Poor New England! So Far From Boston, So Close to the Kraft Family: The Revolution 2019

Titans Bastard

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Based on some chatter in the MLS thread, there seems to be interest in a dedicated Revs thread. It's the hometown team for this Boston-based baseball message board, so here goes.

Despite being a huge MLS guy, I have a long track record of being fairly negative about the Revs so if somebody else would like to paint things in a more positive light I'd welcome the effort.

History

It's an overstatement to say that the Revs have an illustrious history within the realm of Major League Soccer, but there have been good times. The early Revs teams of the late 90s regularly sucked, but enjoyed the largest fan support in the whole league.

In the early-to-mid '00s, the Revs went on a fantastic spree of talent accumulation. At a time when most imports were meager journeymen from Europe and South America and almost all American talent came through college, that meant making smart moves on the trade market and in the draft. The Revs picked up Jay Heaps (2001) and Matt Reis (2003) in trades, Steve Ralston (2002) in the contraction draft, and went on an epic draft run with Taylor Twellman (2002), Shalrie Joseph (2002), Pat Noonan (2003), Clint Dempsey (2004), Andy Dorman (2004), Michael Parkhurst (2005), James Riley (2005), Jeff Larentowicz (2005).

They made it to MLS Cup in 2002, then again for three straight years from 2005-2007 on the backs of their talent acquisition, falling short each time. Clint Dempsey left after 2006 and was never really replaced. Twellman's career effectively ended prematurely in the 2008 season when he was accidentally punched in the head while challenging for a header by LA Galaxy keeper Steve Cronin. Joseph's massive midfield presence declined by the early 2010s as he aged. The quality of drafting fell off sharply after 2005 and due to a non-existent scouting department, it was a struggle to bring in quality from abroad.

After some down years, the Revs reached and lost in an MLS Cup for a fifth time in 2014, thanks in large part to the acquisition of Jermaine Jones and Lee Nguyen's near-MVP level performance. However, the form and results of the second half of the 2014 season couldn't be replicated and the Revs have been steadily slipping down the table over the past four seasons. This season, most pundits have NE near the bottom of the East and early results suggest they could be right.

The Revs have had remarkable managerial stability, with only six full-time managers in history, and only three since Steve Nicol was hired in 2002. In part that's because long-time GM Mike Burns gives everyone a notoriously long leash. Nicol (2002-2011) and Heaps (2011-2017) were able to live off of MLS Cup appearances for several years after the team had gone into decline. Brad Friedel (2018-present) is unproven and has been largely unimpressive both in developing an identity and in bringing in talent. To be honest, I don't think the Revs have ever had a particularly skilled manager - even Nicol was more of a man-manager who basically just put talent on the field and got out of their way. There's never seemed to be much interest in him after his tenure ended with the Revs, even though he was only 50 at the time.

The Revs did finally get some real silverware in 2007 when they won the US Open Cup, which remains the only trophy in their history. (No, I don't count conference titles or SuperLiga...) The Revs also reached USOC finals in 2001 and 2016, giving them a 1-7 record in finals overall.

The "State of the Club"

NE has been considered a laggard club within the context of MLS for a long time. The GM and manager are rarely held accountable, and the tiny scouting department - usually among the most minimal in the league - has made it a struggle for the Revs to keep pace with ambitious and heavy-spending competitors. IMO, the Revs have never really adapted to the transition away from the draft as the major source of talent acquisition.

Off the field, playing on a turf field in a giant football stadium very from the city has been a real impediment to building a larger fan culture. The lack of interest shown by the Krafts is palpable and has manifested itself in a weaker on-field product, a lack of buzz around the team, and generally low morale among the fanbase. Boston remains a bastion of "Euro-snobbery" among its soccer fans, but I believe a big factor in that is that the Revs have remained such a niche presence in the Boston sports scene. It is difficult to edge into a market with four old and popular major league sports franchises, but surely a lot more can be done.

