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It’s time for New England Revolution to identify 2019 roster core

Sep 22, 2018; Foxborough, MA, USA; Chicago Fire manager Veljko Paunovic on the side line during the first half against the New England Revolution at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

The New England Revolution’s playoff hopes went from very slim to barely existent after Saturday night’s 2-2 draw with the Chicago Fire at Gillette Stadium. Despite playing in the comforts of their home venue, the Revs dropped two valuable points against a struggling opponent. 

Here are takeaways from the result and what to expect going forward:

Time to seek out core players

The Revolution are short at least one player in every defensive position and could stand to add another winger, playmaker, and goal scorer. Those are already pretty big holes, but don’t fret, as there’s already a decent core for the Revs to retain heading into 2019.

For all intents and purposes, the Revs have been rebuilding since they exited the 2015 playoffs, which is frustrating but not surprising. One reason why the team has been in perpetual rebuild mode is because it hasn’t addressed roster problems properly.

Exhibit A: That back line.

It seems obvious who is likely on the outs next year. Claude Dielna and Gabriel Somi are both probably gone the second the Revs can make a cut. Juan Agudelo’s contract is up and he has indicated that he wants to try his luck in Europe again.

Every rookie but Brandon Bye has had virtually zero impact on the season, while Femi Hollinger-Janzen’s time looks like it’s reached its end, too.

Chris Tierney may opt to retire. Cody Cropper also seems ripe for a trade.

The Revs have real decisions to make on players that have plenty of upside but just haven’t fit in right, if at all, over the last two seasons, namely Kelyn Rowe, Andrew Farrell, and Jalil Anibaba.

From there, you’ve got locks in Diego Fagundez, Teal Bunbury, Matt Turner, Scott Caldwell, and Isaac Angking, while Cristian Penilla and Luis Caicedo are likely to be retained permanently. There’s even reason to be hopeful about Brian Wright.

The last five games will likely be more valuable as a method to determine who comes back in 2019 than as an actual platform to make a bid for the playoffs.

Brad Friedel can’t give up on playoffs

Revolution coach Brad Friedel, without any prompting, said after Saturday’s game that he believes his team will make the playoffs.

He asked to expand on that remark, so he did by saying that the Revs have been competitive in almost all their games this season and are close enough to the sixth place Montreal Impact to still have a legitimate shot.

Friedel ran through the numbers. He noted how the Philadelphia Union have a tough schedule ahead (this was before they came up with a surprising 2-0 victory over Sporting Kansas City on Sunday) and how he doesn’t expect either D.C. United or Montreal to win-out the remainder of the season.

Whether Friedel actually believes his team is making the post-season is irrelevant, especially since he can’t go on record and say he feels the 2018 campaign is a lost cause.

Privately, Friedel knows what he’s up against, though. FiveThirtyEight has the team’s playoff hopes at six percent – taking into account their remaining three road games and the fact that they’ve won just once since July 7.

Cristian Penilla needed to get involved sooner

On the subject of what transpired in Saturday’s game, it’s important to examine what worked and what didn’t.

Cristian Penilla scored one of the Revolution’s goals and helped set up the other on Saturday.

That’s largely been how things have operated in New England this year: Penilla is the team’s best and most consistent catalyst in the attack.

But the Fire were ready for Penilla on Saturday night. He had just 25 touches in the first half, which led to zero dribbles and just 15 completed passes.

New England managed to get the Ecuadorian more involved in the second half, but by then Chicago already had its first lead.

Penilla’s lack of involvement trickled into the attack’s overall performance. In the first half, the Revs had just six shots and two corners. By the end of the game, they had 18 attempts on goal and five corners. Penilla also had three of New England’s 10 key passes.

Both of Chicago’s goals came from avoidable defensive lapses. While neither of the visitors’ goals should have occurred, the onus was also on New England to be more active in the attack.

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