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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

2022 isn’t looking like the year for New England Revolution

In 2021, the New England Revolution was near unstoppable. A record of 22 wins, seven draws and five losses saw them top the Major League Soccer table with 73 points, claiming the Supporter’s Shield in the process. Following a 1–0 loss to Montreal FC in 2022, the Revs have a 9–11–12 record and sit 11th with 38 points.

With two matches remaining, the Foxborough-based team needs a miracle to have any hope of qualifying for the seventh place playoff berth. How did the New England Revolution go from Major League Soccer’s top dog to the 22nd best of 28 teams nationwide?

There are a few key issues to address. The first is the defense. Opposition teams have scored 48 goals against the Revs this campaign, placing them seventh of 14 in the Eastern Conference for goals conceded, 15th of 28 nationwide (1). Not that bad. It’s the underlying stats that are harrowing.

Of 28 teams, the New England Revolution rank 28th for interceptions per match at 8.2. They were 25th for successful tackles per match at 7.7, with only 56.5 percent of their tackles successful(1). Brazilian defensive midfielder Maciel is first for the Revolution in both of these stats, but compared to every player in the league, he ranked 27th for interceptions per match, with 1.9, and 26th for tackles per match, with 1.7 (1).

The less capable a player is at intercepting the ball and tackling, the easier it is for their opposition to string passes together and keep the ball. This results in more chances created against them.

The team is tenth for clearances per match at 17.5. They are sixth for shots against, facing 156 total with an average of 4.9 per match (2). They are first for penalties given away (1). American center-backs Andrew Farrell and Henry Kessler have conceded the most penalties in the league, at four and three respectively (1).

Combined, these stats tell the story of a team that is easy to play through. The more chances an opponent creates, the more they’re forced into clearing the ball away. They’re also more likely to make errors, including penalties.

However, this defensive frailty is not new for this season. The Revs only conceded four penalties and ranked 11th for successful tackles per match with 9.7, which are notable improvements. But they still ranked bottom for interceptions at 9.3 per match, made an average of 0.4 more clearances and faced 4.9 shots a match. They were under significant pressure in most matches.

The Revs conceded 41 goals over 34 games last season, 48 over 32 games this one. They were still able to amass 73 points despite these problems. Where did 35 points go? They went where the goals went.

So far, in 2022, the Revolution have scored just 44 goals. This places them 18th in the nation for goals scored. They had scored 65 in the last campaign, placing them in first (2). That’s a net loss of 21 goals, while conceding seven more. 2021 featured Adam Buksa on 17 goals, Gustavo Bou on 15, and Tajon Buchannan on nine. 2022 features Adam Buksa, Gustavo Bou and Carles Gil on seven goals apiece. Not a single player has breached 10 goals this year (1).

There are a few reasons for this. The easiest to spot are the departures. Tajon Buchanan, the promising Canadian winger, was sold to Belgian side Club Brugge after the 2021 season concluded. Adam Buksa joined French club FC Lens in June 2022, midway through the current campaign(1).

They were replaced by Toronto FC’s Jozy Altidore, Juventus’s Giacomo Vrioni, Athletic Minero’s Dylan Borrero and LAFC’s Ismael Tajouri-Shradi. Buchanan and Buksa shared 26 goals amongst them; their four replacements shared five. (3)

Vrioni, Tajouri-Shradi and Borrero have all been sidelined since late July due to leg injuries (4) (5), so they’ve not had many chances to prove themselves. Jozy Altidore was fit, however, and he was loaned out to Mexican side Puebla FC after only three months of the season.

Goals don’t score themselves, nor do they create themselves. It’s easy to point at the personnel changes and cite them as reasons for failure, but as with the defensive record, there is more to the story.

As with defensive stats, there are a few attacking ones to look at. Chances created to score, big chances created to score and shots on target.

The Revs rank 15th for big chances created with just 45, an average of 1.4 per match. They were 12th for shots on target per match with 4.5. Both of these numbers are a decline from 2021, where they were first for big chances created at 75 (2.2 per match) and fourth for shots on target per match at 5.3 (1).

Spanish midfielder, Carles Gil, had 136 total chances created which placed him first among every player in the league, at an average of four per match in 2021. He remained a consistent outlet in 2022, creating 106 total chances, enough to finish first in the league again with an average of 3.3 per match. His midfield partner, Gustavo Bou, declined steeply. In 2021, he created 65 chances, 16th in the league at an average 1.9 per match. In 2022, he only created 19, 150th in the league and 0.5 per match (1).

The Revolution’s defense has always been shaky. Last season, they conceded two or more goals in 14 matches, with a record of 6–4–4 in those matches. This season, they’ve done it 16 times, with a 1–5–10 record. The attack papered over the cracks, but with a demotivating elimination on penalties from the first playoff round in the 2021 season, a decline in creativity, and the loss of key personnel, the Revs were bound to suffer.

If the newer players can get better and the club improves its recruitment, the New England Revolution may be able to turn things around for next season. As for this one, unless something dramatic happens, it looks unlikely that they will make the playoffs. They host Atlanta United on Oct. 1 for the final home game of the season before a trip to the Chicago Fire on Oct. 8 to conclude this very difficult year.

(1)   All statistics, unless otherwise stated, come from the FotMob app

(2)   https://www.mlssoccer.com/stats/clubs/

(3)   https://www.transfermarkt.us/new-england-revolution/alletransfers/verein/626

(4)   https://www.thebentmusket.com/2022/9/11/23346551/giacomo-vrioni-designated-player-injury-update-revolution

(5)   https://www.revolutionsoccer.net/news/preview-revs-return-home-for-saturday-night-showdown-with-east-power-cf-montreal

About the Contributor
Adam Shah, Contributing Writer