The New England Revolution, heading into Matchday 11, sit atop both the Eastern Conference and Supporters’ Shield tables. Everything’s going swell, right?
Yes and no.
The club received a big blow Saturday night when Dylan Borrero suffered what was later confirmed by the club to be a torn ACL early in their 1-1 draw with FC Cincinnati, landing awkwardly on the Gillette Stadium turf after eluding a challenge from defender Yerson Mosquera.
Head coach and sporting director Bruce Arena, speaking at training Tuesday, said “we’ll get him back next year” and expects the rising Colombian international forward to spend the rest of the season rehabbing.
Now, the question becomes if New England’s trophy-winning potential is damaged while looking to reclaim their torrid 2021 pace, back when they won the Supporters’ Shield with a record-setting points total (73).
“Without him, I think their ceiling drops,” Matt Doyle said on Extratime’s latest episode. “Still going to be in the playoffs, still almost certainly going to have a home game in the playoffs. They're that good. Still going to be a team that could win MLS Cup, but I think without Borrero they go from among the favorites to, okay, veteran, smart team that could get it done. And that's a pretty significant difference.”
Borrero, New England’s only U22 Initiative player, joined last spring from Brazilian side Atlético Mineiro. And the 21-year-old has quickly grown into one of MLS’s most dangerous wingers, tallying five goals and three assists in 20 games (14 starts).
But with Borrero sidelined, New England’s offense may have become more predictable around midfielder Carles Gil, the 2021 Landon Donovan MLS MVP.
“I think it puts a lot more pressure on [outside backs] DeJuan Jones and Brandon Bye,” said Extratime’s David Gass. “Pretty much all your creativity in width now that doesn’t come from Gil comes from those two. It makes them [less]-dimensional. It takes away, as you have said, the different options.”
Added Gass: “Carles Gil has gravity. You know he's going to provide every game. What Dylan Borrero gave was another guy that you had to shade over towards, that you had to track, you have to worry about and can pop up.”
As difficult as replacing Borrero will be, New England have repeatedly leaned upon their depth this year. That gives Extratime’s Kaylyn Kyle confidence there are solutions to be found.
“You look at this Revs side and maybe on paper, you're thinking, ‘Oh, they don't have that much depth.’ But player-wise when you do see them play, I think they do,” Kyle said.
“ … They're able to adapt into different formations where a lot of teams in Major League Soccer, you don't really see that. Especially when one of their star men go out, you’re like, ‘OK, what do we do? Let's just go defensive. Let's just sit into a 4-4-2.’ Like we've seen with Minnesota without Emanuel Reynoso.”
“The young players, I worry for the academy guys on that consistency, like they're not going to be able to do it every week like a Borrero was capable of,” Gass said. “But I think now if you get Gustavo Bou closer to his form, and Vrioni has now scored a couple goals, I think there's more pieces right now than if this had happened a month or two months ago.”
As the Borrero-less Revolution find their footing, the trophy window hasn’t necessarily slammed shut.
“I still think Supporters’ Shield is in their destiny even without Borrero,” Kyle said. “I think it's gonna be difficult for sure. But I love this Revs side, defensively and offensively.”
Noted Doyle: “I think we probably all think they're still one of the top five teams in MLS, but four days ago, I would have had them near the top of that list. I think I have them near the bottom of that list.”
For more Extratime analysis, check out the Matchday 10 wrap-up episode via MLS Season Pass on Apple TV.