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Ask Me Anything: New England Revolution preseason questions answered

new england revolution celebrate a goal
New England Revolution forward Teal Bunbury (10) celebrates with forward Cristian Penilla (70), forward Diego Fagundez (14) and midfielder Wilfried Zahibo (23) against the Montreal Impact at Gillette Stadium. (Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports)

The New England Revolution’s offseason comes to a close this week when head coach Brad Friedel and general manager Mike Burns visit Chicago for the annual Major League Soccer Superdraft. Players get back to work soon after on Jan. 21, MLS’ official start date for preseason.

New England has a long way to go to get fully prepared for the 2019 season kickoff March 2 against FC Dallas. That said, Pro Soccer USA reached out to Revolution fans on Twitter to hear their questions and concerns about where things stand as preseason gets underway. For more insight beyond the questions answered below, tweet New England beat writer @JulianCardillo your questions with #RevsAMA.

Pro Soccer USA’s first #RevsAMA:

The biggest thing the New England Revolution have to do in 2019 is make the playoffs. Getting back to the postseason for the first time in three years is critical for just about everyone involved with the organization — management, coaches, players and fans. There are no consolation prizes here. Even winning the U.S. Open Cup doesn’t measure up to reaching the playoffs, which is the barometer of a club’s quality and ability to earn consistent, positive results. 

Without question, the Revolution haven’t had much depth on their back line in recent years, particularly at right back. However, Andrew Farrell is probably best-suited to play the position as of the start of preseason. I think he entered the league with lots of promise after being the first overall pick in the 2013 Superdraft, but suffered from a lack of tactical growth in 2015 when former Revs coach Jay Heaps took him from his typical position at right back and made him into a centerback. Farrell never established himself in the middle and he looked a few steps off when he returned to right back in 2016 and 2017. 

That said, he re-asserted himself last year. He wore the captain’s armband for the first time, improved his crossing and scored his first career goals. He’s the starting right back going into the season, but he will face competition in preseason from Brandon Bye and maybe even Jalil Anibaba, who has spent time at right back in the past.

Andrew Farrell goal

Andrew Farrell’s first professional goal.

I think every position along the back line could use at least one more depth piece — and I’m not talking about a rookie out of the Superdraft that ends up only being a backup in name. I think Farrell, like most players, performs well under pressure and competition in training. Revs coach Brad Friedel said early in his tenure he wanted to provide Farrell with competition, which I think was supposed to happen with Bye, though Bye ended up playing on the left flank due to a lack of depth in that part of the field.

Who knows, with more of a push from Bye or maybe a signing yet to be named, maybe Farrell improves on his solid 2018. As for the United States national team . . . he does have a way to go, but he’s only 26.

New England’s tactics are a big area of concern, particularly because it didn’t seem — at least last year — that there was anything beyond the high press. I do believe the Revs can pull off the high press, but they can’t be going guns blazing trying to get the ball back and score for the entire 90 minutes. Last year, the Revs faded quickly, struggled with build-up and hung their back line out to dry because they overinvested in the high press.

This season’s tactics will depend a lot on the the kind of striker Juan Fernando Caicedo is, though the team nevertheless needs to be able to change its pace and slow down to play possession in the middle through someone like Scott Caldwell, whose best skill is completing passes. That said, central midfield is now another position the Revs are lacking depth, particularly after Kelyn Rowe’s departure.

I think the current plan is for Diego Fagundez and Cristian Penilla to be the playmakers, with Caicedo serving as the spearhead at the end. My guess is we will see a few different formations during preseason so Friedel can best decipher how to deploy his assortment of attacking options.

The Revs seem to have a surplus of players who can score — Penilla, Fagundez, Caicedo, Bunbury — but that doesn’t mean any of them will consistently put the ball in the back of the net. Caicedo is an unknown heading into 2019, while the other three all experienced scoring droughts last year.

Whether Friedel and his staff believe they’ve got their “Taylor Twellman” in Caicedo is unclear. The Revs have said they’re not done adding players this offseason, but I might hold my breath if you’re expecting a Josef Martinez or Wayne Rooney type to arrive in Foxborough.

Another striker is always possible, though at this point the team is lacking depth on the back line, in central midfield, and on the wings.

I have no specific transfer-related information to share as of Jan. 7, though I do believe Cody Cropper could be worth trading for some midfield or defensive depth (or some kind of resource like allocation money) provided Friedel is able to scout a third-string goalkeeper with upside in the Combine. Cropper was brought in to be a starter but never even made the bench in 2018.

The answer to this question depends on how high Penilla and his counterpart are pushed up, though I do think the Revs need to find a quality right winger.

If we’re talking last year’s tactics, there might not be any candidates other than Fagundez and Agudelo.

One season isn’t enough of a sample size to judge Friedel as a coach, though his over-reliance on the high press and his tendency to over-sell transfers have both been worrisome. He’s on the hot seat for sure if he can’t get the Revolution to the postseason in 2019, but there are also things out of his control, such as having a scouting department that’s still in development and budgetary restrictions.

It seemed the Kraft family hit the nail on the head when it found a way to acquire Jermaine Jones in 2014, right? That transfer helped boost attendance, created a city-wide fervor about the Revolution in Boston and played a key role in getting the team to MLS Cup.

Unfortunately, the Krafts haven’t made a Jones-type transaction since. I don’t think it matters where, necessarily, a quality player comes from so long as he’s quality. Who knew anything about Miguel Almiron and Josef Martinez before they showed up in MLS?

The stadium situation isn’t get resolved any time soon, though the Revs have shown they can draw good crowds and succeed in MLS if they put out a quality team. Quality teams have quality players.

I love this question. Fabio Borini, Mattia Destro and Diego Perotti are all experienced, quality players who could make positive impacts with most teams. By the way, one of those aforementioned players was offered to MLS on a free transfer, but multiple teams balked. 

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