History is knocking on the New England Revolution’s door.
With five regular-season games remaining, the MLS original is eight points removed from breaking the single-season points record that LAFC established in 2019 with 72 total. They’re also chasing their first Supporters’ Shield, with the Western Conference-leading Seattle Sounders (eight-point deficit) the only realistic challenger.
But how much are these facts weighing on the Revolution’s mind? Not much, it turns out, as head coach/sporting director Bruce Arena noted before their Saturday home match against Chicago Fire FC (7 pm ET | MLS LIVE on ESPN+). They have 65 points through 29 games, good for 2.24 points per game – and have already booked a 2022 Concacaf Champions League berth.
“It's not a goal of ours, but if it falls into place that's great,” Arena said. “But the goal of ours has been to quality for the playoffs, to get a home-field advantage. And at that point, it was to try to finish first. Now, we're well aware of the fact that we're in a race for the Supporters' Shield and we'll be conscious of that fact. But it's not what drives us every day. The ultimate goal is being prepared for the playoffs. So that's what our focus is right now.”
Bruce Arena on the New England Revolution's success in 2021
Earlier this season, when appearing on The Call Up, Arena contended there's an "asterisk" next to the Shield winner in 2021 since there are so few cross-conference games.
That debate aside, New England have already locked in home-field advantage for the Eastern Conference portion of the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs, clinching a postseason spot Sept. 22 at Chicago – more than six weeks before Decision Day on Nov. 7. They’ve also secured the East’s No. 1 seed, booking automatic passage into the Conference Semifinals (held Nov. 25-30).
If the Shield gets clinched, New England (and Gillette Stadium) will also earn MLS Cup hosting priority when the Philip F. Anschutz Trophy is handed out on Dec. 11, should they still be in contention during the single-elimination bracket.
So, how do they reach those benchmarks? Here are their five remaining contests:
- Saturday, Oct. 16 vs. Chicago Fire FC
- Wednesday, Oct. 20 @ D.C. United
- Sunday, Oct. 24 @ Orlando City SC
- Wednesday, Oct. 27 vs. Colorado Rapids
- Sunday, Nov. 7 vs. Inter Miami CF
This upcoming four-game sprint across 12 days includes matches against two East playoff contenders (D.C., Orlando) and a top-three West foe (Colorado). The book-enders, against Chicago and Inter Miami, involve what are likely non-playoff teams.
They can also win the Supporters' Shield as soon as MLS Week 31 (upcoming midweek fixtures), but that's all dependent upon this weekend’s results. Late October looks most realistic.
Paths to follow
How can New England reach eight points and surpass LAFC's record? There are seven different combinations that get them there, creating slight room for error:
- 2W-1L-2D (eight points)
- 2W-0L-3D (nine points)
- 3W-1L-1D (10 points)
- 3W-0L-2D (11 points)
- 4W-1L-0D (12 points)
- 4W-0L-1D (13 points)
- 5W-0L-0L (15 points)
One permutation (1W-0L-4D, seven points) puts New England even with LAFC’s 2019 group, creating a deadlock in the MLS single-season points record. The most points they can finish with is 80, shattering the Black & Gold's previous mark. They're on track for 76 (or thereabouts).
It bears repeating, though: Arena’s bunch isn’t too focused on these facts.
“To start from the bottom and be where we are right now is a great accomplishment,” left back DeJuan Jones said. “We're happy with where we are, but we know there's still a lot of work left to do. It's been an incredible transformation since my rookie season [in 2019].”
While others around MLS are fighting for playoff positioning, the Revolution already know they’ll be competing deep into November. And, after making the Eastern Conference Final in 2020 (where they fell against eventual winners Columbus Crew), they’ll be only two games away from fighting for MLS Cup for the sixth time in club history. They’ve made the 2002, 2005-07 and 2014 finals, losing each time.
That these conversations exist around New England is quite remarkable, and it’s a must-watch storyline as the 2021 season enters its final laps. Arena’s group has made their intentions clear, and now they’re well-rested coming out of the October international break – eager to keep tossing aside all challengers.
“It’s been good to get that little kind of break and reset, and to come back into things refreshed, and kind of give it one last go in this last stretch of five games,” midfielder Tommy McNamara said. “Then we’ll worry about playoffs after that.”