The New England Revolution are a different team from the one that lost at home to Atlanta United 2-0 on April 13. It was really a group missing direction: the loss put them at 1-5-1 to start the 2019 season, and while it won its next match against the New York Red Bulls, an 0--3-1 stretch, including away losses to the Philadelphia Union by a combined 11-1, ended up ultimately costing Brad Friedel his job and leading to the hiring of Bruce Arena. The only losses since then? A 2-0 home defeat against LAFC and 2-1 at NYCFC.
So, besides the coach, what’s changed since the two teams met up in Foxborough earlier in the season? We got the scoop from Jake Catanese from our sister site, The Bent Musket, as Atlanta and New England meet for a critical Decision Day matchup. (And it might not be the last time we speak to him, either!)
1. When we last spoke, it was approaching the tail end of the Brad Friedel era as he was fired in May. Outside of the team’s on-the-pitch results, how have things developed from a fundamental perspective since Bruce Arena took charge of the team?
I have said in years past, particularly under Jay Heaps, that the worst thing that MLS wants to see is a New England Revolution team having fun. Well guess what, that curmudgeon Brad Friedel is gone and fun loving Uncle Bruce is in and boy does it show. The best Revs teams of the Steve Nicol era were honestly a bunch of goofs and jokers led by long time keeper Matt Reis and there’s a sense that fun has returned after Friedel tried to eliminate such things and promoting a European-esque or business atmosphere that turned into a dumpster fire.
Also, Gustavo Bou helps a lot. New England was already turning it around before Bou got there but the Revs have been desperate for a true goal scorer for years. Even if Bou isn’t a typical #9 type, to already be second in scoring on the Revs in about a third of a season is ridiculous and also a grim reminder of where this team was for the bulk of this season. Bou could even overtake Carles Gil (10G, 14A and should be finalist for Newcomer of the Year) for the team Golden Boot if he notches a brace in Atlanta. A full offseason with Arena to tinker and add players and the Revs could be looking at a fast start to 2020.
2. We won’t know who the Revs will face in the first round of the playoffs until the match is over (it will be Atlanta United if Atlanta wins, or if they draw and if Philly drop points against NYCFC). Is this a New England side that could make a run in the postseason? I’d have to think that this is a scary 6/7 seed for anyone to face.
The biggest bonus for the Revs in the 2019 playoffs is they honestly should not be playing past Saturday. I have a hardline stance that merely making the playoffs in MLS is not an accomplishment but for New England to qualify, even as the 7th seed, from where they were in May is still very impressive. The goal for New England in my opinion was always building towards 2020 and the form the team has largely carried under Bruce Arena is something the Revs would love to build on next year.
The reason everyone should be scared to deal with New England right now is they simply don’t lose games. In a single-elimination playoff bracket, that’s bad news for everyone in the league right now not named LAFC. Next year the Revs will look to turn some or a lot the draws from the second half of the year into wins, but in the short term, I wouldn’t say no to a penalty shootout with Matt Turner in great form either. Now, I don’t want any part of Atlanta or the house of horrors known as The Benz (I’m still bitter about that other VAR red card that got overturned, the one after that 7-0 game) but New England has shown they can compete with pretty much everyone in the league and hopefully that will include Atlanta each of the next two weeks. The Revs are playing with house money on the road and it is not inconceivable to think that they’re a capable darkhorse in the East right now.
3. Here’s a fun one. Michael Parkhurst, of course, is hanging up the cleats at the end of the season. Can you share your favorite memory of Parky as a member of the Revs?
Assuming Parky doesn’t score against his old team in the next couple of weeks, which would be a pretty fitting send off I admit, his only MLS goal currently is pretty, pretty good:
Also, hey look, Jeff Larentowicz is celebrating in that video too. Parkhurst was the rock in the Steve Nicol backline and in an article I wrote several years ago on Jose Goncalves’ Defender of the Year run before Parkhusrt had rejoined MLS with the Columbus Crew I learned a absolutely mind blowing statistic:
Parky never fouled anyone. Like, at all. In four seasons in New England he averaged under 10 fouls a season (about 1 every 4 games) and was booked THREE TIMES IN FOUR YEARS!?!?! Now, Parky still doesn’t foul that much, a quick glance shows that he’s up to about a foul every other game and clearly gets booked more because I think everyone gets booked more than they did in the 2000s. Parkhurst was a tremendous player and MLS Cup Finalist with three different teams and has a domestic resume at centerback that I would put up against anyone in league history.
When he goes into Frisco and the USSF Hall of Fame or the MLS equivalent (which should exist by now) it’ll be with a Revs jersey though, gotta represent Providence I would think.