New England Soccer Today

Five Things We Learned: #CHIvNE

Photo credit: Kari Heistad/

Photo credit: Kari Heistad/

Just when you were about click the “confirm order” button on those Revolution playoff strips, Jay Heaps’ boys go out there, and give you pause for thought. Again.

In what’s become a protracted push for a playoff berth, the Revolution dropped a 3-1 loss to the last-place and recently-reeling Fire on Saturday, thus delaying their playoff destiny for the third straight week.

Although some painted it as a tale of two halves, the fact is that, on the whole, the Revolution were generally outgunned in the final third, with Bobby Shuttleworth preventing a potential massacre on the midway thanks to some spring-heeled saves.

But aside from seeing that Shuttleworth can still make a name for himself on the Save of the Week scene, what else did we learn from the Revolution’s performance (or lack thereof) on Saturday?

1. The defense can’t be trusted. In hindsight, it was too good to be true. During the Revolution’s eight game unbeaten streak, they conceded only five goals. Not bad for a team that lived in the lower rungs of the goals allowed column. But as we’ve since found out, that eight game spell was just mirage. An outlier, to those versed in statistical speak. Since the end of that streak, the market has corrected itself, with the locals conceding seven in their last three. Worse, the opponents in those three were the Impact, Union and Fire. More worse: a strong argument could be made that Gilberto should’ve had a hat trick, and the Walking Dead, er, the Fire, should’ve won 5-1. If Saturday’s loss taught us anything, it’s that the Revolution aren’t capable of winning the gritty, 1-0 games that often sprout around pumpkin spice season. And if they can’t, then they’re going to need their offense to the heavy lifting. Oh, and about that offense…

2. The offense continues to disappoint. Remember all the buzz about the return of Juan Agudelo, and how this team was going to barrel down the doors of opposing defenses after they acquired him? An attack that already had an MVP finalist (Lee Nguyen), a bonafide franchise player (Jermaine Jones), and a host of talented young players (Teal Bunbury, Kelyn Rowe and Diego Fagundez) was supposed to be the saw blade that sliced into backlines like LA’s, and…LA’s. But something prevented the promise of a 70-goal season from blooming. Injuries, dodgy individual form, and inconsistency have undermined the prospect of a banner year for the offense. That truth reached critical mass on Saturday, when a team that started a first-choice front four only scored one goal against the worst team in the league. One goal. Against the Fire. Yeah. Blame the wind, the Fire’s trademark late-season stubbornness, or the crossbar that denied Rowe in the first half. The fact is the attack isn’t performing anywhere near its full potential.

3. Leadership has to get its act together fast. How does a team stocked with talent continue to drop points against the have nots of the east? Okay, the Impact aren’t exactly terrible, but they’re not the 2014 LA Galaxy, either. Either way, in the last three games, the locals were outplayed by Montreal, flummoxed by Philadelphia, and ostensibly run out of Toyota Park by Chicago. That’s one point from three games against lower-ranked foes. If you’re looking for answers, search no further than the coaching staff and veteran leaders. It is their job to ensure they’re putting away teams – especially terrible ones – at this time of the year. Yes, the Fire, Union and Impact are all dangerous in their own right. But that’s not a legit excuse for dropping points against them. Every team is dangerous at this time of year, and thus, every team in MLS is faced with the same challenges down the stretch. The Revolution’s position is not unique. Something has to change, because the fight we saw from this outfit during last year’s sprint to the finish has been fleeting at best this fall.

4. Juan Agudelo is the starting striker from here on out. In what felt like the first time since days of the shootout and the wrong-way clock, Juan Agudelo was back in the lineup as a full-fledged first-teamer. Yes, he was in the XI for the 2-1 home win vs. the Red Bulls (remember that one?), but only to allow Charlie Davies a rest. On Saturday, the physical forward was starting because he’d earned it, through and through. And to his credit, he handled himself pretty well. He not only scored in the 31st minute, but uncovered a pair of great opportunities, one of which he admitted he should’ve put away. In short, his performance was enough to probably put Davies on notice about the first-choice striker’s gig. One more thing: as The Bent Musket‘s Seth Macomber noted on Twitter during the match, Agudelo’s scored three goals since Davies’ last strike, which came on Aug. 1 against Toronto.

5. This team probably isn’t poised for another MLS Cup run. If these last three games have told us anything, it’s that the Revolution don’t have what it takes to make a return trip to the MLS Cup final. Yes, they’re still a good team. And yes, they’ll more than likely get that elusive playoff spot before the curtains are drawn on the regular season in three weeks. A strong argument could be made that this squad is better than last year’s edition. But the intangibles – the fight and swagger – have been in short supply this year. At a time in which a strong collective spirit is needed the most, it’s taken a holiday far too frequently. With a bye week and two games to get their act together, it looks like midnight on this club’s fortunes is approaching faster than we originally expected.


  1. Ben Saufley

    October 6, 2015 at 11:10 am

    > A strong argument could be made that this squad is better than last year’s edition.

    On paper, yes, although not as much as I’d have hoped. Last year, the Revs were the young, scrappy underdogs who proved that while they weren’t the better team in LA, they deserved to be on the field. Yet their one significant move in the offseason was to bring in Agudelo – admittedly, a strong move. But as they lost Soares, they replaced him only with depth players and/or “projects.” They did little to truly bolster the squad and push this team from the talented underdogs to the odds-on favorites.

    And either way, that’s all “on paper.” In reality, the performances of this team, this year, have been, at best, as good as last year. Last year the team had some pretty good highs, a bad losing streak, and then a fiery run to the cup led by strong performances from Jones and Nguyen. This year, the lows have been as low, the highs mostly as high, but the end-of-season form and Jones’s performance as a motivator has been mostly absent since his return. The high-powered offense (on paper) has struggled to score goals, winning games it should dominate by a hair. And the defense, which – after a shaky start – should _also_ be excellent, with José and Andrew both proving their talent at various points, has been making “uncharacteristic” mistakes all year long. At a certain point, it’s hard to call it uncharacteristic anymore, as much as I love both of the CBs. I wouldn’t accuse either of intentionally slacking, but you have to wonder if the lack of competition for the spot (with Barnes injured, these two are the only natural CBs on the roster) is having an effect.

    The Front Office might be excused for thinking that bringing in Hall, Woodberry, and Agudelo in the offseason (even while losing Soares) would improve the team enough to make this season the Revs’ year. But when it was evident that that _wasn’t the case_, during the annual summer slump (the foreshadowing of which had been apparent from the start), they should have acted. Instead, they stood pat, and we’ve gone from a legit chance at the Shield, let alone the Cup, and a chance to build on one of the best seasons in almost a decade, to facing the possibility of a play-in game that we may very well lose.

    They’re not a bad team – people like to use that straw man, along with “the sky is falling.” Of course they’re a decent team. They’re a decent team made up of more-than-decent players, and that’s part of the problem. They’re better than the Fire; they’re better than Philadelphia. But they lost to both at a time when they really needed to win. And in the end, the goal of a team is to win trophies. The Revs had a real chance to win _more than one_ this year. Fizzling out in the playoffs, which is looking pretty likely right now, would be a clear failure.

    • Brian O'Connell

      October 6, 2015 at 10:49 pm


      Great take. I feel like if you changed the all the verbs to past tense, and re-posted here right around mid-November, it’d be a fitting epitaph for the 2015 Revs.

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