The hottest team in Boston sports right now is, you guessed it… the New England Revolution.
(Okay, maybe you didn’t guess it)
No team in the MLS has been arguably as hot as the Revs since late June. With a 1-1 tie at home on Saturday against Toronto FC, New England has gone unbeaten in 15 of their last 16 MLS matches. The only blemish in that stretch was a 2-0 loss to juggernaut LAFC. In all their other matches, the Revs earned at least a point as they climbed out of the basement of the standings and into the MLS playoff structure.
The Revs have now amassed a record of 10-9-9, good enough for 39 points and the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference. On the surface, these numbers might not jump off the page. But consider that late as May 13th, New England was in dead last in the Eastern Conference with a total of 11 points. The turnaround has been fast, and there is now a buzz around the team that is sometimes hard to find around Gillette Stadium (for teams that don’t feature Tom Brady, of course). And it looks like the Revs now control their own destiny when it comes to making the playoffs– they have six matches to go, and a two point lead over the 8th seed Montreal Impact.
How did things turn around in such a hurry?
Well, recall May 13th. It’s not just the last time the Revolution saw last place in the conference. It’s also the day before New England brought in Bruce Arena to take over as head coach and sporting director, following the firing of Brad Friedel.
Now, a lot of people in the soccer world have strong opinions about Arena. Some good, many not so good. His last coaching gig ended in an unmitigated disaster. But there is no denying the improvement in play under his tenure with the Revs. We’ve seen a boost in offensive production from forwards Teal Bunbury and Christain Penilla, who have worked well in combination with midfielder Carles Gil (who, let’s be honest, looks able to work in combination with anyone). The defense has held up too. Diego Fagundez is finding ways to contribute all over the field, even if it’s off the bench. Arena has found a way to get the most out of his players, like him or not. His tactics, overall, have helped chart a new path for a team that was looking like it would fail to qualify for the playoffs for the 4th straight season.
And of course, there is the quickly evolving dynamic duo of designated players Carles Gil and Gustavo Bou. Offseason acquisition Gil leads the squad in both goals and assists, and now has a pure finisher up top in Bou to form a potentially lethal combination with down the stretch. And when it comes to Bou, we can give a little credit to Arena here as well for identifying the right guy at the right time. Arena and the Revolution brought in Bou from Club Tijuana (Mexico) in July as the team’s second designated player, and Bou has made it clear that he’s the real deal. In addition to an absolute beauty of a volley to net his first goal in his first game with the Revs, Bou has scored a total of 6 times in 8 matches. That’s already good enough for second most on the team.
Boston fans, take note
I know it’s easy to get swept up in start of the NFL season, or the MLB playoff push. But if the Sox are bumming you out as much as they are me, I urge you to use a free evening to visit The Fort and see what’s going down at Gillette Stadium. The Revs are playing as quality of soccer as any other team in the MLS right now, and they have got a couple of dynamic goalscorers on the brink of leading the team to a playoff berth. Which, if you watched this squad earlier this season, would have sounded like a joke to you back in April.
But here we are. New coach. New system. And the Revolution are on the verge of closing out as special of a regular season this team has seen in some time. They will face Eastern Conference foes New York City FC and Orlando City FC in their next two matches.
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