The new season is here and as we’ve done in the past we’re bringing in a fellow SBN blog to help preview the game. To help preview FC Dallas and the New England Revolution, we welcome in Jake Catanese from The Bent Musket.
BDS: New England has had a lot of turnover these last two years under Brad Friedel, do you think this year’s moves will pay off? Did they finally land some DPs that will work? Or will they be another set of busts?
TBM: The Revs need their new DP signings to work but especially Carles Gil, who at $2 million is New England’s record transfer fee signing. The Revs got tremendous production from Teal Bunbury up front at striker and with Diego Fagundez at CAM. Now both players are likely getting replaced by Juan Fernando Caicedo and Gil respectively. If the Revs are going to be a playoff team, those two players will have to be significantly better than the two they are replacing and while they might have the pedigree to do so, there are other issues that will hamper Gil and JF Caicedo if the Revs don’t make the playoffs again.
Last year the Revs only offensive plan was to press, turn opponents over, and counter. They were horrendous at creating chances through possession and will need Gil and JF Caicedo to be a big part of any solution that allows them to generate more chances that don’t come from the counter. I still believe with Cristian Penilla and possibly Fagundez on the wings that Brad Friedel will never truly move away from the press/counter entirely but there needs to be something else in the playbook as well. If Gil can set up double digit assists from possession based attacks in 2019 the Revs might have a chance, because I think they’re going to score a decent amount, the question is how many can they stop...
BDS The defense was always suspect a year ago, what has changed going into 2019 to improve that?
TBM: Well, for starters the Revs have a proper left back again in Edgar Castillo, acquired via trade with Colorado for Kelyn Rowe and while I’m bitter about losing Kelyn, the Revs formation was so broken in the second half of the year without injured local legend Chris Tierney that just by default the defense should work better because it will naturally be more organized. However as we saw in preseason, the Revs are still dependent on at having at least two holding mids in front of the back line, which limits the number of attackers they can have on the field.
Michael Mancienne gets a full preseason to train in New England and also help stabilized the middle of the field after he was added in the second half of the year in 2018 and he replaces Claude Dielna who was shipped off to Portland. Andrew Farrell is recovering from a knock and will likely miss the Dallas game but overall the defense has a chance to be better as their own individual unit.
But a lot of the Revs defensive woes were not to blame on the backline, but rather their own tactics, as the Revs were constantly caught trying to push the ball upfield quickly on the counter and turning the ball over in their own half. This lead to the centerbacks being exposed with no outside help and getting beaten by simple long balls over the top. If the Revs find balance this year in their tactics and formation, they have a chance to be a solid team. Maybe not a team that makes a deep playoff run but certainly a team that maybe someone will unhappy playing in the first round of the playoffs.
BDS: Let’s stay on the Fernando Clavijo train here, what was your favorite memory of him as a manager for the Revs?
TBM: Sadly, Fernando was before my time as a Revs/soccer fan, as I was still in high school at the time watching the 2002 World Cup in my morning classes when he was sacked. So I concede to the Godfather of Boston Soccer, Frank Dell’Apa and his article when Clavijo passed.
However, there are a long list of players from those 1990/1994 USMNT World Cup squads that did so much for the development of soccer in this country both on and off the field and we should never forget them. Fernando Clavijo is no exception. New England Revolution fans remember the Steve Nicol era and four MLS Cup finals losses as the good old days, but so much of that team was Clavijo’s and Frank goes into a lot of detail as to why. It was Clavijo who brought New England out of the early MLS basement and into the 2001 US Open Cup final and their first playoff appearance the year before, and his trades and acquisitions that launched the Revs on their run starting in 2002. Combine that roster with the work he did in Dallas and you have arguably the architect of two of the most stable and consistent teams in the history of the league that honestly deserved far more trophies then they won for the mastermind behind them.
Clavijo’s Hall of Fame resume as a player and coach is impressive but I’ve also never heard anyone say a bad thing about him as a person. He was as genuine as they come and though I never met him, I’m honored to have had him as a coach and member of the New England Revolution family.