Early in the year — in pre-season, I wrote an article with my “bold-predictions” for the 2023 season. Bold predictions are supposed to be somewhat unlikely, but technically possible. At the end of the year, I think it’s instructive to look back and review how I fared.
For one thing, it’s always funny to look back at Fresh-Faced-And-Full-Of-Optimism-Andy. To see him before the rigors of another Revs season squeezed the optimism out of him. Of course things were going to fall apart! It’s foolish to assume anything else, given the Revs track record.
For another thing, looking back is a good way to really dig-deep on a few specific expectations. It’s a chance to analyze why they made sense at the time, and where they went wrong… if they did.
You can think of it as a way to complete the 2023 season story-arc. One final look-back at the season that was. After all, the offseason is now upon us and, as Revs fans, we have a lot of work to do regain that unbridled offseason optimism ahead of 2024!
Prediction 1: Farrell to Lead All Outfield Players in Minutes
Result: Swing and a Miss
It turns out I had the right position, but the wrong player. Fellow center-back Dave Romney played every minute of the season for the Revs in 2023.
As for my Farrell prediction, things didn’t look good right off the bat.
Okkkkkk let's go pic.twitter.com/XUVQbjUih1— New England Revolution (@NERevolution) February 25, 2023
Dave Romney and Henry Kessler got the nod as the starting CB duo to start the season. What’s more, they looked good! The Revs started the season conceding just 6 goals through their first 7 matches. Four of those goals, mind you, came without Carles Gil on the road at LAFC. They kept 4 clean sheets over that time-frame.
Then, Henry Kessler injured his hamstring in early April, coming off at halftime of an eventual 4-0 beatdown of CF Montreal. That opened up the door for Farrell to get back into the starting lineup.
All told, he would eventually play over 1900 minutes while missing 7 games with injuries of his own.
The logic was there for this prediction. Even though the assumption was that Farrell would take a back seat, his track record almost made him feel inevitable. Injuries blew gaping holes in the Revs back-line, at both center-back and right back. Farrell’s versatility allowed him to fill in at both of those positions.
He also scored a game winning PK in League’s Cup, and really should have had a goal in the regular season too.
Prediction 2: Petrovic breaks GA-xGA Record
Per AmericanSoccerAnalysis, Petrovic finished his MLS season by saving 4.22 goals above expectation.
That’s well short of his record 10.75 ‘goals saved’ from just a year ago. The obvious caveat is that he didn’t play the full season, accepting a transfer to Chelsea over the summer.
To my credit, I wrote in the original piece that a transfer abroad was an obstacle to him re-breaking his MLS GA-xGA record.
Not to my credit – he wasn’t on pace to break it. In fact, he played more minutes this season than he did in 2022 (after joining midway through the year). Per ASA, his 4.22 goals saved is just 21st best GA-xGA per 96 since 2013.
It’s worth noting that that’s still very good. On a per game basis, he had the 3rd best GA-xGA of any keeper in MLS this year behind Daniel (San Jose Earthquakes) and Burki (St Louis CITY).
Combining his 2 seasons in MLS, he holds the #1 (2022, 0.71) and #5 (2023, 0.86) GA/xGA — or goals saved ratio. He conceded just 71% of expected goals in 2022, and just 86% of expected goals in 2023.
Oh, and there’s this.
Djordje Petrvic has the 5th most saves in MLS this season. He hasn’t played in MLS since July 15th. Let that sink in. #NERevs— Andy From Revs Nation (@AndyRevsNation) November 5, 2023
So, why didn’t he produce at the same level this season as he did the year prior, then?
Well, to state the obvious, it was unlikely that he was going to keep up his record setting pace from 2022. Producing at that level for any length of time is going to be extremely hard to keep up.
Compounding that was the fact that Petrovic actually faced slightly easier shots. Even while facing more shots.
In 2022 he faced 2nd most xG per game at 1.77. This stat among goalkeepers with at least 1000 minutes. In 2023, dropped to 1.33 xG per game, 11th highest among GKs with at least 1,000 minutes.
It’s hard to prevent tons of expected goals, if you aren’t facing tons of expected goals.
Prediction 3: Buck to Lead All (non-Carles) Midfielders in Goals
Carles Gil clearly lead all midfielders in goals, as well as the whole team. Buck logged 3 goals in 2023 edging out Borrero, Boateng, Harkes, and Polster for 2nd most from a midfielder.
He should have had 4, as well, if you count beautiful goals that were chalked off for silly reasons.
And I do!
In fairness, that was perhaps the least horrendous of the 3 goals that New England had waved off for an otherwise uninvolved player ‘interfering with the goalkeeper’ (see Andrew Farrell above).
Buck took the step forward that we hoped he would in 2023, capitalizing on the poise we saw from him in 2022. He upped his involvement and physicality, seeing a ~25% increase in his touches/90 while also seeing a ~150% increase in attempted tackles.
These figures could stem from a relatively small sample size in 2022. Or possibly could be due to the variety of positions he played, having contributed all over the midfield.
His success helped propel him to several starts with the England U19s as well as the number 4 spot on MLS’s 22-Under-22 list.
Revolution midfielder Noel Buck played 70 minutes and scored a goal of his own in the England U19 National Team’s 4-2 victory over the U19 Switzerland National Team.— Caleb Pongratz (@CalebPongratz10) September 9, 2023
“Buck played a one-two in midfield before evading a challenge and rifling a shot from outside the box into the… pic.twitter.com/0NU2BHJFv2
Unfortunately for Revs fans, he may have also played his way out of New England, with reported interest from English teams.
I, however, have it on good authority that he will stick around with the Revs and crush it next season. The good authority, in this case, is UNBRIDLED OFFSEASON OPTIMISM FOR 2024!!
Photo Courtesy of the New England Revolution