There are very few sports markets more active and outspoken than the greater Boston area. It’s a fan base that will be the first in line to celebrate success and also the first to turn on you when things are crashing and burning (ahem…Red Sox…ahem). It’s championships or bust for the 4 major sports, but we’re all overlooking the best team in Boston this season: the New England Revolution. For those of you who just saw this post was about soccer and want to stop reading, just give me a few minutes to convince you why the Revs are worthly of your time right now.
As of the MLS All-Star game on Wednesday, the Revs have played 22 games and are 15-4-3 with a whopping 49 points and +18 goal differential. That puts them atop the MLS Eastern Conference by a massive 15 points and the best in all of MLS by 7 points. That’s essentially a 5-game lead in the East and 2+ games clear of the top Western Conference team (Seattle Sounders) with 12 games to play. This season has been filled with breakout stars and fun players to watch and even with the Olympics and CONCACAF Gold Cup taking players away from the team, the wins just keep piling up.
Here are my top 5 things to know about the Revolution with 12+ games remaining in the season:
1. The Brick Wall: Matt Turner
There may not be a better story in US Soccer this season than Goalie Matt Turner. He has emerged as a shutdown net-minder for the Revs and got a call-up to the US Men’s National Team for the CONCACAF Gold Cup. He opened some eyes on the national stage with his amazing performance, playing a pivotal role in USA upsetting Mexico to win the tournament. On Wednesday, he earned the All-Star game MVP award thanks to some nice saves in penalty kicks against the Liga MX All-Stars.
He has allowed just 20 goals in his 17 games so far this year and has a 75.3 save percentage. In the games Turner has started the Revs are 11-2-4. At 27, Turner looks to be cementing his place as one of the best goalies in the league and potentially the #1 on the US Men’s National Team for the next several years.
2. Late Game Goals
Nothing is better than action from start to finish in a game and this season, the Revs are keeping you engaged until the very end. There is a sense that regardless of the score or the situation, there is a chance for a comeback or late action. In the final 15 minutes of matches this year, the Revs have scored 25% of all their goals (11), including several game-winners. Of those 11 goals, 9 have come in the final 8 minutes of regulation. When push comes to shove and this team is backed against the wall in a must win playoff game, the killer instinct and belief that the game isn’t over until the whistle blows could prove invaluable.
3. The Killer Bs: Bou/Buksa/Buchanon
For anyone who has watched the Revs over the past several years, you know that one of the biggest issues has been goal scoring. A lack of offense and any spark has made it difficult to win games consistently and frankly, has made the team less interesting to watch. This season is the exact opposite. As a team the Revs have scored 44 goals in 22 games and the trio of Gustavo Bou, Adam Buksa, and Tajon Buchanon have accounted for 28 of those goals. Bou and Buksa have emerged as a great forward pair, maybe the best in MLS. Buchanon has had an incredible year at just 22 years old, even getting the nod and having an impact on Canada’s national team earlier in the year.
For comparison, in 2020 they scored 25 goals in 28 games (0.89 goals/game), scoring more than 2 goals just 4 times all season. This season, the Revs are averaging 2 goals/game and have already scored more than 2 goals 5 times with 12 regular season matches remaining.
4. The Assist Master: Carles Gil
Along with the finishing ability of the killer Bs, the biggest offensive playmaker has been Carles Gil. From his midfield spot, he has been distributing the ball with unbelievable accuracy and at an incredible pace. In 17 games played, Gil has 15 assists, which is nearly double the next highest assist total in all of the MLS. In his best year in the league before this season, he had 14 assists in 34 games in 2019 which was a 0.41 assist per game average. This year his assist per game ratio is an eye-popping 0.88. If that pace keeps up, he would shatter the previous assists-in-a-season record for the MLS which was 20 in 32 games in 2016 by Sacha Kljestan.
5. The Puppeteer: Bruce Arena
While most people don’t watch a team for it’s coach, the Revs Head Coach Bruce Arena is the man behind all of this year’s success. He took over the helm in the middle of the 2019 season after Brad Freidel was fired and and had an immediate impact taking the 2-8-2 Revs on an 11-match unbeaten streak (7-0-4). Arena is one of the most well-known names in US soccer over the past 25 years, coaching at the National Team level for 9 combined years (1998-2006, 2016-2017) and having stints as head coach of 3 other MLS teams: DC United, Los Angeles Galaxy, and the New York Red Bulls. If there is one thing Arena knows, it’s winning. He won 2 MLS Cups with DC United and 3 with the Los Angeles Galaxy, including one in 2014 against the Revs.
He’s been able to get the most from his players and has really helped to motivate and empower several players on the roster to achieve at a higher level. He has overseen the breakout of so many players on this roster in 2021 and is hoping to bring the Revs back to the point of legitimate contender and get them past the bridesmaid results of the early 2000s (runner-up in 4 of 6 straight seasons).