FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Andrew Farrell stopped short of saying exactly where he thinks the New England Revolution are in the pecking order of Major League Soccer, but did offer some perspective on how the club views itself during a new era.
“I’ve talked with a few guys out on Western Conference teams, and they all saw how we’re tough to go against and give everyone a battle,” Farrell told MLSsoccer.com at Tuesday's training session, a few hours before the team traded playmaker Lee Nguyen to LAFC in a deadline-day blockbuster. “We might not always put up high numbers, but the buy-in, the belief in what Brad [Friedel] is trying to do here is taking us places.”
It was a statement rife with confidence from the Revs’ right back, who said the biggest difference between now and the playoff-less versions of New England over the past two seasons is Friedel, who’s approaching six months on the job.
While it’s still early, the Revs are 4-2-2 through eight games, and fresh off beating Western Conference leaders Sporting Kansas City last weekend. From that, Diego Fagundez feels safe in saying that no team “takes us lightly” under Friedel.
“The way we’ve been playing, we can beat anybody,” Fagundez told MLSsoccer.com. “Of course we all have to keep working hard and finish our chances, but at the end of the day if we’re winning our individual battles and fighting, then the game will go our way.”
As simple as it is, Farrell and Fagundez agreed the Revs’ resurgence started back in preseason, when Friedel and his staff laid the groundwork for a high-press system that’s arguably surpassed expectations.
That system has helped New England allow just eight goals in as many games, second-fewest in MLS. It’s a marked turnaround after the Revs allowed 115 goals combined across 2016 and 2017, the Eastern Conference’s second-most over that span. It should be noted that the play of goalkeeper Matt Turner has been a big help in keeping the Revs' goals conceded numbers down. According to Opta, New England would have been expected to concede 12.59 goals so far based on the quality of chances they have conceded.
“Defending is hard work,” Friedel said. “It’s a mentality and is not the easy side of the game. It’s not the flair side of the game. It’s not the game that gets written about. It’s not the game that people go and really take focus on. But it’s part of the game that’s needed.”
Friedel thinks there are several more levels to reach, though.
“We’re still working out kinks in how we do things, but as I said earlier, the application of players and the hard work they’ve put in and the numbers they’re putting with regards to their fitness levels is starting to become pretty impressive,” said the first-year head coach. “The exciting thing for us is there’s still a long way to go in that department.”