Two weeks, 10 goals, and the inevitable conversation: Is the New England Revolution now the best team in Major League Soccer? Over the last two weeks, the Revs certainly have been, following up a 5-0 win over the Seattle Sounders with today’s 5-3 rout of Philadelphia. The question is: How sustainable are these results?
Let’s set that aside for now and talk about the contrast between this result and Wednesday’s, when Philadelphia was able to take a 2-1 win out of Sporting Park in Kansas City. Before that game, John Hackworth’s side was seen as one of the worst in the league, but after a road win over the defending champs, the potential we noticed in the season’s first weeks was again shining through. Maybe the Union weren’t as bad as we thought.
On Saturday, the defense gave us reason to think otherwise. An early goal was surrendered when Austin Berry overran A.J. Soares. Diego Fagundez doubled the lead in the middle of the half. A scorching hit from Vincent Nogueira pulled one goal back, but then the second half onslaught: Lee Nguyen getting the best of Raymon Gaddis and Berry; Chris Tierney’s fine but too easy direct kick; Patrick Mullins scoring in his third straight. Though the Union would add a second through Sheanon Williams late, this game felt almost as lopsided as the Seattle result. Sébastien Le Toux’s late penalty conversation was practically irrelevant.
Given we’ve seen a New England outburst two weeks in a row (against teams at the opposite ends of the MLS spectrum), focusing on what Philadelphia couldn’t do should probably wait until we figure out why Nee England has been so successful. Better yet, why are the Revs all of a sudden so successful? After a slow start to the season and a series of ground out results, how has this team been able to put up 10 goals in the last two games of this surprise four-match winning streak?
Though there’s been a shuffle at the back, the big changes seem to be in the middle and up top. Lee Nguyen, dangerous throughout the season, has gone from effective to imposing, potentially striking a more potent balance with Daigo Kobayashi then he did with Kelyn Rowe. Whereas there was a sense of Maverick and Iceman when the emerging UCLA talent was in midfield, Kobayashi may be a better Goose.
Up top, getting Teal Bunbury wide, Patrick Mullins in, and Saer Sene out has completely balanced the attack. Rather than starting a player who is only effective cutting into the middle, New England has somebody who seems capable of playing (or, willing to play) wide. Combining with better balance via Kobayashi and stronger striker play from Mullins, that means more space for Nguyen, more chances to play direct, and players who can better take advantage of opportunities in transition.
At least, that’s one theory. The extent to which it’s true may determine whether this run is sustainable. If there really is a method to this madness (and 10 goals in two weeks is sure madness), New England is a true contender. If this is just a strong streak that will fade this summer, it’s still gotten New England to the top of the East. With this attacking talent, Jay Heaps may come up with another trick before the season’s out.