FOXBOROUGH — Andrew Farrell is not easily discouraged. And though the Revolution’s season ended with a 1-0 loss to the Philadelphia Union Wednesday night, Farrell remains positive.
Asked if his faith had been shaken during a season in which the Revolution went through three coaches and fell from second place to fifth in the Eastern Conference, Farrell replied, “Never. No. Obviously, it was up and down and you have to maneuver those ups and downs. That’s life. Some rough moments in the season, but we’ve got to stick together as a group, as a team, and that’s what we did. It’s rough, but I’m proud of the guys, the fight they showed in this game.”
Since starting his professional career with the Revolution in 2013, Farrell has experienced plenty of highs and lows. The Revolution brought in Farrell to fill the right back position as the No. 1 pick in the 2013 MLS Draft, and the team appeared headed to being a perennial playoff contender. Then, after advancing to the 2014 MLS Cup final, a 2-1 overtime loss to the Los Angeles Galaxy, the Revolution declined.
The Revolution did not rebound until Bruce Arena arrived in 2019. Since Arena departed — he was placed on administrative league by MLS in August, then resigned — the Revolution have again regressed. And not even competing at Gillette Stadium could help them. The defeat against the Union was only the Revolution’s second postseason home loss (13-2-7), the other a 1-0 overtime loss to the Galaxy in the 2002 final.
In fact, home-field advantage has become more like a home-field jinx lately. With home field guaranteed through the final in 2021, the Revolution fell on penalty kicks to New York City FC after playing to a 2-2 tie in the Eastern Conference semifinals. And this year, the Revolution were eliminated from both the US Open Cup and Leagues Cup in home contests.
The Revolution will have to reboot next season. But as was the case before Arena took over, the team has the talent to succeed. Arena was hired after the Revolution got off to a 3-8-4 start to the 2019 season, then rallied to qualify for the playoffs. The Revolution’s record post-Arena is eerily similar — 3-6-3 in MLS games under interim coaches Richie Williams and Clint Peay.
Whomever takes over as coach will have plenty of attacking options. And the defense appears solid, even without right back Brandon Bye (knee surgery). The back line of Farrell and DeJuan Jones at outside backs, with Henry Kessler and Dave Romney at center backs, seemed secure in holding off the Union, even playing shorthanded for the entire second half.
But the Revolution need to find a balance between attacking and defending, and Arena was a master at that. Arena took a group that seemed to have lost its way and pointed them in the right direction — the Revolution compiled a 60-31-42 record in his four-plus seasons. The same players without Arena in charge ended up floundering.
“Obviously disappointed with the way the season ended,” Farrell said. “The last two months have not been great. We could’ve had two home games if we had taken care of business in the last, whatever, month and a half. We don’t want to lose at home, we don’t want to lose in the playoffs.
“We wanted to force a Game 3. We started well — I don’t know if we had clear-cut chances. The game changes on a call like that [Mark-Anthony Kaye’s 45th-minute red card], and it’s hard to get back in the game. We got chances and we were in the game. But Philly is a team — they don’t beat themselves. They’re a hard-working team. A team like that, you can’t shoot yourselves in the foot.”
Farrell has mostly been placed in central defense in recent seasons, but his return to outside back brought back memories. Farrell’s defending shut down the Union on the flank, and his advances nearly produced an equalizer, his 74th-minute attempt saved by Andre Blake, and 76th-minute off the side of the net.
“Optimistic,” Farrell said of the future. “We have some great players here. The team will make the right decisions and I’m sure the team will be great next year.
“Fine margins of this league. The effort from the guys was great and we should be proud about that. But as a team and an organization we want to get through these rounds and hosting playoff games, and that’s something to look at for next year and year’s to come.”
Frank Dell'Apa can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.