With the 2014 season set to kick off on Saturday, the staff of New England Soccer Today sat down to take a few stabs at how the New England Revolution will fare this season.
Where will the Revs finish in 2014? How many goals will they score and allow?
Ryan Lanigan: I think the Revolution will finish right on the fringe of the playoffs in fifth place. The East improved considerably in the offseason and that’s the main reason I say the Revs will drop from where they finished last season. I will, however, say I think that they will be a more complete team this year. The biggest question mark will again be goal scoring but I think the chemistry is very high this year and that will translate on the field. I’ll say 48 goals for and 40 against.
Julian Cardillo: The Revolution will finish in fifth place this year. They will make the playoffs, despite a dog fight with most of the Conference’s teams that runs through most of the season. They will score 45 goals and allow 40 goals.
Jeffrey Boxer: I’m picking the Revs to land a spot in the knockout round: let’s say fourth. They may have lost Agudelo in front and Reis in the net, but the team has brought in several intriguing pieces, and should see further development from a terrifically talented young core. Goals Scored: 47. Goals Allowed: 41.
Sean Donahue: 5th. 50 goals for, 45 goals against. The loss of Matt Reis and an improved East means New England’s defense doesn’t put up the same impressive numbers as last year.
What would it take for 2014 to be considered a success, and will the Revs get there?
Ryan: The MLS Cup is always the goal – or at least should be for all MLS clubs, but I think the biggest bench mark for the Revs will be if they can get back to where they were last season. I truly believe they’ll have a strong campaign this season, it just becomes a matter of if they can win games that they should win. They’ll need to get rid of games in which they allow a tying goal late, or fail to find the back of the net. And for the second part, I believe the Revs do get back to the playoffs and if they make it there, they have as good of a chance as anyone.
Julian: The Revolution need to make the playoffs. That will be a huge success, especially considering the revamped teams in the East. The Revolution will get there, but only if they are consistently good at home and retain Jose Goncalves. If he leaves any time in the middle of the season, it’s curtains for the playoffs.
Jeffrey: It’s hard to pin down exactly what the team’s expectations should be for 2014 – there may be no other team in the league with a bigger gap between its best- and worst-case scenarios. It certainly would be a disappointment if the Revs didn’t make the playoffs. In order for the year to be considered a success, I think some of our burning questions need to be answered along the way. Who is going to be the man up front? How will the team shore up the middle of the pitch? Are either Bobby Shuttleworth or Brad Knighton capable No. 1 options? How Jay Heaps shapes his starting XI and how the team responds will go a long way in determining this squad’s ceiling.
Sean: A return to the playoffs would be enough for 2014 to be a success given how strong the East should be this year. New England will get there, but it may well come down to the last weekend.
Who will be the Revs MVP?
Ryan: The Revolution’s most valuable player in 2014 will be Lee Nguyen. I think that when you look at the second half of last year, there’s a serious case for Nguyen being the MVP in that period. Yes, Fagundez had the goals and Agudelo surely made a huge difference. And even Jose Goncalves had an unreal year. But when you look at where Nguyen was in the beginning of the season to how he played down the stretch, he was arguably the most consistent player on the pitch for the Revs. Expect another strong year from Nguyen, who will benefit greatly from the attention Kelyn Rowe will generate.
Julian: Kelyn Rowe transformed from his inconsistent rookie campaign into a reliable and dynamic presence in year two. His link up play with the Revolution’s forwards will be central to the attack this season. The Revolution could use more players that know how to take set pieces and Rowe showed at the end of 2013 that he was capable.
Jeffrey: I think Kelyn Rowe and Diego Fagundez both have the talent to be the MVP of not just the team, but the league, within the next season or two. But for now, my Revs MVP award goes to José Gonçalves. The Portuguese native was an instrumental part of the team’s stingy defense last season and has an MLS Defender of the Year award to show for it. With a new goalkeeper stepping in to replace Matt Reis, the Revs need Gonçalves to usher the back line and give either Shuttleworth or Knighton some time to adjust. It may not be flashy, but the Revs are going nowhere without another special season from their defensive star.
Sean: Kelyn Rowe. Rowe avoided the sophomore slump with an impressive second year in MLS and should only improve going into his third year. Expect him to increase his assist total from 2013 and be instrumental to New England’s attack.
Who will lead the team in scoring?
Ryan: For the second straight season, Diego Fagundez will lead the Revolution in scoring. After netting a team-high 13 goals last year, Fagundez is a year older and even more experienced. Some might say defenses will focus on him more this year because of his numbers last year, but I think defenses will have their hands full with the likes of Teal Bunbury, Patrick Mullins, Kelyn Rowe, Lee Nguyen – all who have the ability to strike from distance – and Fagundez will be able to clean up in the area.
