Things went smoothly for the Revolution last season as they got off to a fast start and went on to compile the best record in MLS history. Then the Supporters’ Shield jinx seemed to take hold and, after a momentum-sapping 23-day break, they went one and done in the playoffs.
This year, the Revolution shouldn’t have to worry about chasing records or perceived boomerang effects of regular-season success. Instead of experiencing good fortune, the Revolution have become victims of bad luck, bad weather, and a tendency to self-destruct, stumbling along at a sub-.500 pace (4-5-4, 16 points).
Now, following a two-week international break, the Revolution are facing a key stretch — three matches in eight days, starting with Sunday’s visit to Sporting Kansas City — that will take them within a game of the halfway point in the season.
“Generally, you don’t want a long layoff and we didn’t get one,” Revolution coach Bruce Arena said Friday. “So we had four days and then we got back to business and, hopefully, with a little bit of time off and a little bit more preparation, we can be successful over the next three games.
“But you never know what time off means. Last year for the league playoffs, we had three weeks off, which was, I thought, hurtful. It didn’t help us in our preparation in the playoffs. But this time around, just having a little bit of a break I think should be positive in the end.”
The Revolution are also adjusting to losing leading scorer Adam Buksa and goalkeeper Matt Turner to European transfers.
Buksa ($10 million transfer to RC Lens) had been carrying the offensive load, compiling a team record-tying seven-game scoring streak. Gustavo Bou, who returned from injury to score his first goal of the season May 28 in a tie with Philadelphia, and Jozy Altidore are expected to take over for Buksa.
Serbian goalkeeper Djordje Petrovic will replace Turner ($7 million transfer to Arsenal), who is with the US national team and will depart after the Revolution’s game against Minnesota on June 19.
“We felt Jozy was going to need up until June to get fit, so his number is going to get called in the near future, and hopefully it helps bring some positive results for us,” Arena said. “The return of Gustavo is also helpful, so I think we’re in good shape there and, 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.”
Last season, the Revolution went 17-0-3 when scoring first on the way to finishing 22-5-7 (73 points). This year, opening the scoring has not proven to be as beneficial, the Revolution compiling a 4-3-2 mark in those games. In the last eight matches, the Revolution have taken the lead every time, but failed to protect it in five games (3-2-3).
“We’ve certainly made some mistakes at the end of games, which has cost us some valuable points,” Arena said. “That’s probably my best explanation to it. We’re just giving away some really poor goals and it’s negated the early goals we’ve been able to score.”
There were early indications the season might not go as planned. The Revolution geared up for Champions League in February but ended up not playing until March. A game in Haiti was moved to Foxborough, then canceled. Five contests were crowded into 15 days in March, and two of them were marred by snowstorms. And the Revolution’s depth was tested as Turner sustained a broken foot in preseason, defender Henry Kessler a hamstring strain March 5, and Bou a leg injury in a March 9 visit to Mexico City.
“It’s been very unusual,” Arena said of the season. “Our whole preseason was disserved by Champions League, and the forfeiting of the first couple of games hurt us.
“We were left idle here in Foxborough for a couple of weeks in conditions where we couldn’t practice outdoors and then we started playing games, which were a mess in the early going, and obviously the travel down to Mexico was challenging. And we’ve had these injuries. We lost our best goalkeeper [Turner], our best defender [Kessler], and arguably our best goal scorer [Buksa], as well, for most of the year. So it’s been really strange in terms of all of that.
“I give our guys a lot of credit. We’ve hung in there. So, you know, our heads are still above water, and I think there’s a lot of positive moments ahead for our team.”
Frank Dell'Apa can be reached at email@example.com.