Two months ago, the New England Revolution could not have been compared to the club’s 2005 team that started the season on an 11-game unbeaten run and reached the MLS Cup final.
At the time, the Revs were stuck in the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings, 2-8-2 with four losses in five home games, a porous back line and a toothless attack.
But that was then.
The Revolution can tie that 2005 team’s club record for longest regular-season unbeaten streak when they host Orlando City SC Saturday night.
New England’s transformation has a clear start date: May 9, when it fired former head coach Brad Friedel.
Less than 48 hours later, the club defeated the San Jose Earthquakes 3-1 to snap a four-game winless run that saw the Revs’ goal differential drop to a league-worst -19.
No team has conquered the Revolution in a regular season match since then.
“Bruce came and he gave all of us huge confidence,” said New England central defender Antonio Delamea, who has scored twice during the team’s unbeaten run. “He really made a team out of us.”
Still, no one seems satisfied with sitting seventh in the Eastern Conference.
A playoff-qualifying ranking seemed unattainable in the spring when the Revs were losing games by three-, four- and five-goal margins, but the players and Arena say there needs to be more improvement. The team’s unbeaten streak has instilled players with more confidence, and surpassing the 2005 record isn’t the endgame.
“Before, I think if we won a game, we were all happy,” Diego Fagundez said. “Now, we win games and I don’t think we’re satisfied, and that’s always good to see.”
Certain similarities to the 2005 Revs are hard to overlook.
The team’s record during the 11-game unbeaten streak in 2005 was 6-0-5. The 2019 Revolution will match that record during their streak if they tie Orlando.
Both teams had role players, too. Taylor Twellman was the go-to attacker in 2005 and went on to be named MLS MVP, All-Star Game MVP and the league’s golden boot winner. During the 11-game streak, Twellman scored six goals and had two assists.
This year, Carles Gil has been involved in 10 of the team’s goals during the streak. He has four goals and six assists.
The 2005 team also had a streaky goal scorer: Clint Dempsey. He scored in five consecutive games during the unbeaten run. This year, Teal Bunbury has scored in five of his last six games.
New England scored 21 goals in the first 11 games of the 2005 season. In the last 10 games, the Revolution have scored 19.
Defensively, the current team is going toe-to-toe with the record of the 2005 team that was helmed at the back by Michael Parkhurst and Jay Heaps. In 2005, the Revolution conceded eight goals in their first 11 games. The Revs can tie that mark Saturday if they hold Orlando scoreless.
“I think we have a lot of confidence,” midfielder Wilfried Zahibo said. “When we win, the group works, we know the confidence is here, and it’s more easy when the confidence is up.”
“Just working,” Zahibo added. “We know it’s tough, but we are just here to keep working. The only key for win is work, work, work, and work. That’s what we’re doing and that’s what we’re going to keep doing.”