Heading into the 2018 MLS season, hopes were high for the New England Revolution. Newly hired head coach Brad Friedel instilled optimism in fans about the upcoming campaign as him and his staff revealed their ambitions and intentions. Until the team’s collapse in mid-July, things in the player category seemed sound, but with only 3 wins from July to October, serious improvements are needed to the lineup.
Teal Bunbury went from golden boot candidate to scoring only 2 times in the final 18 games. Most successful teams in MLS have a consistent, reliable and clinical striker leading the line. Teal Bunbury does not match any of those qualities. He is very inconsistent, often disappears game after game and he regularly misses any chance that isn’t a simple tap in. If the Revolution want to have success in 2019, they need to find a striker who, to quote NERevsUK, strikes fear into his opponent. Josef Martinez is a great example of the forward the Revolution could use, someone who is fast, technical, clinical and makes intelligent runs. New England isn’t going to get somebody who will score 31 goals in a single season but if they are able to sign someone who can score half of that and contribute to the attack with assists, then the Revs will definitely be up for a playoff spot.
#2: Right Winger
The addition of Cristian Penilla in 2018 was deemed questionable by many fans but he quickly proved any doubters wrong, finishing the season with 12 goals and 7 assists. His blistering pace, great technical ability and prolific goal scoring ability earned Penilla the 2018 Revolution MVP. A signing to compliment the Ecuadorian on the opposite wing could make the front line one of the best in MLS. Juan Agudelo and Krizstian Nemeth both had time on the right side but neither are a true winger or midfielder and now, with both of them gone, RW/RM is one of the biggest positions of need for the Revolution. A dynamic and unpredictable player would make for the perfect compliment to Penilla but it is crucial that he must be willing to press high and track back onto defense like Cristian Penilla has done well.
With the signing of Gabriel Somi in the winter prior to the 2018 season, it was revealed Brad Friedel wanted to utilize his fullbacks in the attack while pressing high up the pitch. This worked for the first few months of the season with Chris Tierney and Somi splitting time at LWB but with Tierney ‘s season ending ACL injury and Somi’s terrible defensive performances, Claude Dielna converted from CB by July. Claude was solid defensively but didn’t impact the offense much at all, eventually he was relegated to the reserves until the end of the season for reasons unknown.
The rookie Brandon Bye looked very comfortable as the successor at leftback, although his lack of a left foot makes it difficult for him to swing crosses into the box. This skill could be learned over time but Bye is more suited for the right side. Uruguayan LB Alfonso Espino is one name that the Revs are reportedly interested in and could either make for a solid MLS defender or he could find himself leaving Foxboro this time next year. The Revolution need a defender first and foremost, not an attacker. Andrew Farrell had a good season in 2018 at rightback, often not getting too involved in the attack and he was still able to score twice. If whoever they sign, Espino or someone else, is able to create chances for the players in front of him and still be able to recover on defense, then the Revs will be much less vulnerable in 2019.
With one of the smallest payrolls in MLS, plenty of TAM and a DP spot, it’s not unreasonable to think these positions can be filled with quality players but after all, this is the Revolution.