FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — The New England Revolution kick off the 2019 season Saturday by visiting FC Dallas.
Pro Soccer USA once again reached out to Revolution fans on Twitter to hear their questions and concerns about where things stand as the 2019 season gets underway. For more insight beyond the questions answered below, tweet New England beat writer @JulianCardillo your questions with #RevsAMA.
Who gets most minutes up top? I think Teal gives Caicedo a run for his money? I think Teal gets double-digit goals in 2019. You?
— Dave Cherubin (@DaveCherubin) February 25, 2019
Here’s what Teal Bunbury has going for him: He’s experienced, he works very hard on and off the ball and he’s a very accurate shooter.
Here’s what Teal Bunbury does not have going for him: He’s not very fast and he works within an attacking system that’s meant to force scoring chances, not create them. Bunbury scored 11 goals last season, but very few, if any, concluded a stellar passing sequence. They were blue collar goals — they came off rebounds and counterattacks and from the penalty spot.
The Revs need to employ something other than the high press for Bunbury or any other striker on the team to have success this season. To his credit, Bunbury had a strong preseason in which he scored three goals and is probably a good bet to score seven to 10 over the course of the 2019 season. But remember also that he suffered through a long scoring drought in 2018 due in large part to opponents learning to stop the Revolution attack.
How many points do the Revs finish the season with?
— BrainAlwaysBuzzing (@notyetfunnyguy) February 25, 2019
No way I can come up with an exact number, but if I had to guess I’d say less than 50. I can see the Revs improving on their eight-win home record from last season, but I don’t see them doing much to improve their road form.
First off, the Eastern Conference is more competitive thanks to the addition of a new team and a seventh playoff slot. No team got worse on the field — except for maybe Toronto FC, but they will almost surely find a way to replace Sebastian Giovinco. New England’s paltry preseason form in which they struggled against two mid-level MLS sides and two lower division teams doesn’t instill much hope, either.
Still, there are a number of new faces like Carles Gil, Juan Fernando Caicedo and Edgar Castillo, who may just need some time to gel in the regular season before getting the team on the right track. As of now though, there are way more questions of this team than answers.
Its 10-13-11 (41 points) record last year seems like a fair barometer of the team’s capabilities.
#RevsAMA what’s your surprise for the starting XI? I think coach gives Wright the start up top.
— Paulo S. (@BlitzzP) February 25, 2019
Brian Wright as a regular starter — now that’s a take! I see what you’re thinking, though. Friedel is all about mentality and giving developing players a shot (similar to what he did with Matt Turner in net last year) so he could reward Wright, who had a strong preseason in which he scored two goals.
Here’s my “surprise” Starting XI:
GK – Knighton; D – Bye, Anibaba, Mancienne, Castillo; M – Zahibo, Caicedo, Penilla, Gil, Buchanan; F – Fagundez
Here’s what’s probably their “Best” XI:
GK – Cropper; D – Farrell, Mancienne, Delamea, Castillo; M – Caldwell, Caicedo, Penilla, Gil, Fagundez; F – Bunbury
Revs conceded a lot of goals last year (55), 4th worst in the East. The only addition other than through the draft was Castillo. Is that going to be enough to significantly help this defense? Last year only one playoff team (RSL) conceded more goals than the #NERevs #RevsAMA
— Joseph Niouky Hype Train (@BrianKamler) February 25, 2019
Acquiring Edgar Castillo to play left back was big, but remember it’s still up in the air who backs him up. Gabriel Somi or Brandon Bye could do it, but that doesn’t mean it would pan out well over time.
In general, I think Castillo is a quality pickup that makes the team’s back line better and gives the Revs a legitimate attacking threat on the flank. That said, the team’s defensive form is still in the gutter, as we saw in preseason. The Delamea-Mancienne partnership likely needs more time to develop, though the team needs someone other than Jalil Anibaba to serve as a back-up central defender.
How good is Caicedo? I’m not sure if it was a good enough offseason. Maybe with that “elite “ DP.
— Over There (@MichaelJMancini) February 25, 2019
The Revolution should be concerned that Juan Fernando Caicedo didn’t score a single goal in preseason given he was their first major offseason pickup to strengthen the attack. So far, he’s been significantly overshadowed by Fagundez, Bunbury, Agudelo and even Brian Wright.
That said, preseason may not have afforded Caicedo enough time to get on the same page with his new teammates. Regardless, it would be surprising to see him start against FC Dallas in the season opener since he’s the only striker to not yet score a goal this year.
Do you see any of the new Homegrown players having a impact for the Revs this season?
Is there any players from the academy that we should be looking forward to seeing in the next few years?#RevsAMA
— NERevsUK (@NERevsUK) February 25, 2019
Justin Rennicks had a solid preseason and seems like he’s at least capable of assisting New England off the bench.
With some time and enough impressive showings in cameo appearances, Rennicks might even be able to enter the conversation for starting minutes.
Nicolas Firmino did not produce as many highlight reel-quality plays as Rennicks in preseason, but don’t read into that too much. Every homegrown player in Revs history has gone on to appear at least once in the season in which they were signed.
As for future first-team players, keep in mind that goalkeeper Tyler Freitas and club general manager Mike Burns’ son, Trevor, joined the Revolution in preseason.
Given that 10 years ago we had 4-5 players in the top 5 of their position in the league, and we now have none, what do you think the Revs are actually doing to improve the talent identification at the club?
— Barrett Madden (@madden_barrett) February 25, 2019
Ten years ago was a long time ago. In 2009, MLS had nine fewer teams, the league was less competitive, and by default signing players was also less competitive. The Superdraft was far more useful to filling out rosters, the concept of designated players had only just begun, and there was no additional allocation money, let alone Targeted Allocation Money.
I understand the sentiment, though, in that the Revolution have regressed from the days when they had a top goalkeeper (Matt Reis), full back (Jay Heaps), central midfielder (Shalrie Joseph), playmaker (Steve Ralston) and scorer (Taylor Twellman).
In general, I think it’s positive that more teams, including the Revolution, are setting up scouting departments, adding scouts, and using contacts around the world. However, the Revolution likely have a long way to go in setting up the infrastructure for a truly sophisticated scouting network.
New England faces many setbacks, though. Agents, sporting directors and general managers have expressed frustration at negotiating with the Revolution front office. The club’s feeder relationship with Sporting CP seems all but dead. And the Revs seem to have no interest in setting up new relationships with established European clubs whose ownership groups are based in Boston, such as Liverpool, Roma and Millwall.
The Revolution have plenty of resources to get their scouting where it needs to be, now they just need to take the time and find the ambition to do it.