2019

It's shaping up to be a long year. The Revs just don't have much high-end talent. They have a collection of mediocre GKs and defenders, none of whom really stand out as above-average talent in the league. CB Michael Mancienne is one of the most expensive defenders in the league, but has done little to live up to the size of his contract. One potential high point is recent DP signing Carles Gil, a Spaniard who has shown some quality so far. However, he's supported on the field by middling DMs like Scott Caldwell, Wilfried Zahibo, and Luis Caicedo. Up front, we have perennial disappointment Juan Agudelo and perennial mediocrity Teal Bunbury, as well as an as-yet-unknown quantity in Juan Fernando Caicedo. Longtime local academy product Diego Fagundez is a solid player, but plateaued long ago. Ecuadorian winger Cristian Penilla was good in 2018, but thus far seems to have taken a step back in 2019.

A few small bright spots: there's some interesting young talent on the team. Justin Rennicks is a former academy forward from Hamilton, MA who signed this winter. He's shown some promise with the U20s. The Revs also signed a pair of wingers from the draft: DeJuan Jones and Canadian Tajon Buchanan. CM Isaac Angking is another academy product on the team, from Providence, as is Somerville attacking midfielder Nicolas Firmino.

The Revs managed a draw on the road in Dallas to open the season, but have dropped their next three games, including home games against Columbus and expansion FC Cincinnati. The Revs host four of their next five games; failure to rack up at least a few wins will put them in a very poor position even at this early stage.
 

The Gray Eagle

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Thanks for starting this thread!

This season looks like it's going to be a challenge to be a casual follower like me, as the team could be pretty bad. I usually turn on their games on TV if I'm at home when they are on, but I can't stand Paul Mariner's voice, he always sounds like his nose is running, so I end up turning them off after 10 minutes. Just another little detail that makes this franchise less fun than it should be and could be.
 

TheRealness

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I’ve watched more than usual this year, and the only player that looked viable wa Gil. They look unmotivated, unenergetic, and seem to lack the depth of talent required in MLS. It is no secret they are ignored by the Krafts, and have some of the least financial investments in the team.

Rennicks has had some flashes and give hope, but this roster is really bad and in need of a complete overhaul that I don’t think the owners care enough to allow happen. It would be more ideal if the Krafts sold the team to someone who will actually run this like a real soccer club. They look stuck in their current rut indefinitely. I just don’t see the Krafts doing anything to get out of it.
 

Awesome Fossum

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As non-Bostonian and non-Revs fan, I'd be interested in a once-over on the stadium situation. If Kraft didn't own the team, or perhaps was more motivated/imaginative, what would be the options?
 

The Allented Mr Ripley

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As non-Bostonian and non-Revs fan, I'd be interested in a once-over on the stadium situation. If Kraft didn't own the team, or perhaps was more motivated/imaginative, what would be the options?
Kraft has certainly been a disinterested owner, but the political/economical climate to get something like this done within Boston's city limits is nigh impossible.

That doesn't absolve Kraft of blame; I'd still prefer another owner for a variety of reasons, one of them being a more creative/motivated approach to a SSS.
 

Awesome Fossum

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Obviously, a new downtown soccer-specific stadium is every team's goal. But beyond that -- would Harvard Stadium be better? Would a game or three in Fenway be ... helpful? Or is Gillette the best of the bad options?
 

Titans Bastard

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Building a T-accessible stadium isn't easy, but it does seem like the Revs haven't pursued the options that have opened up with much vigor. There have been possibilities in Somerville (Inner Belt and Assembly Square), Revere (Wonderland), and Boston (Columbia Point), but nothing has ever felt like a real possibility.

Harvard Stadium is very narrow and feels kind of like a crappy MLS temporary stadium arrangement from 2004. Fenway — I doubt the Sox would be interested, but the NYCFC situation in Yankee Stadium is pretty bad and I'd have to imagine Fenway would be worse in terms of field dimensions and sightlines.

The cynic's viewpoint is that the Revs best chance for a soccer-only stadium is Gillette, when the Pats move out some day decades in the future.
 

Titans Bastard

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Well, a true death spiral with this team was delayed by at least a week. Friedel made six changes to the lineup and the Revs beat Minnesota 2-1.

It turns out that Cody Cropper is still alive — who knew?!
 

