiar, it’s because it’s not too dissimilar to the profile of another former Revolution Generation Adidas draft selection: Tajon Buchanan.
Buchanan was an electric talent in college, playing for Syracuse, before the Revolution Drafted him in the first round. Over the course of 3 years he developed into one of the premier wingers in MLS, and eventually into a World Cup starter with Canada.
Bruce Arena, and his staff, no doubt had a large role in developing him. The hope is that lightning can strike twice and that Bolma can make an impact with the first team. With the lack of offseason movement, he may need to do so as early as this season.