The New England Revolution finished last season in an enviable position: fighting for the league title in the MLS Cup. And now that a brand new year has arrived, some may be expecting a similar type of output from the Revs.
But that’s just not the case, with New England unable to challenge Seattle Sounders in the opener before losing a second straight at the hands of NYCFC. Their team’s latest encounter, facing the Montreal Impact in a home opener at Gillette Stadium, nearly resulted in victory No.1, but when the Revolution pressed hard during their man advantage situation in the second half, the Impact’s back line remained unyielding and preserved a scoreless draw.
These downturned performances are surprising for a team predicated high in the Eastern Conference, one that has changed in some respects–the exit of Sporting Kansas City, the addition of two new expansion sides and a revamped Toronto FC being the notable alterations.
However, it’s unlikely that the East has been varied to the point where a Revs’ postseason birth is out of the question; in fact, if the course of 2014 is any indication, Jay Heaps’ crew is actually on the right track, braving almost identical circumstances compared to a year ago.
The 2014 home opener was abysmal for New England, a 3-0 loss to Houston and the next two games, versus the Philadelphia Union and Vancouver Whitecaps, ended in a loss and draw respectively. The Revolution had failed to score a goal in their first three games. Three points never surfaced until they battled San Jose in the fourth match of March.
Lee Nguyen was the hero in that one, netting the late winner as the crowd at Buck Shaw Stadium was stunned.
The Revolution then rattled off four of their next five competitions unbeaten and were off to the races when Nguyen started hitting his side alongside Jermaine Jones, and we will probably not witness that level of transformation in 2015, although the former Schalke midfielder, working back from hernia injury, could unlock some attacking momentum.
But with what the Revolution have at their disposal in the near future, winning should not be a problem down the stretch, as Juan Agudelo, a proven goal scorer, continues to shake off the rust from a prolonged stretch in free agency.
Nguyen, so spectacular last year, sits in the midst of re-synching with his club team following friendlies as a USMNT player and has been coping with a groin strain for months now.
The team leader in goals (4) during the playoffs last year, Charlie Davies will return from a calf issue and immediately provide New England with more options up front. Heaps will have the ability to use Agudelo on the wing or employ a duel striker formation.
The Revs’ manager is also looking to find the best back line combination due to the departure of the fairly reliable AJ Soares, and while Andrew Farrell has slipped up in the center, he’s forceful at right back, and Darrius Barnes has showed the capability to effectively pair with Jose Goncalves.
A short waiting game to regain form has arisen essentially, and by the middle-to-end of the season, the Revs should be clicking at the right moments.