Arroyo Con Frijoles

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It was the first match I didn't bother to watch in a long time, and I'm afraid I may have missed their only win in the next two months.
 

biollante

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The Revs ran a lot tonight but still look like my old Industrial League team in Hartford. Gil is small and overrated. Buchanan is interesting but needs better skills.
 

Domer

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Revolution strikers (Bunbury, Agudelo, J.F. Caicedo) have combined for zero shots on target through six games.
 

Jimy Hendrix

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It is a damning indictment of the current frontline that this would very likely be an improvement, but holy hell that would be a weird and Revs-y signing.

Doesn't seem like the kind of guy you want to sign to play in a turf-filled league either, with his injury history.
 

OilCanShotTupac

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Carroll’s not even close to being the best PL reject available. Rumors that both Theo Walcott and Ozil are MLS bound. Either would run rings around Carroll.
 

Seven Costanza

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I'd bust out a Toon kit and actually attend a Revs game if big Andy were to suddenly appear in Foxboro.
 

Titans Bastard

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1-0 home win against NYRB, who are really struggling so far this year.

The Revs are in 9th place, ahead of only...NYRB, Atlanta, and NYCFC. The East is very strange early on in 2019.
 

Titans Bastard

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Midweek April soccer at Gillette Stadium. A paltry few thousand in attendance, realistically. The Revs give up a goal via a Cody Cropper howler, then two more late ones. 3-0 home loss to a Piatti-less Montreal Impact.
 

robssecondjob

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The Revs are broken. They look to have no ideas going forward and then when they do find themselves forward everybody is either afraid to shoot or takes three extra touches looking for the perfect shot.

They have a manager who is solidly out of his depth which isn't helping.
 

The Gray Eagle

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Crazy game in KC tonight. Revs up 4-2 in 68th minute but down to 10 men.
KC pulls one back, but NE gets a great double save from Cropper.

And in the 82nd minute, KC gets the equalizer.

Can the Revs even get a point or will they go down 5-4?
 

The Gray Eagle

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Good lord, a second yellow for Anibaba and NE are down to 9 men in the 90th minute!

7 added minutes of stoppage time!
 

Titans Bastard

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That was a wild game, with a result that managed to be rather disappointing for both sides.

Tajon Buchanan seems like a player who could be a real weapon if he develops the right way.
 

Titans Bastard

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The Revs traveled to Chicago to play the Fire tonight, who hadn't scored in three games.

The Fire won 5-0. The Revs have given up a highly impressive total of 18 goals in the last FOUR games. At -19, their GD is the worst in the league, although the Colorado "Revs West" Rapids at least have a worse point total.
 

Vinho Tinto

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The Revs traveled to Chicago to play the Fire tonight, who hadn't scored in three games.

The Fire won 5-0. The Revs have given up a highly impressive total of 18 goals in the last FOUR games. At -19, their GD is the worst in the league, although the Colorado "Revs West" Rapids at least have a worse point total.
This news will cause Mr Kraft to roll over on his massage table.
 

The Gray Eagle

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Holy crap I love Friedel from the US national team, but this is ridiculous, he has to go. Not that it's all his fault at all, but you can't fire all the players or the management team, so the coach has to take the fall.
Where is rock bottom for this franchise?
 

joe dokes

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This news will cause Mr Kraft to roll over on his massage table.
I thought I'd read (maybe when the team was successful) that for all intents and purposes, Jonathan was the Kraft in charge of the Revs. At the time, I remember thinking that, given the league's structure, it's pretty hard to seriously fuck it up financially, and that this was somewhere between a toy that Dad gave Son to play with, and a chance to do something on a small scale that he'll probably be doing at some point down the road -- topping the masthead of a sports franchise. (It also could have been a puff piece during good times to pump up Jonathan's credibility). With that in mind, I wonder how much of this is incompetence from Jonathan that consumes all Patriot fans' future fears.
Perhaps Alex Guerrero told Dad that paying for handjobs will help him live to be 100. I'd contribute 25 cents to that fund.

