Monday, February 16, 2015

New England Revolution 2015 Season Preview: Strength to (More) Strength

Lee Nguyen is the large brown dot, presumably.
What Happened Last Year
Well, there was MLS Cup. The New England Revolution didn't come close as they did in, say, 2006, when Taylor Twellman scored a goal in extra time, curse broken, etc., only to have Brian Ching cancel it out, literally, a few minutes later (Oh, holy memories, Batman! Joey Franchino taking the field, Clint Dempsey in a Revs jersey, Pat Noonan...Khano Smith...on the assist? Wowsers!). Gawd, to think Seattle bitches about their bad luck (fuckers). At any rate, New England fielded a deceptively exciting squad in 2014 (deceptively, because see their stats), that featured this weird amoebic attack that flowed largely through Lee Nguyen's career season. My memory tells me most the chatter started a year prior when Diego Fagundez and Kelyn Rowe ripped it up, with Juan Agudelo up top (more later), but there they were in 2014, with former forward Teal Bunbury converted to a wide player, Charlie Davies returning to a big stage, Jose Concalves paired with A.J Soares in a fairly effective backline. There was also the mid-season controversy/season-turning signing of Jermaine Jones, too, which arguably catapulted the Revs into MLS Cup. Yep, with so many players popping up on top-of-the-league lists and a deep, exciting run into the playoffs, it was a good year in New England.
Final Stats: 17-13-4, 55 points, 2nd in the East; 51 gf, 46 ga (+5 differential? Seriously?)

What's Happened Since
Stuff, basically. Some good, some bad, but...stuff. A. J. Soares seems pathologically obsessed with getting away, for one, which would open up a pretty considerable hole in New England's backline. The bigger news (so, why is it second?) comes with news of Juan Agudelo's return to the fold after a, frankly, weird odyssey abroad (some details contained herein). This matters because, during his prior stint in New England, Agudelo gave all those midfield players the hold-up play that brightened their shine...again, more later. Anyway, those are the big swings and it's bit players after that (e.g IN: Tristan Bowen, Jeremy Hall; OUT, Patrick Mullins, Dimitry Imbongo). That's no surprise, though, seeing as Robert Kraft, perhaps accidentally, has built one of the most intriguing young squads in MLS today. Period.

What to Expect This Year
There's no reason not to expect more to the same. Right when the question of who would replace A. J. Soares left the tip of my tongue, I pulled up New England's most recent preseason match report where I saw Andrew Farrell’s name right alongside Goncalves'. Hence, Jeremy Hall. And there's Darius Barnes in reserve in central defense and, if I'm not mistaken, right back as well. The point is, the Revs return one hell of a core - and with only 22 players on the current senior roster. And each of those eight empty roster spots count as a present under the Christmas tree if all concerned play their cards right. Hell, if they do it even 50% right, they're still going to be, uh, stacked. What appears above reads a lot like a list of names (some of them clearly no longer relevant), but that's not a bad way to explain the New England Revolution. In spite of having a notoriously tight-fisted owner, New England has produced some seriously quality teams for the past decade. And, for me, this current edition is better than the one I fell in love with during my time in Boston. And now they've brought back Juan Agudelo. I'd beef up on defense if I was Bob Kraft/Jay Heaps. But they seem to be doing fine all on their own.

It's no wonder that most people expect the Revs to compete in 2015. This is a good team.

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