The Revolution concluded their 27th season with a 1-1 tie against the Chicago Fire Sunday, squandering the lead in added time after a spectacular 88th-minute goal by Dylan Borrero at SeatGeek Stadium.
It was the 24th time in 34 games the Revolution (10-12-12, 42 points) had an advantage, their late-game failings leading to their elimination from playoff contention last month.
This has been a sharp contrast to last year, when the Revolution set an MLS record by totaling 73 points (2.15 per game), with an attack featuring league MVP Carles Gil, plus three players set to make significant transfers to Europe.
Nearly everything that could go wrong did so as Bruce Arena, the league’s winningest coach (250 victories), experienced his first losing season. The Revolution dealt with bad luck, bad vibes, bad weather. You can throw in supposed curses, as well, related to winning the Supporters’ Shield last season. Competing in the Champions League. Introducing a new logo.
In any case, things started going wrong even before the season began.
Goalkeeper Matt Turner sustained an injury in a practice game against Los Angeles FC in February, playing only five games before departing for Arsenal FC. Two Champions League games against Cavaly AS of Haiti were canceled, disrupting preparations. Once the season started, the Revolution got off to a 1-4-1 start, surrendering three late goals in a loss to Real Salt Lake in a snowstorm. That result signaled a trend, the Revolution often failing to protect advantages, giving up 31 points from a winning position.
“I thought the season started with Turner getting injured in [a] national team game, because he had frostbite, which is kind of ridiculous,” Arena said in a recent interview. “And we start the season with our other goalkeepers, who weren’t ready yet. I think today Earl Edwards would be better-positioned to do it. It was difficult.
“I think end of the day we’ve got no one to blame but ourselves. We’ve got to do a better job coaching, players better job playing, support team better job supporting the process. We failed in all those areas.”
Yet, the Revolution were in fifth place (8-7-10, 34 points) in the Eastern Conference standings after a 2-2 tie with Toronto FC on Aug. 17. But they won only once more before being eliminated from postseason contention with two matches remaining.
“We had a three-game homestand — Chicago [0-0 tie], NYC [3-0 win], LA Galaxy [2-1 loss], we gave up two goals in 12 minutes,” Arena said. “A week where we had 9 points we came away with 4. If we came away with 7, we’re in the playoffs. And then we go to New York, and Carles is not available because he had his first child. We had the lead and blew that. Then we had a miserable effort in Houston, we gave up the winning goals on foolish penalties.”
Arena pointed to injuries to central defenders Andrew Farrell and Henry Kessler, leading scorer Gustavo Bou, and others. Offensive reinforcements Borrero, Ismael Tajouri-Shradi, and Giacomo Vrioni failed to produce in a total of only nine starts. In 12 games from July 16 through Oct. 1, Revolution forwards converted only one goal.
“We made some of them long-term [injuries] because I don’t think we managed things properly,” Arena said. “Bou missed half the season and missed another 5-6 games, or more, just due to the fact he had to get fit again. Gustavo got overloaded in his rehab program. Vrioni was off way too long. Borrero you could argue maybe came back too early — the day he came back you would’ve suspected he was fine. We’ve had issues not only rehabilitating the injuries but getting the guys fit again and I don’t think we ever got it right, and that largely impacted our team.”
Tajouri-Shradi had sustained a leg injury before being acquired from LAFC, Arena said. Asked if LAFC did not disclose the injury, Arena said: “That would be a correct statement. The league is discussing that. Those are three attacking players [Borrero, Tajouri-Shradi, Vrioni] that we would’ve figured were going to help us. [Tajouri-Shradi] is a proven player in this league, so it is disappointing.”
During last offseason, the Revolution sold midfielder Tajon Buchanan (Club Brugge) and Turner, then transferred forward Adam Buksa to RC Lens after 10 games. Arena brought in three of his former players — Jozy Altidore, Omar Gonzalez, and Sebastian Lletget — but they failed to produce as expected.
Arena said the Revolution are handicapped in recruiting players by playing in an out-sized stadium, out of town, and on artificial turf.
“You know, I never need motivation, personally,” Arena said. “Whether anyone else needs it I can’t answer that. My goal coming here was to improve the franchise. We are making progress, although this is a disappointing year. Our day will come here, but we need to have this whole thing work. We need a soccer stadium. That’s going to be the difference-maker for this team. We’ll be able to recruit some better players, we’ll have a tremendous following, and I think it’ll make our team better. We’ve got to catch up with everyone else.
“You can argue Seattle, Atlanta, Charlotte play in football stadiums. But they’re in the cities, too, which is helpful. That, to me, is the final step for this franchise. It’s definitely possible, they’re definitely working on it, and I’m hopeful something happens in the near future. I think it’s going to get done. That’s one of the reasons I came here.”
Frank Dell'Apa can be reached at email@example.com.