Revs speed past Dynamo to a well-earned three points

Some initial thoughts on the Revs’ win 2-0 road win in Houston tonight. Overall, a very solid road performance tonight. A few things specifically stood out to me.

First, the fitness level was impressive.

Theres something to having that ex-Spurs fitness coach here. The pace of the passing, the frequent switches and the speed of thought is significantly improved. That type of game intelligence simply wasn’t there last year, which is a reflection on the assembled talent even more than the coaching. Heaps probably got as much as he could out of mediocre talent. It tells me the problem was with the coach’s talent evaluation skills (or lack thereof), not the GM.

Revs meet the eye test

Despite what the stats may say, this is a good example of the eye test. The revs may not have the possession, mainly because they moved so quickly, they may even have been outshot, but watching this team, there’s no question they are buying into Friedel’s tactics.

Friedel is bringing out the best

The revs are significantly more talented than in 2017. Not just the new guys coming in but also the existing guys are playing better. I’ve been critical of Farrell for a long time but tonight he had a monster game. Caldwell controlled tempo beautifully. Zahibo protected the back four and was opportunistic and always looking to spring an attacker, which is exciting to say the least. Penilla and Caicedo are both exciting young players and the creative wingers we’ve lacked for a long, long time.

Agudelo didn’t get on the scoresheet but worked hard. Even Matt Turner in goal, coming up with that HUGE 1v1 stop.

Steady at the back – mostly

The defense was steady and calm under pressure the vast majority of this game.S Sure, the opening minutes were anxious and Houston botched a few clear chances, but on the whole the back 4 played well as a unit tonight against a very potent offense that put 4 away on Atlanta.

Learning from mistakes against NYC

Lastly, the team learned and figure out how to see out a result, on the road no less. They learned from their mistakes last week and are improving week by week. Posession when it made sense, pushing the pace the rest of the time. That tactical flexibility is huge and hopefully a sign of what’s to come, especially as they get used to playing together more over time.

Onward and upward

Really enjoying this young season and feeling hopeful for the first time in awhile. Looking forward to Montreal on Friday night.

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Who’s the best Revs GM? A look at New England Revolution Draft History 2001-2013

Mike Burns, Revolution GM
Mike Burns, New England Revolution GM, 2009 – present

With today’s MLS SuperDraft, I was curious how the revs have done in their recent draft history so did a quick analysis of SuperDraft and Supplemental draft pick success from 2000 onward. Source.

Craig Tornberg
Craig Tornberg Revolution GM 2003-8

I defined “success” by noting players that played at least 2 or more seasons for the revs, analyzing each draft class on its own. I then compared Smith (2001-2) , Tornberg (2003-8) to the Burns era (2009-present) to see who was the better GM. For the sake of argument, I excluded the revs’ first GM, Brian O’Donovan (1995-2000) because the ’96 draft skews his numbers.

Here are my findings…

2001 (1 for 5)

  • Nick Downing (2001-3)

2002 (3 for 6)

  • Taylor Twellman (2002-9)
  • Shalrie Joseph (2003-12)
  • Marshall Leonard (2002-7)

End of Todd Smith Era (4 for 11 = 36% success rate).

2003 (1 for 2)

  • Pat Noonan (2003-7)

2004 (2 for 3)

  • Clint Dempsey (2004-6)
  • Andy Dorman (2004-7, 2013-)

Start of Supplemental Draft Era

2005* (4 for 6, *drafts from here onward include sup draft)

  • Michael Parkhurst (2005-8)
  • James Riley (2005-7)
  • Tony Lochhead (2005-7)
  • Jeff Larentowicz (2005-9)

2006 (0 for 6)

2007 (3 for 9)

  • Wells Thompson (2007-9)
  • Amaechi Igwe (2007-9)
  • Adam Cristman (2007-8)

2008* (3 for 9)

  • Mike Videira (2009-10)
  • Kheli Dube (2008-11)
  • Chris Tierney (2008 -)

*Note, Rob Valentino was on the revs 2008-9 but failed to make an appearance, so I’ve excluded him from the “success” category of this draft class.

End of Craig Tornberg era (13/35 = 37% draft success rate)

Start of the Mike Burns era… (2009-present)

2009 (2 for 7)

  • Kevin Alston (2009-)
  • Darrius Barnes (2009-)

2010 (3 for 5)

  • Seth Sinovic (2010-11)
  • Zack Schilawski (2010-11)
  • Zak Boggs (2010-12)

2011 (2 for 8) – *this and subsequent draft calculations do not include re-entry draft picks.

  • AJ Soares (2011-)
  • Stephen McCarthy (2011-)

2012 (2 for 6)

  • Kelyn Rowe (2012-)
  • Tyler Polak (2012-)

2013 (3 for 8)

  • Andrew Farrell (2013-)
  • Donnie Smith (2013-)
  • Luis Soffner (2013-)

12 / 34 = 35% success rate under Burns for players with at least 2 seasons on the revs’ roster. So Tornberg and Smith had better success rates than Burnsie which confirmed my gut, although it was closer than I thought.

