fb-pixel Skip to main content
revolution 2023 preview

Can the Revolution get back on track in 2023?

Last season was a letdown for coach Bruce Arena as the Revolution missed the playoffs after a record-setting 2021 campaign.Barry Chin/Globe Staff

Two years ago, the Revolution finished with 22 victories and set an MLS record by totaling 73 points in 34 games. Last season, they spent the first month digging out of the snow and slid to a 10-12-12 record (42 points).

Bruce Arena said he anticipated a letdown, but he could not prevent the team from failing to qualify for the playoffs for the first time since he took over as sporting director/head coach in 2019.

“I wasn’t surprised because I know how difficult it is to come off good seasons,” Arena said. “And we probably didn’t have guys with enough experience or the right mentality to deal with that.”


Complacency should not be a factor for the Revolution when they open their 28th season with a visit to Charlotte FC Saturday. But they face a difficult start that includes three away games in the opening month and likely inclement weather at home.

Arena prepared for his fifth season with the Revolution by bringing the team to Florida, finishing with a 2-2-1 record in preseason games after taking a 2-1 victory over Orlando SC this past Saturday.

“Every game, the effort and the concentration was a little bit better, and Game 5 was supposed to be a dry run for the opening game of the MLS season,” Arena said after practice Tuesday. “We were building towards that, and we were at our best on Saturday in Orlando. Still not good enough, obviously, for the regular season, but we’ll make progress this week and hopefully be in good shape on Saturday.”

Carles Gil was the MLS MVP in 2021.Barry Chin/Globe Staff

In season openers, the Revolution have a 5-15-7 all-time record and have not won since taking a 1-0 victory at Chicago in 2013.

“Generally, the teams I’ve had that have won championships have not started the season well,” Arena said. “You want to be at your best towards the second half of the season, for sure. So you can’t read too much into the early going.”


Arena teams often peak when it counts; he won a record five MLS Cups with D.C. United and the Los Angeles Galaxy. But last year the Revolution declined in the final weeks. The striker corps was decimated by injuries, leading scorer Gustavo Bou (eight goals) and Giacomo Vrioni missing extensive time and late-season acquisition Ismael Tajouri-Shradi not getting into a game.

This year, Arena has bolstered the roster with five forwards: Jozy Altidore, Justin Rennicks, Bobby Wood, Bou (who has yet to join the team while awaiting passport approval in Argentina), and Vrioni.

Spanish midfielder Carles Gil, the league MVP in 2021, triggers the offense, combining with Latif Blessing, acquired from reigning MLS Cup champion Los Angeles FC. Colombian Dylan Borrero presents an effective threat on the wing, balanced by Emmanuel Boateng, who played out his contract last season but returned for the preseason, along with rookie Joshua Bolma.

Arena has instilled an attacking mentality, giving Gil a free-ranging role and encouraging defenders to join the offense. But during the preseason he also presented defense-first alignments, including a five-man back line, providing support for central defenders Andrew Farrell, Omar Gonzalez, Henry Kessler, and Christian Makoun, plus Dave Romney, acquired in a trade with Nashville SC.

No matter the setup, though, Arena will encourage outside backs Brandon Bye and DeJuan Jones to push forward, counting on the holding midfielders, central defenders, and goalkeeper Djordje Petrovic to cut out counterattacks.


But the Revolution will be emphasizing motivation over formations.

“I think at times, a couple guys, maybe at a time, maybe more guys, just weren’t locked in for the full 90 minutes,” Jones said of last season. “So, towards the end of the games, we would just make simple mistakes and just let teams back in the game, or instead of 3 points get 1 point.

“All those points added up at the end of the season, and that’s why we missed the playoffs. So I think really just focusing in, being locked in for all 90 minutes would be the difference for us this year.

“We want to get back to where we were in 2021. I think we’re ready. Getting that result in Orlando, we didn’t play our best, but we still got the result. That’s how it’s going to be during the season at times. I think we put in a lot of work, and now we’re ready for the season to start, so the guys are buzzing.”

Frank Dell'Apa can be reached at frankdellapa@gmail.com.