The Revolution have hit a new low. With 15 goals conceded over the last three matches — the most by any MLS team in a three-match span — something drastic had to happen.
And it did. New England fired coach Brad Friedel Thursday, less than two seasons into his tenure, appointing assistant Mike Lapper to the head position in the interim.
This weekend, the Revolution will attempt to begin anew, again, with San Jose paying a biennial visit to Gillette Stadium Saturday night.
Unbeaten in four straight, and without conceding a goal in 203 minutes, the Earthquakes have executed the turnaround New England was hoping for under Friedel. Now, with the Lapper era under way, how can the Revolution reverse this disastrous season? Here are three keys to a crucial game Saturday.
Leading the charge
Under Friedel, there never seemed to be a clear-cut captain. Among Claude Dielna, Chris Tierney, Michael Mancienne, Scott Caldwell, and most recently Carles Gil, the captain’s armband has made the rounds.
So who steps up now when New England needs it most?
Veterans like Caldwell, Teal Bunbury, and Diego Fagundez know what it’s like to create a winning environment in New England, having done so during the 2014 season. New faces must step up as well. Gil has proven to be a leader, while Mancienne has done so with multiple clubs.
But there needs to be one person who takes the reins on the field — something the Revolution have lacked since 2015 when Jermaine Jones last played here.
It will be interesting to see whether the Revolution’s back line was purely a victim of Friedel’s tactical alignment or there’s clearly a need for an overhaul. All but one goal New England has allowed this season have come from inside the penalty area, with most being concentrated in the space between the penalty spot and the 6-yard box.
Whatever the problem with the defense is, Saturday’s game will be a telling one, especially after New England stood pat before the close of the transfer window Tuesday.
The main problem is the lack of organization at the back, mostly stemming from repeated red cards, suspensions, and injuries, along with no steady goalkeeping presence. Friedel repeatedly preached that it made no difference who played with whom, but it clearly does.
Against a San Jose team that can spread the field wide and exploit gaps in the defense, staying organized will be key.
The Quakes are definitely not gun-shy when it comes to shooting from distance.
As mentioned, the Revolution have allowed only one goal from outside the 18-yard box. One of the very few positives about the defense has been limiting long-range opportunities, but that unfortunately has opened up the interior.
Whether it’s young striker Jackson Yueill, MLS active scoring leader Chris Wondolowski, or even intrepid left back Nick Lima, the Quakes have the weapons to score from all parts of the attacking third. The Revolution need to be wary of this threat by sticking close to whoever has possession near the top of the box.
Revolution vs. Earthquakes
■ When, where: Saturday, 7:30 p.m., at Gillette Stadium, Foxborough.
■ TV, radio: NBCSB, WBZ-FM (98.5).
■ Coaches: Revolution — Mike Lapper; Earthquakes — Matias Almeyda.
■ Formations: Revolution — 4-4-2; Earthquakes — 4-1-4-1.
■ Goalkeepers: Revolution — Matt Turner or Cody Cropper; Earthquakes — Mario Daniel Vega.
■ Referee: Guido Gonzales Jr.
■ Out: Revolution — M Isaac Angking (knee); Earthquakes — M Cristian Espinoza (suspended).
■ Miscellany: New England is 3-0-3 in the last six meetings with San Jose, including three straight draws . . . San Jose has not allowed a goal in 203 minutes and is unbeaten in its last four matches, tied for the longest active streak in the Western Conference.