Budget vs Talent Decision Making: Does higher salary = more success in MLS?

MLS Cup Trophy
How much will it cost in player salaries to win the MLS Cup?

Some revs fans believe Mike Burns and Jay Heaps are hampered with a comparatively small salary budget when compared with their competitors. This may be true to a degree, but when it comes to winning in Major League Soccer, I’m a firm believer it’s “how you spend” not “what you spend.”

Recent history has shown a lack of budget isn’t always a limiting factor for MLS cup winning clubs.

soc_u_goncalves_gb1_400
Jose Goncalves has been the lone international success for Mike Burns and Jay Heaps in 2013.

For example, Houston wasn’t a big spending team in 2006 or 2007. Columbus won it in 2008 and apart from Guillermo Barros-Schelotto I don’t think they broke the bank on too many “name” guys. Ditto for Real Salt Lake in 2009 and Colorado in 2010. LA has been the exception the past couple years with their glitzy lineup and mega budget, although it’s been a combination of spending on the right players (unlike NYRB, for example). History has show it’s very possible to win the league or be at the doorstep with the right people making the decisions and a little bit of luck. Since 2008 the revs have had neither.

Budget vs Talent Decision Making: How the Revs Have Done
As far as budget vs talent decision making, this off season will be interesting.

This year, Burns has hit on one international (Goncalves) and missed on the rest (Toja, Cisse, Bengtson) with the jury still out on our red card magnets Imbongo and Dorman, who have 5 reds between them. Woodbine hasn’t seen much of the field yet so we can’t judge him, other than he hasn’t been able to beat out Tierney for the LB spot.

Domestic players have been a mixed bag with Agudelo a success, Barrett and Simms neither a success/failure just mediocre, and Davies has shown very little in his limited time so far. Burns gets credit for signing homegrowns Diego and Caldwell who have performed well.

Looking Ahead to 2014
For me there are 4 key transactions to pay attention to this offseason:

1. I said at the beginning of the season, Jerry Bengtson needed a break out year if the revs would be successful. He’s all but disappeared and if our “DP” #27 is still here in 2014, to me it transcends budgetary restraints and gets into the realm of oblivious.

2. Replace Agudelo.

3. Getting a veteran GK to replace Reis or if Shuttleworth becomes the de facto #1, only having to beat out Sofner;

4. Getting more bite in the midfield to partner Caldwell (what Cisse should have been).

Of course, we could always upgrade at outside back but I suspect Tierney will once again start next year. Some things never change! It will be interesting to see what happens – will the revs upgrade or stand pat?

US Open Cup at Harvard: Boston’s Urban Soccer Specific Stadium Audition

This post is a bit of a rant because the Revs getting an urban soccer specific stadium accessible via the T is a topic I’m very passionate about because it’s vital to the future success of this club.

Please note, this mini rant isn’t directed at anyone specifically, in general I personally hate when fans and MLS pundits constantly point out that we don’t have our own Soccer Specific Stadium.

We do tonight.

As you’re no doubt aware by now, the New England Revolution host the New York Red Bulls tonight in a 4th round US Open Cup game at 7:30 at Soldier’s Field Soccer Stadium at Harvard.

The revs playing a meaningful game accessible via the T is a LONG time coming. After 18 years, the club finally got it. Lots of people live in the Boston area. Many of those people don’t have cars. Bring them soccer via the annual USOC tournament. Soldier’s Field at Harvard is a great venue. Bingo!

The game is sold out. My fiancee and I will be there, in revs gear. I can’t wait!

I anticipate a loud, passionate, intimate crowd for the Revs USOC accessible by the T and can only dream this is a teaser for things to come.

Doesn’t matter to me that the Bruins are playing – I’m a bruins fan too. We’re all going to miss the first period. This is too important.

My prediction is 2-1 revs. Psyched!

Opening Day Victory: Is it Groundhog Day or Are there Signs of Progress?

ImageLike many revs fans, I woke up this morning with a smile on my face as I drank my coffee. Given the revs have traditionally had a tough start out of the gate, winning the opener on the road is obviously a great way to begin the 2013 season. To win in Chicago is even more satisfying.

But before we get overly excited about last night’s performance sans Sene, and anoint the revs MLS Cup contenders, we should remember the revs started off the Heaps era a year ago with a comprehensive 3-1 win at the Champs in LA. Fans were understandably re-energized and excited at the new-look revs under Heaps.

And then the 2012 season happened. The revs failed to win another road game for 6 months.

Moving ahead to this season, after watching last night’s game, the revs still have the same core problem as a year ago. It was fun to watch the tiki taka combination play orchestrated by Toja in the second half but the reality is thuggery trumps finesse and MLS teams know this. How the revs deal with the thuggery will go a long way towards deciding if this season is another Groundhog Day under Heaps or the Revs will make genuine progress in the 2013 campaign.

