The Revolution concluded their 22nd season with a three-match unbeaten streak. But late-season victories over opponents such as Supporters Shield-winning Toronto FC and New York City FC, plus a 3-2 win Sunday over the Montreal Impact — the Revolution’s only road victory of the year — served to highlight the team’s inconsistencies.
Remarkably, the Revolution set team records for both home success (12-2-3, 39 points) and road failure (1-13-3, 6 points). The extremes in performance under coach Jay Heaps led to his firing Sept. 18, two weeks before they were officially eliminated.
The first step toward recovery will be appointing the team’s eighth head coach.
The Revolution have thrice offered the position to an interim coach, the decision paying off after Steve Nicol succeeded Fernando Clavijo, guiding the team for 10 seasons until he was replaced by Heaps in 2012. Tom Soehn, who led the Revolution to a 3-1-1 finish, is among the candidates, according to general manager Michael Burns.
“We told Tommy when we asked him to become interim coach he would be seriously considered,” Burns said Monday. “He is aware we are making an external search, and we have domestic and international candidates.
“I’ve had much more international interest than six years ago. I’ve spoken with and interviewed 20 candidates, half of them international. The interest on the international market is overwhelming to me. I just didn’t expect it.
“The time frame on it is sooner rather than later, from an expansion draft standpoint — protected list, contract [deadlines] are just around the corner. We want the coach to be involved. We have hard decisions to make and it starts with the hiring of a coach.”
Other possibilities include former US national team goalkeeper Brad Friedel and Omid Namazi, who have coached US junior teams; former Argentina national team coach Daniel Passarella; former Revolution star and current San Jose Earthquakes assistant Steve Ralston; and former Revolution striker Giovanni Savarese, now coaching the New York Cosmos.
“I’m not going to talk publicly about coaches, particularly if they are under contract,” Burns said. “There are a lot of rumors out there and speculation.”
The success of high-profile foreigners, such as Patrick Vieira at NYC FC and Gerardo “Tata” Martino at Atlanta United appears to have helped open possibilities for successful European and South American coaches in MLS.
The Revolution hired Heaps despite his lack of experience, and he turned out to be an inspired choice, the team returning to the MLS Cup in 2014. But after a 2-1 extra-time loss to the Los Angeles Galaxy in their fifth finals appearance, the Revolution steadily declined.
The Revolution failed to replace central defender A.J. Soares after the 2014 season, finally bringing in French Ligue 1 veterans Benjamin Angoua and Claude Dielna, plus Slovenian national teamer Antonio Delamea, to bolster the back line this season.
They also have struggled to replace Jermaine Jones, who keyed the run to the 2014 playoffs, as designated player Xavier Kouassi has been limited by injuries.
Though the Revolution had significant home success, a 3-2 loss to the New York Red Bulls on July 5 turned out to be crucial in the playoff race.
The Red Bulls (14-12-8, 50 points) edged the Revolution (13-15-6, 45 points) for the final postseason place, and also eliminated the Revolution in the US Open Cup semifinals July 13.
The season did not begin to unravel until later, though, Heaps emphasizing a more physical approach that mostly backfired as the team became victimized by controversial calls from the new video assistant referee system.
Heaps made major lineup changes, benching captain Lee Nguyen for a visit to New York City FC, a 2-1 defeat capped by the added-time loss of Kelyn Rowe to injury Aug. 20. A franchise-worst 7-0 loss at Atlanta United Sept. 13, followed by a 3-1 defeat at Sporting Kansas City Sept. 16, led to Heaps’s dismissal.
Kouassi, Delamea, and striker Krisztian Nemeth were red-carded in the first half of those matches, all after VAR rulings.
The Revolution appeared to be revived defensively, but failed to break through in a 0-0 draw with Atlanta on Sept. 30, and were eliminated as the Red Bulls won their next match.
Leading scorer Kei Kamara (12 goals), Teal Bunbury (7 goals), and Nguyen (11 goals) provided highlight performances during the season, and Diego Fagundez rallied late to finish with 7 goals (tying Joe-Max Moore with 41 for fourth on the all-time team list). Juan Agudelo (8 goals) and Rowe emerged on the international scene, their success muted by the US national team’s failure to qualify for the World Cup.
“We were hovering around the red line all year long,” Burns said. “Inconsistency and inability to get road points kept us out of the playoffs for the second year in a row. It took until our 17th game to get a road win and that is the reason we missed the playoffs by one spot. It is frustrating.
“We felt like all year we had a group capable of much more. Not making any excuses, but over 34 games, it shows where you stand.
“It is hard to explain how we were so dominant at home and so ineffective on the road. That is very unusual. I don’t know if it’s an anomaly, I’ve never been a part of a team that was so uneven.”