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How much have the New England Revolution changed?

Mar 9, 2019; Foxborough, MA, USA; A general view of Gillette Stadium prior to a game between the New England Revolution and the Columbus Crew. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Columbus Crew SC became the first team since 2006 to defeat the New England Revolution in a home opener at Gillette Stadium. The Crew out-dueled the Revs at every turn in a 2-0 victory on Saturday afternoon.

Here are three takeaways from the New England Revolution point of view:

Attack lacked creativity, precision

New England outshot the Crew 11-6, but don’t buy into the stats: very few of the Revolution’s attacking sequences put the visitors in any danger. Only three of the Revolution’s 11 shots were on target. One was off a direct free kick, another off a penalty shot.

Revolution coach Brad Friedel decried his team’s first-half performance by calling it “poor” in the postgame press conference. No player or coach had a particularly effective answer for Columbus using Wil Trapp in front of its two center backs, which allowed the Crew to stifle New England attackers Teal Bunbury, Juan Agudelo, Cristian Penilla and Carles Gil.

Friedel removed Penilla and Agudelo at halftime and brought on Justin Rennicks and Diego Fagundez, then moved Bunbury up top. The tactical switch helped things a little. The Revs attack was more active in the second half, but the team nevertheless struggled to create clear-cut scoring chances.

Gil, the team’s main playmaker, finished the match with an impressive 87-percent passing accuracy but misfired two shots and didn’t record a key pass. Any success Saturday was predicated on Gil’s involvement. While his passing was accurate, it wasn’t enough to break down Columbus’ lines, especially with his teammates unable to pick up the slack.

Loss in 1st home game sends wrong signal

Is Fortress Foxborough vulnerable?

In the past, the Revolution used their home-field advantage – artificial turf, quieter atmosphere and all – to get the jump on visiting teams. But counting on Gillette Stadium to put off opponents might not be enough anymore. The Revs stumbled to an 8-4-5 home record last season after posting a combined 22-6-7 record in 2016 and 2017, and Saturday’s loss to Columbus sends a signal to the rest of the league that New England may not have the quality to defend its home field like in previous years.

That said, Columbus is better than most at earning results in New England with a 16-15-6 all-time record in Foxborough.

Coach talks changes

Friedel spent the back half of his inaugural season promising sweeping changes, which were supposed to include acquiring exciting players with the right “mentality.”

In his postgame remarks Saturday, Friedel said, “some people thought we weren’t going to make changes this season, but as you can see, there’s a lot of changes.”

That part of the press conference was slightly awkward, particularly since Saturday’s 2-0 loss was reminiscent of many poor results from last season.

The Revolution actually went through a fairly standard offseason. Management-wise, the only departure was fitness trainer Anton McElhone, who left for a new gig in his native United Kingdom. Friedel is still the coach. Mike Burns is still the general manager. Assistant coach Marcelo Neveleff is there too, and the club also hired his brother, Sergio.

Player personnel-wise, there wasn’t much turnover, either. The team declined options on a rookie player, a third-year striker on the fringes of the roster, and two reserve midfielders. The team also traded Claude Dielna, who didn’t play in the back half of last season and wanted to leave, and Kelyn Rowe, who was probably going to leave free of charge after this season due to his contract expiring in 2020.

For Rowe, the Revolution got Edgar Castillo. They exercised transfer options on both Cristian Penilla and Luis Caicedo.

New England also signed striker Juan Fernando Caicedo and spent $2 million on Carles Gil. The $2 million paid for Gil broke a Revolution record, but the Revs are late to the party when it comes to MLS teams opening their checkbooks for international players.

New England also retained the services of Agudelo.

Saturday’s starting XI featured two new faces – Castillo and Gil – while the same managerial faces also sat on the sidelines or in the luxury boxes.

There have been changes, sure, but not enough to cause a noticeable difference.

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