Less than a year after breaking the single-season record for points and raising the Supporter’s Shield at Gillette Stadium, the New England Revolution face an early elimination from playoff contention with less than a month to go in the season. While the team only lost winger Tajon Buchanan in the offseason to Club Brugge, a collection of injuries, questionable midseason moves and a dwindling feeling of strong leadership have caused one of MLS’s inaugural teams to freefall over the better part of the year.
Bruce Arena’s group kicked off the year in Portland against the Timbers, playing a thrilling 2-2 draw on national television before following it up with a 1-0 win over FC Dallas the next week. Their phenomenal finish in the standings in 2021 granted the club a spot in the CONCACAF Champions League for 2022, opening the tournament against Pumas with a 3-0 win at a snowy Gillette Stadium. Up until this point things were looking fairly positive for the Revs, that was, until their match-up against Real Salt Lake (RSL) in similar snowy conditions on March 12, 2022.
Heading into the seventieth minute up 3-0 should have been a guaranteed win for the Revs, as newcomer Jozy Altidore’s first goal with the team secured the lead at three. Sergio Córdova found the back of the net in the seventy-eighth minute for RSL, and 10 minutes later, Justen Glad’s goal cut the lead down to one. The high pressing nature of Pablo Mastroeni’s late-game tactics overwhelmed New England, and Tate Schmitt dealt the finishing blow three minutes into added time to steal three points at the death.
The team’s unbelievable run of bad luck continued later that week in Mexico as they traveled to take on Pumas, choking away their three-goal aggregate advantage to the tune of a 3-0 Pumas lead at the end of 90 minutes. With a distraught group on the pitch, the Revs eventually fell to the home side on penalty kicks after Sebastian Lletget’s chance flew over the bar in the shootout. The result meant that yet another opportunity passed the Revolution by; a team that hasn’t won any real hardware since 2008.
Heading to Charlotte to close out their three-game week was an opportunity for New England to get back on track against the newest team in the league, but Polish striker Karol Swiderski had other ideas. His 60-minute brace was enough to down the Revs 3-1. Things went from bad to worse quickly after that point, losing striker Adam Buksa to a ninetieth-minute red card against the Red Bulls at home, just after Matt Polster had accidentally directed the ball into his own goal only seconds beforehand. The goal was the only tally of the match, handing the Revs’ bitter rivals an undeserved three points.
Over their next five matches, the Revs went 2-2-1 before thumping FC Cincinnati in their first match of the U.S. Open Cup 5-1. Though Robert Kraft’s team wasn’t losing as harshly as they had been, dropping points became almost a regular occurrence. Veteran centerback Omar Gonzalez’s age began to show, and the load carried by back-up goalie Earl Edwards Jr. was beginning to become too much. On top of this, Altidore was offloaded to Cruz Azul, former MLS Goalkeeper of the year Matt Turner was sold to Arsenal and striker Adam Buksa, who had been in contention for the golden boot, was sold to RC Lens.
In response, team management signed former Serbia U21 goalkeeper Djordje Petrovic from FK Cukaricki, 20-year-old Colombian winger Dylan Borrero from Atletico Mineiro and 23-year-old Albanian striker Giacomo Vrioni from Juventus. Additionally, the team brought in defender Christian Makoun from Charlotte FC, and midfielder Ismael Tajouri-Shradi from LAFC to bolster their depth heading into the final stretch of the year.
While the moves have shown promise, with Petrovic a weekly staple in the league’s team of the week, the Revs drew eight times in the summer, pushing them down the table outside of the playoff zone. Though the Revs won against NYCFC on Sept. 4, they had not won a game since Aug. 13 before that point, with the results landing them in eleventh position in the Eastern Conference. Thankfully, the table is tight enough that if results go perfectly in New England’s way, they could mathematically make the playoffs. The Revs sit only four points removed from the final playoff spot and with two matches remaining, anything can happen.
Both of the remaining two matches are against Eastern Conference competition, with a matchup against Atlanta United on Oct. 4 set to be pivotal for playoff position.