FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — The New England Revolution enter the 24th season in Major League Soccer trying to return to the postseason after a three-year drought.
Seven teams per conference can clinch playoff berths in 2019, compared to six in past seasons, meaning the Revs have extra wiggle room. Of course, so do the 11 other teams in an increasingly competitive Eastern Conference.
New England has a plurality of attacking options that challenged some of the best teams in the league last year and could be stronger now thanks to the offseason additions of Carles Gil and Juan Fernando Caicedo. However, the Revolution still haven’t fully sorted out their tactics after more than one year with Brad Friedel at the helm, while their pricey back line remains leaky.
The Revs took two preseason trips this winter. The first was to Marbella, Spain, a faraway environment meant to foster team building where they tested themselves against some established European and Asian opponents. The second was to Florida, where they scrimmaged teams from MLS, USL, and even one from Iceland.
All in all, the Revolution are probably fully fit, though there seem to be more questions than answers about this team as the 2019 season gets underway.
Revs open season at FC Dallas
When: Saturday, March 2, 4:30 p.m. ET
Where: Toyota Stadium
Broadcast: TV — NBC Sports Boston; RADIO – 98.5 FM (WBZ)
Live stream: MLS Live on ESPN+
The buzz: Opening weekend has never been kind to the Revolution. The team is 5-14-5 all-time in season debuts and it faces a tough challenge this time around at FC Dallas. Dallas turned over its head coach and one of its best attacking pieces in Max Urruti this offseason, but still boasts one of the most well-rounded rosters in the league.
Dallas also lost just twice at Toyota Stadium last season, a statistic that pairs nicely with its impressive 13-4-6 record in home openers.
New England’s new-look attack that features the recently-acquired Carles Gil will look to break down FCD’s formidable back line.
Key matches in 2019
April 20 vs. New York Red Bulls – Two longtime rivals meet in the middle of New England’s only three-game home stand of 2019. The Revs can’t afford to drop points during this stretch, particularly against an Eastern Conference opponent.
Aug. 3 vs. Los Angeles FC – Lee Nguyen returns to Foxborough. The 2014 MVP candidate did not leave New England on the best terms last year but has since asserted himself as a valuable piece on LAFC’s dynamic team. Nguyen will be eager to stun his former team and its fans the same way he did to his other former team in 2013.
Sept. 14 at Orlando City SC – By the time fall comes around, the Revolution are usually in the thick of an end-of-season run or struggling to stay in playoff contention. Orlando has been a thorn in New England’s side since it first entered the league, coming from behind in wild games to secure draws and thwart the Revs from taking full points. Will the Revolution finally earn their first victory in Orlando with playoff hopes potentially on the line this September?
TBD vs. Chelsea – The Revolution host one of Europe’s top teams for a friendly in a joint-effort to combat anti-Semitism. Who knows? Maybe Chelsea will bring its A-team. This is a match for fans to be pumped for nonetheless.
Check out the Revolution’s full 2019 schedule here.
Quotes & Notes
New England concluded preseason with a 3-4-2 record.
“We’ll fly back home, and then we’ll start getting the team together for the Dallas game,” Friedel said. “All in all, it was a very good preseason. The players worked very, very hard, and we’re all very much looking forward to the season starting.”
Teal Bunbury echoed the coach’s sentiments, saying this weekend that he feels the two preseason trips to Florida and Spain helped bring the team together.
“I think all the time spent together, . . . A lot of the stuff off the field, becoming a closer-knit group. I think that’s going to correlate to on the field,” Bunbury said. “And also maybe working on some new tactics, some new philosophies and continuing to build off competition. There’s a lot of players that can be starting and only 11 get selected to start. We know it’s going to be a long season this year, and everybody is going to have to step up.”
New England first-round pick DeJuan Jones, who spent significant time at fullback during the preseason, has not yet signed an MLS contract but is expected to do so before Saturday. The Revolution are also still reportedly shopping for another international player. Details of this rumored signing have been sparse, but management has said it would be an “elite” signing.
Biggest offseason moves
- Carles Gil, a playmaking midfielder from Spain who the Revolution signed for nearly $2 million from Deportivo La Coruña, a record club fee.
- Edgar Castillo, an American left back acquired in a three-team trade also involving Sporting Kansas City and the Colorado Rapids.
- Juan Fernando Caicedo, a Colombian striker who is on loan to New England from Independiente Medellin. The loan deal includes a permanent transfer option.
- Tajon Buchanan, a speedy midfielder whom the Revolution selected ninth overall in the 2019 MLS Superdraft.
- Nicolas Firmino and Justin Rennicks, both signed to senior team contracts as homegrown players.
- Claude Dielna, a French defender, traded to the Portland Timbers.
- Kelyn Rowe, a playmaking midfielder who started his career with the Revolution, landed in Kansas City as part of the deal for Edgar Castillo.
- Chris Tierney, the team’s longtime left back, retired.
- Femi Hollinger-Janzen, had his option declined after two seasons with the club and was picked up by Birmingham Legion (USL).
Forwards – Juan Agudelo, Teal Bunbury, Juan Fernando Caicedo, Brian Wright
Midfielders – Isaac Angking, Tajon Buchanan, Luis Caicedo, Scott Caldwell, Diego Fagundez, Nicolas Firmino, Carles Gil, Zachary Herivaux, Dejuan Jones, Cristian Penilla, Justin Rennicks, Wilfried Zahibo
Defenders – Jalil Anibaba, Brandon Bye, Edgar Castillo, Antonio Mlinar Delamea, Michael Mancienne, Gabriel Somi
Goalkeepers – Cody Cropper, Brad Knighton, Matt Turner