In the seven months since winning the club’s first-ever Fans’ Shield in the biggest regular season Major League Soccer has ever produced, the Revolution have faced tough decisions.
New England head coach Bruce Arena, having built a deep and talented roster for the 2021 run, has seen many of his best players leave for Europe (football’s biggest stage at club level) . It was, to some extent, inevitable.
Winger Tajon Buchanan, forward Adam Buksa and goalkeeper Matt Turner were the mainstays of New England’s success a year ago. Each is from a different country and came to Foxborough under different circumstances. But in their time under Arena, the common thread was that each player was making major developmental strides, eventually attracting the irresistible offers to go play overseas.
Compared to local teams in other sports, the Revolution faces the largely unique problem of competing for talent with clubs around the world, some of which possess larger budgets and more prestige. So while the Celtics can be reasonably confident of retaining the core of a young roster, the Revolution must constantly plan for a future that may not include the club’s current star roster.
Yet the recent pace of change has been particularly difficult. The 2022 season reflected this, even with Buksa playing many of the early games before his $10million move to French club RC Lens. A disappointment in the CONCACAF Champions League in March – in which New England squandered a 3-0 first leg lead against the Mexican Pumas in the quarter-finals – was compounded by key injuries and inconsistencies in MLS league games.
Beginning with a shocking second-half collapse against Real Salt Lake on March 12, the Arena side have lost six of seven (including the Champions League defeat in Mexico City). It was by far the worst period of Arena’s tenure in New England, punctuated by a slew of late goals dropped by a disorganized defence.
In the grip of an early season crisis, the Revolution managed to find an answer. Since the 3-2 loss to DC United on April 23, New England have found their form in league games. Aside from a US Open Cup loss to New York City FC in May, the Revolution have racked up an eight-game unbeaten streak.
Asked at a recent press conference about the team’s character, Arena praised his team’s solidarity.
“I think for the most part over the two and a half years that has been a feature of our team,” he explained. “They play a good, tough 90-minute game. Obviously, no game is perfect, but they handle the ups and downs pretty well. It’s a good group of guys and they play well as a team.
And while it hasn’t exactly been a dominant run – four draws, with three of four wins by just a goal – it’s the kind of response to adversity that could prove lifesaving for the season. .
Although there is more than half the season left to play, New England’s recent run has brought the team back into playoff position.
Moreover, help has arrived in the form of new signings like 22-year-old Serbian goalkeeper Djordje Petrovic and 20-year-old Colombian winger Dylan Borrero. Each made their first contributions, including Borrero scoring his first MLS goal in a recent 2-1 win over Minnesota United.
More reinforcements could also be on the way as the mid-season transfer window opens on July 7.
Buksa’s exit created a vacant Designated Player spot on the Revolution’s roster (each team is allowed three). If New England pursues a bigger money acquisition – alongside existing Designated Player deals for forward Gustavo Bou and midfielder Carles Gil – the team technically has contract space under the rules. of the MLS.
Yet despite former Revolution striker (and ESPN commentator) Taylor Twellman’s recent comments that New England will “100% sign a Designated Player” to specifically replace Buksa as striker, Arena said that he could look for another place on the ground.
“How could he know that?” Arena responded when asked about Twellman’s claim. “That’s not an accurate statement.”
“Naturally we will use the next transfer window to hopefully complete our roster,” Arena told reporters earlier in June. “There are a few positions that we think we can strengthen. I don’t know which couple or couples we will decide to fill, but we are actively reviewing potential transfers for the July window. »
In the meantime, the Revolution will look to continue delivering results on the pitch as Arena grapples with the endless cycle of player movement in the complex ecosystem of global football.
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