In the seven months since clinching the first Supporters’ Shield in club history and having the greatest regular season to date in Major League Soccer, the Revolution have had to confront some difficult decisions.
Coach Bruce Arena, having built a deep and talented roster for the 2021 run, watched several of his best players depart for Europe. It was, to an extent, inevitable.
Winger Tajon Buchanan, forward Adam Buksa, and goalkeeper Matt Turner were pillars of New England’s success a year ago. Each came from a different country, arriving in Foxborough under different circumstances. But in their time under Arena, the common thread was that each player made major leaps in development, eventually attracting irresistible offers to play overseas.
Unlike Boston teams in other sports, the Revolution have to contend with the problem of competing for talent with clubs around the world, some of whom possess bigger budgets and more prestige. So while the Celtics can be reasonably confident of retaining the core of a young roster, the Revolution must constantly plan for a future that may not include their current stars.
The recent pace of change has been especially difficult. The 2022 season has reflected that, even with Buksa playing many of the early games prior to his $10 million transfer to French club RC Lens. A disappointment in the CONCACAF Champions League in March — in which New England squandered a 3-0 first-leg lead against Mexico’s Pumas in the quarterfinals — was compounded by key injuries and inconsistency in MLS games.
Beginning with a shocking second-half collapse against Real Salt Lake March 12, Arena’s team lost six of seven (including the Champions League defeat in Mexico City). It was by far the worst stretch of Arena’s tenure in New England, punctuated by a bevy of late goals surrendered by a disorganized defense.
But since a 3-2 loss to D.C. United April 23, New England has rediscovered its form in league games. Other than a US Open Cup defeat to New York City FC in May, the Revolution have put together an eight-game unbeaten run.
Arena praised his team’s solidarity.
“I think for the most part over the 2½ years, that’s been a characteristic of our team,” he said. “They play a good, hard 90 minutes game in and game out. Obviously, no game is perfect, but they deal with the highs and the lows pretty well. They’re a good group of guys and they play well together as a team.”
It hasn’t been a dominant run — four draws, with three of the four wins coming by just a one-goal margin — but it’s been the kind of response to adversity that could be season-saving.
Though more than half the season remains, the Revolution’s run has lifted them into playoff position. New England’s next game is Sunday at Vancouver at 8 p.m.
Help has arrived in the form of new signings such as 22-year-old Serbian goalkeeper Djordje Petrovic and 20-year-old Colombian winger Dylan Borrero. Each has contributed, including Borrero netting his first MLS goal in a recent 2-1 comeback win against Minnesota United.
Other reinforcements could be on the way. The midseason transfer window opens July 7.
Buksa’s exit created a vacant Designated Player spot (each team is allowed three). Should the Revolution pursue a bigger-money acquisition — alongside existing Designated Player deals for forward Gustavo Bou and midfielder Carles Gil — they technically have space under MLS rules.
Despite recent comments from ESPN analyst (and former Revolution forward) Taylor Twellman that New England will “100 percent sign a Designated Player” specifically to replace Buksa at forward, Arena has indicated that he might look to another spot on the field.
“How would he possibly know that?” Arena said. “That is not an accurate statement.
“Naturally, we will use the next transfer window to hopefully supplement our roster. There’s a few positions we think we can strengthen. I’m not sure which one or a couple we’ll decide to fill, but we’re actively looking at potential transfer moves for the July window.”
In the interim, the Revolution will look to continue getting results on the field as Arena grapples with the never-ending cycle of player movement.