Imagine being the poor bastards trying to sell next season tickets...
Or Brad Feldman, whose probably meager pay would become invisible if he ever said anything more critical than "a tough hole to climb out of for the Revs" while doing pbp.
 

Vinho Tinto

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joe: I feel like this is where the league being driven by franchises, and not clubs, porks the region. It doesn’t matter if Robert or Jonathan are running the Revs. The Kraft philosophy is clear.

They were founder investors in a startup league. Stuck their necks out a bit to keep the league solvent. The league is now on solid ground, which gives them the Boston television market as their exclusive MLS domain. An outsider like FSG can’t independently establish a competitor that works its way up through an FA pyramid and become a rival.

The Revs are a valuable long term investment for the family. They can continue doing their best Donald Sterling impression (as his quality as an NBA owner, not his bigoted mind) and the family will eventually realize an unbelievable long term profit. Especially if Jonathan can convince a Boston suburb that his idea for a new soccer specific stadium is a winner. The stories detailing how shoe string the Revs operation is well documented. I’m not exaggerating when I say that I believe Benfica’s second division B Team works with a larger budget.
 

Awesome Fossum

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How much did the proposed Ricketts USL project get the Fire to start exhibiting a sense of urgency and get back into the city? FSG probably doesn't have the appetite for a USL team or a battle with the Krafts, but that could be a catalyst for change.
 

joe dokes

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joe: I feel like this is where the league being driven by franchises, and not clubs, porks the region. It doesn’t matter if Robert or Jonathan are running the Revs. The Kraft philosophy is clear.

They were founder investors in a startup league. Stuck their necks out a bit to keep the league solvent. The league is now on solid ground, which gives them the Boston television market as their exclusive MLS domain. An outsider like FSG can’t independently establish a competitor that works its way up through an FA pyramid and become a rival.

The Revs are a valuable long term investment for the family. They can continue doing their best Donald Sterling impression (as his quality as an NBA owner, not his bigoted mind) and the family will eventually realize an unbelievable long term profit. Especially if Jonathan can convince a Boston suburb that his idea for a new soccer specific stadium is a winner. The stories detailing how shoe string the Revs operation is well documented. I’m not exaggerating when I say that I believe Benfica’s second division B Team works with a larger budget.
Thanks for the context.
 

Titans Bastard

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I think the big change with the Fire is that last year, Andrew Hauptman sold a 49% stake in the club to another guy who seems more ambitious. The USL proposal may have also been a wake-up call about the weakness of Chicago's position in its own market, but getting that USL stadium done was always a big stretch.

MLS has engaged in a lot of successful expansion, but ultimately it's going to be impossible to take a huge step forward when the league is struggling in so many big markets. LA is mostly fine, but Houston, Dallas, Philly, and New York are laggards and Boston & Chicago are even worse.

If the Fire show significant improvement over the next 1-2 years from an off-the-field perspective, I think NE moves up to being Priority #1. The league's TV ratings have been pretty stagnant and I think other owners will start to approach problem of struggling teams with more urgency.
 

JayMags71

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Especially if Jonathan can convince a Boston suburb that his idea for a new soccer specific stadium is a winner.
Do you really believe the Krafts want a soccer specific stadium? I’ve believed for a long time that he Krafts are content getting the use they receive out of Gillette, and any talk of a soccer specific stadium was lip service. I don’t believe they want the overhead costs a new stadium would entail.
 

robssecondjob

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A good first step for the near term. Maybe Lapper will put out a starting 11 that has players in positions that make sense.
 

Dummy Hoy

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Do you really believe the Krafts want a soccer specific stadium? I’ve believed for a long time that he Krafts are content getting the use they receive out of Gillette, and any talk of a soccer specific stadium was lip service. I don’t believe they want the overhead costs a new stadium would entail.
100% agree with this.
 

Vinho Tinto

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Do you really believe the Krafts want a soccer specific stadium?
Jonathan Kraft has spoken about this repeatedly. A quick google search will give you quotes and details.

I’m weird in that I believe people when they state something unprompted over and over again.
 

Dummy Hoy

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I think him saying something is just that- words. But I also despise the Krafts and give them very little credit. I’d love to be wrong about this though.