Julian: Teal Bunbury. As teams zero in on Diego Fagundez, there needs to be someone else that can step up. Bunbury looks like the heir to Juan Agudelo, able to shoot from anywhere in or outside of the box. In the 141 preseason minutes he played, he looked like he had little trouble exchanging with Fagundez and Rowe.
Jeffrey: Diego Fagundez, but I think it will be a lot closer than people expect. Rowe, Bunbury, and possibly one or two surprise names could compete for the top spot on this list as defenses key in on the team’s teenage sensation.
Sean: Teal Bunbury. Bunbury will be the beneficiary of a Revolution midfield extremely deep with creative talent. If he can adjust to the Revolution’s style quickly – as he seemed to do in preseason – expect him to reach double digits in goals this season.
Who will be the Revs defender of the year?
Ryan: The easy answer would obviously be Jose Goncalves, who had an unbelievable 2013 campaign and was named MLS Defense of the Year, but I’m going to go in a different direction. I think the answer is second-year man Andrew Farrell. All of last season, it was a question of who would fit better next to Goncalves between A.J. Soares and Stephen McCarthy. I think we finally get our answer this year and it’s Farrell. Even if he slides up into the center defensive mid slot, he still can be considered as defender of the year. His combination of speed and power, as well as a year under his belt, will lead to big things this season.
Jeffrey: José Gonçalves wins this award running away. Hopefully, contractual issues won’t hamper his production.
Julian: A.J. Soares. A bold pick but only because we don’t know the status of Jose Goncalves. Soares will probably be a starter in week 1, a role which is his to keep. It’s a big year for him, given that he’s now a 4-year pro.
Sean: Jose Goncalves. Assuming the contract talk doesn’t impact his play, it’s hard to see anyone ousting Goncalves for defender of the year. If Andrew Farrell continues to play right back, he could potentially give Goncalves a run.
Which newcomer will have the biggest impact?
Ryan: There are three strong candidates for this one, but I’m going to go with rookie Patrick Mullins. I think Steve Neumann and Teal Bunbury are going to have big time impacts on the club this season, but the confidence that oozes out of Mullins for a rookie just screams successful. It’ll be important he doesn’t try to over-do it but his play seems like a good fit and I think he’ll be on the scoring sheet early in the season.
Jeffrey: He arrived in August on a loan deal so he’s not technically a newcomer, but I think a full season of Charlie Davies could be a match made in heaven for the Revs’. Part of that is simply opportunity – with Agudelo gone, the team needs someone capable of playing out wide. Bengtson and Burnbury will compete to play up top, Imbongo looked lost for long stretches last season, and neither of the Revs’ rookies are likely to start right away. That leaves Davies, a USMNT mainstay before a horrific car accident in 2009. The former Boston College Eagle showed flashes of his former self during a loan spell at D.C. United in 2011, scoring 11 goals in 26 games. Davies is still just 27, and if he can stay fit for an entire season, he could be a force for the Revolution.
Julian: Steve Neumann. The Revolution needs a transition, big-boss player in midfield that can both attack and be a hulking presence. Neumann was scouted during the draft to fit the bill. Staying healthy, however, will be key, especially in the early part of the season.
Sean: Teal Bunbury. A lot will be put on Bunbury’s shoulders given the loss of Agudelo. Goalkeeper Brad Knighton and rookie Patrick Mullins will also have large impacts this season.
Once everyone’s healthy, what do you think the starting XI will be?
Ryan: Bobby Shuttleworth – Kevin Alston, Andrew Farrell, Jose Goncalves, Chris Tierney – Scott Caldwell – Lee Nguyen, Kelyn Rowe, Patrick Mullins, Diego Fagundez – Teal Bunbury
Julian: Brad Knighton- Andrew Farrell, Jose Goncalves, A.J. Soares, Chris Tierney – Lee Nguyen, Scott Caldwell, Kelyn Rowe, Diego Fagundez, Saer Sene – Teal Bunbury
Jeffrey: Bobby Shuttleworth – Andrew Farrell, A.J. Soares, Jose Goncalves, Chris Tierney – Scott Caldwell – Charlie Davies, Kelyn Rowe, Lee Nguyen, Diego Fagundez – Teal Bunbury
Sean: Brad Knighton – Andrew Farrell, Jose Goncalves, A.J. Soares, Chris Tierney – Scott Caldwell – Diego Fagundez, Lee Nguyen, Kelyn Rowe, Patrick Mullins; Teal Bunbury