From record-setting Supporters’ Shield winners to possibly finishing in the bottom third of the Eastern Conference standings, 2022 has not gone how the New England Revolution envisioned.
The latest setback arrived Saturday night in a 1-0 loss to CF Montréal, creating even slimmer Audi MLS Cup Playoffs odds for a club that earned 73 regular-season points in 2021. Now, with two games to go and others above them having games in hand, they’re three points off the East’s pace and will end Week 32 in 11th place.
This change in fortune, head coach and sporting director Bruce Arena said postgame at Gillette Stadium, can partially be attributed to a league-leading 29 points dropped from a winning position this season. The 70-year-old outlined such frustrations in a detailed manner.
“If you go through the season, the number of games we’ve actually blown, just screwed up, is incredible,” said Arena, whose team is now on a 1W-5L-2D slide. “If you can think about the [New York] Red Bulls here, when we had that version of an own goal at the end of the game. I’m not sure I’ve seen that too many times in my life. The Philadelphia [Union] game, right at the end. If you start adding up these points, it’s actually remarkable. So, we’ve shot ourselves in the foot.”
Arena also pointed to how New England have allowed a league-leading 12 penalty kicks, a mark that’s only less hurtful by goalkeeper Djordje Petrovic’s league-leading four saves from the spot.
“I think last year we gave up three [PKs] the entire year, that’s a killer,” Arena said. “We’ve been in position to have an opportunity to get results the entire year. The snow game here against [Real] Salt Lake, I still look back on. We’re ahead by two goals in a blizzard here and managed to blow that game.
“So there’s been some really poor play at the end of games this year. It’s cost us dearly. And you see right now. The race is so close for the playoffs. Imagine if we had those points.”
The Revolution have also weathered the departure of some key players, with US international goalkeeper Matt Turner (to Arsenal), Polish international striker Adam Buksa (to RC Lens) and Canadian international winger Tajon Buchanan (to Club Brugge) all being transferred onto European teams for a reported combined $24 million. From 2021's Designated Player trio, striker Gustavo Bou and midfielder Carles Gil have remained.
Petrovic has been a sterling replacement, though new DP striker Giacomo Vrioni and U22 Initiative winger Dylan Borrero have missed lengthy periods to injuries. Summertime trade acquisition Ismael Tajouri-Shradi, another winger, is yet to feature since arriving from LAFC, and two of three marquee wintertime signings, striker Jozy Altidore (loaned to Liga MX’s Puebla) and midfielder Sebastian Lletget (traded to FC Dallas), are no longer on the roster.
Arena feels injuries and a lack of continuity have played a pronounced role.
“The players have been fine. We’ve just not been able to field our team this year," said Arena, with New England suffering a galling Concacaf Champions League quarterfinal exit to Liga MX's Pumas back in March. "We’ve been behind the eight ball the whole time. … I think, my own personal opinion, I thought last year we played well over our heads and I think some of our players never understood what made them successful last year, and it caught up with them a little bit."
Roster elements aside, defender Jon Bell feels personal pride and standing within the team is on the line.
“Just finish strong, you know, for guys who have something to prove,” Bell said. “Whether it’s just contracts or, whatever. You want to prove yourself, you’ve got two games to do it. So, that’s what I’m going to do if I get that chance, and I’m sure everybody else is. We don’t want to go out as losers. We want to win each game that’s possible.”
“We probably needed to win out, win these next [two] games to give ourselves a chance,” said center back Andrew Farrell.