On Saturday, the Revs mostly fumbled their way through a 2-1 victory at Orlando City SC in their final preseason tune-up.  It was a tale of 2 halves for New England.  The first half was marked by poor passing accuracy, bad giveaways and subsequent heroics from Djordje Petrovic.  He saved everything thrown his way, with the exception of an Ivan Angulo rebound that Brandon Bye should have done better with.

In the second half, the Revs got what they needed from the substitutes.  Vrioni, who didn’t start this one, got the Revolution’s first goal and forced an own goal for New England’s second.  Trialist (!!) Ema Boateng came on in the second half and looked as dangerous as he always does, contributing the assist on Vrioni’s goal.  Noel Buck also entered in the second stanza and generally looked like a high level central midfielder.

With the final preseason game in the books we’re onto the regular season!  The next time we see the Revs play will be the season opener against Charlotte FC on Saturday.  This gives me just enough time to squeak my bold predictions in just under the wire.  Let’s go!

Andrew Farrell Leads All Outfield Players in Minutes

Why It’s Bold

On its face, this doesn’t sound all that bold.  Andrew Farrell, after all, leads all Revolution players in minutes played for the club.  All time.  Full stop.

There are, however, a few facts that make this take just a bit spicier.  The first is that Farrell, despite being a mainstay last season, didn’t play the most minutes for the Revs in 2022.  That honor goes to team captain Carles Gil.

The second reason is… well… didn’t they just bring in another starting caliber center back?  Farrell has been a mainstay with New England playing well over 26,000 regular season minutes for the club.  He’s managed to do that mostly by being consistent and staying heathy.

And by being 30.

Not the oldest CB in the league, by any stretch, but in all those years he’s been able to log an impressive number of minutes.  Time catches up with us all, especially those who have consistently played.  Arena seemed to be cognizant that relying on Andrew for 3,000 minutes in 2023 might not be the best idea.  As a result they’ve brought in Dave Romney from Nashville SC, where he was a starter for one of the best defenses in the league over the past 3 seasons.

Romney also featured heavily for the Revs in preseason, taking on the second most minutes during offseason preparations.

This seems to indicate that Bruce Arena views him as a starter on day one.  Between Romney, Kessler, and Farrell the Revolution have 3 capable center backs that they can rotate in and out.  This should mean less minutes for Farrell.

Why It’s Possible

We keep saying it.  “Andrew Farrell can’t possibly put in 2,500+ minutes this season.  He’s old, getting slower, and has a million miles on his legs.  No way he’s a full time starter this year, right?”  Well, you’d have lost that bet every year of his career, with the exception of a Covid Shortened 2020.

I’m also not convinced that Farrell is the odd man out with addition of Romney to the roster.  With Henry Kessler’s injury history and Farrell’s excellent relationship with goalkeeper Djordje Petrovic, there’s a real chance that Bruce views Farrell as a starter in 2023.

Djordje Petrovic Breaks (his own) MLS G-xG Record

Why It’s Bold

Well, I mean it’s a record.  Those don’t get broken every day.  We know that Petrovic is capable.  In fact, he set the record last season in just over 2,000 minutes.

But we also know playing at a high level for one season is much easier to accomplish than doing so over a multiple year stretch.  Petrovic saved 10.75 goals above expectation last season, by the advanced metrics, best in the history of the league.  He conceded on just 71% of expected goals, the second best mark in league history (behind Tim Melia’s 69%).  These are historically good numbers.  But they’re hard to replicate.

Only 2 other keepers in MLS history (since 2012 when they started keeping this stat) have ever had more than 1 season concededing on 80% or fewer expected goals in a season.  Those 2 players are Matt Turner and Andre Blake.

Also working against this preditions is the idea that he might very well not finish the year out in New England.  Good MLS players are never a given to stay in MLS.  The Revs are, of course, no strangers to this concept having sold 3 stars to Europe last year.  The rumors surrounding Petrovic are already heating up, with Premier League giants Manchester United already reportedly sniffing around.

Why It’s Possible

I mean, he’s really good.  He might not even need to play in New England for a full season.

One of the ways in which Petrovic was able to rack up such monstrous G-xG numbers in 2022 was by facing a large number of high xG shots.  Between penalties and complete defensive lapses, the Revolution gave up a ton of chances to opposing teams last season.

That trend may continue this year, if preseason is anything to go off.  New England conceded 8 goals in 5 preseason matches this year, or about 1.6 goals per game.  This is actually a slightly worse mark than the 1.47 they gave up last season.

Now, that’s preseason, so we shouldn’t necessarily put too much stock in those numbers.

But even if New England is going to give up chances close to the rate they did last season Petrovic will have plenty of opportunity to prove he’s the best.  Given how the Revs defense and, more importantly, how Petrovic looked against Orlando, he might just do it.

Noel Buck Leads all (Non Carles) Midfielders in Goals

Why It’s Bold

Quite simply the Revs have plenty of midfielders all vying for minutes.  Carles Gil, Matt Polster, Latif Blessing, Tommy McNamara, Maciel, Jack Panayotou, Esmir Bajraktarevic, Nacho Gil, Dylan Borrero, and Damian Rivera will all be competing with Noel Buck for starts and minutes.

Furthermore, I think the smart money probably has U23-Initiative winger Dylan Borrero to score the most goals, behind Carles Gil. He was excellent in limited minutes last season, and his 201 minutes per goal was 3rd best on the team.

Why It’s Possible

Borrero only played 602 minutes last year.  He spent much of last year out with an injury, which is why he only scored 3 times last season.  Given that history he could well miss time again, opening up significant minutes for a player like Buck.

From what we’ve seen last season and in preseason so far, we know that Noel Buck can absolutely hang in this league.  Furthermore, he’s got a good deal of positional flexibility which gives him plenty of opportunities to come in off the bench for Bruce Arena’s team.

I envision many of the younger players getting more of an opportunity this season.  Jack Panayotou got the start in the Revs final preseason game, which speaks volumes about how Arena views the 18 year old.  Buck, Rivera, and Bajraktarevic all made appearances on and off last season and showed well in those appearances.

For me, Buck looks like the most complete player of the bunch.  I could easily see him taking over that Tommy McNamara “utility midfielder” role for the Revs early in the season. That was a role that netted 4 goals in 2022.

If Buck can start to see regular minutes off the bench early in the season, it could lead to an even bigger role down the stretch.  And, given what we’ve seen so far, I think he may well take full advantage of the opportunity if it’s given.

 

Photo Credit: New England Revolution
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