The Revs continued their rough stretch of form this past week, settling for draws at both Atlanta United and NYCFC.
As a result, they are now winless in their last 6 matches in all competitions.

Those 6 matches very nearly align with the absence of winger Dylan Borrero, who has been out with a season-ending knee injury for the past 7 games.

New England’s sudden downturn in results shouldn’t be attributed to a single factor.  The Revs are dealing with a bevy of injuries, absences, downturns in player form, poorly officiated games, and uneven scheduling.  Of those factors, however, Dylan Borrero’s injury is easily the most impactful.

Given that he will miss the rest of the season (and that we now have enough of a sample size to make some arguments), I thought it would be interesting to address the question:  Is the Revolution’s 2023 season doomed without Dylan Borrero?  Can they reasonably compete for trophies this season in his absence?


Join me as I argue with myself…


Doomed!!!

I don’t need a bunch of fancy advanced statistics to prove that the Revolution have suffered greatly by losing Dylan Borrero to a knee injury on April 29th.  I need only direct your attention to the scoreboard.

Record Speaks for Itself

If we exclude the match vs. Cincinnati, where Borrero got hurt, the surrounding results are night and day.  Before Borrero’s injury vs. FC Cincinnati, New England had cruised to a 6-1-2 record.  That’s a 2.22 points-per-game pace.  New England set the all-time MLS points record in 2021 while finishing the season at 2.15 points per game.

Since his injury?  New England has fallen down to just 1.0 point-per-game after amassing a 1-2-3 record in that time frame, not exactly against a tough schedule, either.  Four of those six opponents currently sit below 22nd (out of 29) in the MLS league table.

Stats

Their goals have dipped from 1.67 goals-per-match to 1.5.  Meanwhile, their goals-conceded has skyrocketed in recent weeks from 0.89 goals-allowed-per-match to a disgraceful 1.83.  That recent pace would be the worst in the league, extrapolated to the full season.

In the most recent 6 matches, after Borrero’s injury, New England has just 9.83 shots per match.  Before the Cincinnati game, the Revs were averaging 13.22 shots per match.  That’s roughly a ~25% decrease in shots.   It’s even worse for shots-on-target, with the Revs experiencing a 43% dip in on-target shots per match (5.56 to 3.17) after Borrero’s injury.

I could go on and on, but trust me when I say that in almost every meaningful basic teamwide-statistic, the Revs have been worse since losing Borrero.

That shouldn’t be surprising, either.  Borrero was maybe the most willing player New England had to take on defenders 1v1.  He was dynamic and unpredictable, which made him hard to defend against.  Opponents had to devote extra attention and extra defenders to his side of the field when he had the ball.  That had the knock-on effect of freeing up space for New England’s other players.


Also, he can do this:


That’s something the Revs are really lacking without him.  You’ve gotten a few great goals from Gil and Buck, but that kind of quality has clearly been missing.

Not Doomed!!!

I’ll start this section off by saying this: the season is long.  Form ebbs and flows for all but the best (or worst) teams in MLS over the course of a full season.  A 6-game rough patch isn’t ideal, but it certainly isn’t season-destroying if the Revolution can bounce back soon.

Tough Schedule

Part of the reason that teams will have good stretches and bad stretches throughout the season is due to the way games are scheduled.  MLS famously has wide home-road splits.  It’s much harder to win on the road than at home in this league.  That’s been true this season, with MLS teams averaging 1.76 points per game at home while averaging just 0.97 points per game on the road.

New England’s poor run of form over the last 6 matches happens to coincide with a stretch of the schedule in which the Revs played 5 of 6 matches on the road.

Another feature of the ebb-and-flow nature of form within MLS is that the standings don’t always tell the full story.  Your opponent may be in last place, but also surging with 4 wins in 6 matches after getting some players back healthy.  Looking at you, Sporting KC.

Conversely, your opponent may sit near the top of their conference but may also be dealing with injuries and a road-heavy schedule.  Or maybe their head coach may refuse to start their designated player striker in favor of a former USMNT’er who hasn’t done anything to justify his paycheck.


Sound familiar, Revs fans?

Vibes are often a more important factor than stat junkies and data analysts would prefer to admit.  Momentum counts.  That’s why I like to use the “vibes-friendly” power rankings to help decode opponent caliber.



Above are charts showing the power rankings of each of New England’s opponents in the week that they faced them.  The first chart shows matches before Borrero’s injury, whereas the second chart shows matches after.

Not only were most of the recent slate of poor results coming on the road, the average quality of the opponent was slightly higher than earlier in the season.  The average pre-match power ranking over the last 6 matches was 15.16, which represents a higher level of quality than the average of 16.56 from New England’s first 9 matches.  The lowest-ranked team played over the past month was Chicago at 24th.  Over their first 9 matches, the Revs played 4 teams ranked 24th or lower.

These facts don’t excuse the poor performances, but more formidable opponents on the road are harder to beat than easier ones at home.

Injuries, Injuries Everywhere

Another compounding factor for the Revs’ dip in form is their long list of absences.  Losing Borrero was always going to be a tough hurdle to overcome in a vacuum.

But New England doesn’t play in a vacuum.  We don’t get to see what this team would look like if it was only missing Dylan Borrero.


That’s because the Revs are also missing…like, kind of everybody?


I went into injuries at length last week, so that I won’t belabor any points.  I will bring up the fact that New England was missing as many as 7 players (not including Borrero) since his injury.  These included DPs Gustavo Bou and Giacomo Vrioni as well as stalwarts Brandon Bye, Henry Kessler, and Noel Buck.  9 other players have missed time since Borrero left the match against Cincinnati, and that was never going to make things easy.

More Stars Available

While it certainly hasn’t been good for the Revs since April 29th, they have somewhat stopped the bleeding.  After two road losses and a home draw, New England picked up back-to-back road points in very tough environments within the last week.  Neither were pretty, but sometimes picking up tough points is enough to help right a sinking ship.

Both matches required the Revolution’s other star players to step up.

Carles Gil put in a Player-of-the-Matchday performance on the road against Atlanta United this past Wednesday.


His first-minute goal gave the Revs the lead, and his 90+3 minute goal stole an unlikely point for New England.


Meanwhile, on Saturday, on the postage-stamp-sized outfield of Yankee Stadium, Djordje Petrovic stood on his head to keep his 6th clean sheet of the campaign.


His 5 saves on the night earned him Team-of-the-Matchday honors and included amazing, acrobatic diving saves like this:


Missing Borrero is, undoubtedly, a huge blow to this team.  Not having him available lowers the team’s ceiling.

But the Revs do have other stars to cover for his absence.  Will those stars be enough to lift New England to a trophy in 2023?  I think it’s possible, especially if the rest of the roster can get healthy.

You Decide

Which argument did you find more compelling?


Give it a vote on Twitter below:


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