New England Revolution Finally Catching up to Rest of MLS

The New England Revolution are one of the original teams in MLS but based on the past few years they looked more like a second-tier USL side than an top flight operation. All of that has changed however, all of a sudden the Robert Kraft owned Revolution are a team on the rise in American soccer.

New England has undergone a complete transformation this season after dropping to last place in Eastern Conference in record pace to start the year. But all of a sudden after severe fan revolt and straight up embarrassing results on the pitch something changed at 1 Patriot Place.

Something Clicked in April of 2018

Quickly second-year head coach Brad Friedel was terminated, shortly thereafter General Manager Michael Burns was let go, and then the club went after a soccer god, Bruce Arena. Under Arena the Revolution climbed up from beneath the MLS cellar all the way into their first MLS playoff berth since 2015. Somehow, someway, the Revs finished their season with an 11-11-12 record in seventh place in the East.

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New England all of a sudden, has invested into its soccer program. Now while it is easy to point to Arena as sparking the investment by Kraft. The actual change occurred well before Arena’s arrival or the departure of Friedel and Burns. Back in April of 2018 the first sign of change was revealed when the Revolution revealed that they were planning on building a brand new practice facility.

New England Revolution youth U18 vs FC Boston Bolts at Medway High School, Medway, MA, October 4, 2015.

The facility which is now two weeks away from opening isn’t some run of the mill proving ground. It’s a $35 million center that will allow the Revolution to break free of the New England Patriots basement and into a home of their own. With the training center the Revolution will have everything under one roof, the first team, the Academy, and yes, the new USL side. At the time of the announcement the Revolution under Friedel were actually performing quite well but fell apart rather quickly and finished the season in 9th place and missing the playoffs by 9 points.

New England Brought in Star Power

That off-season was the next indicator of a seismic change. On January 30th, 2019, the Revolution signed a game changing type player in Carles Gil. Gil who came to New England with English Premier League experience was a then record setting signing for the Revolution and had a team high $2.3M in compensation this season. The Designated Player thrived under Friedel, Interim Head Coach Mike Lapper, and then Arena being the clear MVP of the team. Gil was the quarterback on offense and wasn’t afraid to track back to the ball on defense. Gil finished his first regular season in New England leading the team in goals and in assists and earned the Captains armband after just a few months in the system.

For any Revolution fan that has any bitterness to Burns or Friedel, under their leadership the Revs landed Gil and discovered the hidden talent of goalkeeper Matt Turner. Both Turner and Gil are now franchises cornerstone pieces.

Kraft Taps the Bill Belichick of Soccer

The next sign of change came on May 9th with the dismissal of Friedel, then Burns on May 13th, and then the franchise altering move in hiring Bruce Arena to take over as Sporting Director and Head Coach a day later. Under Arena the Revolution have not only rebounded and have made the MLS playoffs but have built a platform for long-term success.

New England Revolution HC Bruce Arena

At the time of his hiring Arena didn’t seem to have any hope of making the playoffs this season but with the team surpassing his expectations he made a game changing type acquisition. Arena signed forward Gustavo Bou. Bou came in breaking the record that Gil had set in terms of acquisition fee and salary and he hasn’t let Revolution fans down. Bou scored 9 goals in 14 games, 13 starts, and was magical with Gil up top setting the table for years to come.

“It’s not going to happen in the next two weeks,” said Arena in his introductory press conference as he took over a team sitting in 12th place.. “But I am confident over the next few years to be competitive.” 

Academy to First Team Gap Filled, More Change to Come

Arena brought in Curt Onalfo to serve as his Technical Director, a move that clearly signaled a USL side and that side has come to fruition. On October 9th the New England Revolution announced the Revolution II, a USL League One team that will start play in 2020. Having this lower tier side will allow the Revolution to offer young players a clear path from the Academy to the first team. No more will the youngest and brightest Revolution players be playing for other USL sides. Now everything will be in-house and under the watchful eye of Arena and his staff.

These major events have changed not only the future of the franchise but the perception of them around MLS. New England will take on Atalanta United in the first round of the MLS Playoffs on Saturday, October 19th.

Next on the to-dos for the Revolution are locking down a soccer specific stadium, and adding a franchise defenseman. The latter of the two seems to already be completed and should be announced in the near future. As for the stadium, no movement but then again with all the change in the past year anything can happen at any given time.
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