Signs of Groundhog Day?
Based on the importance of the skillful and creative Toja, Rowe and Nguyen to the attack, I’d anticipate the 2013 Revs will match up well against (perhaps ironically) the more skilled, finesse teams like LA, NYRB and SKC. Then, they will likely get beaten to a pulp again by the Houston and Seattle’s of the league who don’t play soccer and just hack the crap out of you all game. Last season, teams learned quickly this was an effective game plan against the revs and were able to marginalize their attack by simply fouling everyone. It’s why Benny led the league last year in most fouled. They knew the revs don’t have a dead ball specialist – so why not put them in dead ball situations?  We saw the start of it again last night with the thuggery in Chicago, taking out Soares, Nguyen and Rowe – with old friend Ginger the culprit on a couple occasions.

Strong Toja and Bengtson Performances: Signs of Progress?

We know he can score for Honduras - will that finishing ability translate in Foxboro?
We know Jerry Bengtson can score for Honduras – will that finishing ability translate in Foxboro in 2013?

One of the key to success for the 2013 revs is whether a true El Pibe type emerges, which the revs have lacked since the Ralston era. Toja had a strong second half last night, playing out of position as the false 9. The combination play, vision and off the ball runs were positive and enjoyable to watch, especially in the second half. As the season progresses, if Toja (or Rowe, even Dorman..) can be that man who sprays balls around the pitch supporting the attack and providing service for Bengtson and Sene to finish (a second key to success) then we will be in good shape.

However, this brings us back to the initial cause for concern which is the rampant thuggery, which we know MLS clubs will use to beat the revs. A major achilles heel is losing the creativity and sharp edge Toja brings in the attacking third. If the revs become predictable and don’t really keep teams pinned back or fearful of our attack, it will be 2012 all over again. So to avoid Ground Hog Day, strong play from Cisse and Simms is vital to the overall success of the revs attack.They need to consistently provide bite in the middle of the park that will serve notice if teams target our skilled guys, there will be hell to pay.

Time will tell: Groundhog Day or Signs of Progress?

So the takeaway from last night, while it’s a good start, the revs need far more consistently this campaign. Getting the full 3 points on the road is a big x factor to being in the playoff conversation or floundering in obscurity. After a tentatively optimistic start only time will tell whether the revs have learned their lesson or will repeat the same mistakes as 2012.

The 2013 Revs: Offseason Targets (Part 1)

It’s been an enjoyable Thanksgiving weekend loaded with family, friends and feasting. While I haven’t done any Christmas shopping yet, I’ll be tempted to check for some great Cyber Monday deals tomorrow as there’s plenty of bargains to be had.

Speaking of bargain shopping..

With the early activity by the Revs, re-signing old friend Andy Dorman and Kalifa Cisse, I thought it would be timely to throw out a few ideas on moves that may enhance the 2013 revs. Since there are literally thousands of prospective players that could help this team, I decided to attack the problem of improving the revs by writing a series of blogs that highlight specific angles that the Front Office could take to improve this club on the field.

This entry has been inspired by an interesting trend I noticed while perusing transfermarkt.co.uk (one of the best soccer geek stat sites on the web, by the way). Just like there are well known agents in other sports like Scott Boras from baseball, who have an extensive history of working with teams like the sox, the revs seem to favor doing business with the Wasserman Media Group. Based on the public transfermarkt listing, I noticed a whole slew of current and former revs are clients:

Current Revs: Saer Sene, Lee Nguyen, Bobby Shuttleworth, Kevin Alston, Blair Gavin, Chris Tierney, Clyde Simms, Darrius Barnes and Stephen McCarthy

Former Revs: Brad Knighton, Jeff Larentowicz, Pat Noonan, Chris Albright, Cory Gibbs

Since the revs seem to have a strong working relationship with Wasserman based on their current and past clients, there may be other Wasserman clients that could improve the revs in 2013. Here are a few.

Goalkeepers.

Chris Seitz, FC Dallas. The revs will have a giant hole to fill in goal once Matt Reis moves on, making this offseason a prime opportunity to sign a strong understudy. Seitz, 25, is a MLS keeper that would be on my list if the revs could pry him away from Dallas.

Matthew Pyzdrowski, Ängelholms FF, Sweden. The 26 year old American goalkeeper has put together impressive number of shutouts abroad, with 8 in 32 appearances 2 seasons ago for his club.

Jeff Attinella, Tampa Bay Rowdies. The 24 year old had an impressive 11 shutouts in 29 matches during the 2012 season, making him another candidate for the revs to consider.

Defenders.

The revs need to improve in the back if they hope to compete for the playoffs. At the top of my list would be CB’s Omar Gonzalez or AJ De La Garza from LA, although it’s doubtful the Galaxy would easily part with either one of them. At left back, Marc Burch from Seattle would be a strong addition to the back line considering he was a key part of one of the stingiest defenses in MLS in 2012.  For right back, Jason Hernandez from the San Jose Earthquakes would be my choice if the Revs could ever get him.

Midfielders and Forwards

With a glut of midfielders that includes the versatile Toja and recent acquisitions of Kalifa Cisse and Andy Dorman, it’s possible the revs have nearly finished their offseason shopping. However, it’s possible they could find a depth forward to complement Sene and Bengtson. 

 

The next entry will focus on lesser known, but high quality targets outside the scope of this Agent’s clients the revs could go after.