Bowen, who spent last season with Seattle, was tabbed by the Revolution in the first round of Thursday's re-entry draft. He was limited to a pair of league appearances in 2014, and has spent the bulk of his six-year career, which included stops with Chivas USA and the Los Angeles Galaxy, as a reserve forward. In 50 career games, he's scored four goals and added six assists.
In addition to playing up top, the 23-year-old can also play on the wing. In 2013, he collected a career best two goals, two assists and 32 shots in 22 games for a largely disappointing Chivas USA squad. A fiery personality, he was cautioned six times and ejected once in 2013.
As with any player selected during the re-entry draft, the Revolution have a limited window to negotiate a new contract with Bowen, who earned $70,000 in 2014, according to the players union. Should Bowen fail to sign, the Revolution would retain his MLS rights.
Hall, who opted out of the re-entry draft hours before it commenced, was limited to three league games for Toronto in 2014. Over the course of his six-year career, he's played in 115 games for Toronto, Dallas, Portland and New York. He's scored two goals and collected six assists since New York drafted him 11th overall in the 2009 SuperDraft.
The 26-year-old can play in the center of the midfield or backline, and that versatility likely caught the attention of the Revolution coaching staff. In past matchups against Toronto, Revolution coach Jay Heaps had singled out Hall for praise.
Meanwhile, all three Revolution players who were available during the re-entry draft -- forward Andre Akpan, midfielder Shalrie Joseph and defender Stephen McCarthy -- went unselected. As such, all three are now available to any MLS team on a first-come, first-serve basis.
With less than two months before the Revolution open preseason camp, and plenty of work for both the coaching staff and front office to attend to, we'll take a look at the top five questions surrounding the local XI this offseason:
1. Can Diego Fagundez bounce back from a forgettable 2014? Matching a remarkable 2013 season -- one in which he became the youngest player to reach double-digits in the goal-scoring department -- proved a difficult feat for Fagundez. It took him eight weeks to get his first goal, and after a brief spell of success, he promptly went missing for much of the summer. If Fagundez wants to reclaim his spot in the lineup, he'll need to up the ante on defense and get on the same page with striker Charlie Davies, who became the Revolution's go-to striker down the stretch.
2. How will the team cope with the loss of AJ Soares? After earning the team's top defender honors in 2014, Soares reportedly took his talents to Serie A on Monday. Replacing the veteran center back won't be easy, but the front office has options. Right back Andrew Farrell filled in at center back on a handful of occasions in 2014, and performed particularly well in that role. Another possibility is Stage 2 of the Re-Entry Draft, as veterans Jeff Parke, Bakary Soumare and Adam Moffat could fill the void. Then, of course, there is the SuperDraft, where the Revolution may trade up to take a blue-chipper like Michael Amick (UCLA).
3. Can Lee Nguyen repeat his success in 2015? Few predicted the season that Nguyen enjoyed in 2014. His 18 goals shattered his previous high of five, and his nine game-winning strikes topped MLS. But whether or not he can do the same next season depends upon those around him. Davies' holdup play created space for Nguyen to operate, while the addition of Jermaine Jones alleviated some of the pressure as well. Nguyen often credited those around him for his success, and as modest as he may have been, the sentiment was ultimately true. For the dynamic midfielder to register a similar campaign, the likes of Jones, Davies and Kelyn Rowe must remain sharp -- and healthy -- in 2015.
4. How will the Revolution utilize their partnership with Sporting Lisbon? This is, perhaps, one of the most intriguing questions of the offseason. One prong of the partnership, which was established in October, opened the door for the Revolution to have its players train with the Portuguese side during the offseason, and vice versa. Another possibility is that the Revolution could invite a player or two from Sporting for preseason camp. Then again, the Revolution could very well maximize their agreement with Sporting -- who boast one of the most prestigious player development academies in the world -- by adding a player or two, much like Orlando City has done in their partnership with Benfica.
5. What position will the front office train their eyes on during the offseason? It has to be forward, where the Revolution are particularly thin at the moment. With Davies the only target man on the active roster, and Teal Bunbury getting the bulk of his time in the midfield, the front office has to restock the cupboard when it comes to its forward corps. Last year, the Revolution looked at the SuperDraft, where they selected recently departed Patrick Mullins, and within the league, where they acquired Bunbury from Sporting Kansas City, to shore up their depth up top. Look for them to do the same this winter, even if it takes a pre-draft trade to get a spot in the Top 10.
In fourth and final part of this series, we’ll take a look at the forwards: Jerry Bengtson (loaned to Belgrano until June 30, 2015), Charlie Davies (signed)
Overview: Who would replace Juan Agudelo? That was, perhaps, the biggest question for the Revolution heading into the 2014 season.
The front office attempted to answer it by acquiring Teal Bunbury, a talented player who saw his playing time decline the previous year. Similar in size (6-foot-2) to Agudelo (6-1), it was hoped that Bunbury could provide the same type of physical and disruptive presence as his predecessor.
But it didn’t take long to figure out that the two were different types of players. Bunbury’s speed and savvy didn’t lend itself well to such a gritty role. He went scoreless in his first seven games and was eventually plugged into the midfield as coach Jay Heaps went with rookie Patrick Mullins at striker.
Initially, the move appeared to be a masterstroke. The two-time Hermann Trophy winner scored in each of his first four games. Even more, his hold-up play created opportunities for others, and with him stationed up top, the Revolution registered back-to-back five-goal games in mid-May.
Mullins’ emergence, though, came and went like a comet. By July, he was back on the bench as another player took the reins: Charlie Davies.
The original plan for the Boston College alum was to put him on the wing, but the striker by trade never lost his natural instincts. Davies proved as much by scoring or assisting in three straight starts in late July, a time in which the Revolution were trying to dig themselves out of an eight-game losing streak.
While Davies didn’t pose the same scoring threat that Agudelo did, his ability to draw defenders and endure abuse allowed MVP candidate Lee Nguyen space and opportunities to cash in. Once the postseason arrived, Davies stepped on the clutch and threw it into fifth gear by notching a pair of two-goal games to spark the team’s first MLS Cup appearance in seven years.
As valuable as Davies showed himself, the Revolution didn’t quit tinkering with their personnel up top. They traded Saer Sene to New York in August for Andre Akpan, while adding Tony Taylor and Geoffrey Castillion to the roster in August. But none of the three midseason additions made any meaningful contributions down the stretch.
Analysis: Davies proved to be a solid option up top, no doubt. Though he spent the bulk of his career as a second striker rather than a target man, the 28-year-old forward quickly took to the role, and by season’s end, was thriving in it. But injury issues remain a concern. He spent the first half of the season sidelined with various leg injuries and rarely went the full 90 even when healthy.
The team’s depth at forward took a significant hit less than a week into the offseason. Reserve forwards Dimitry Imbongo and Castillion both were traded to Colorado during Monday’s half-day trade window, while Mullins and Tony Taylor both were selected by New York City FC during the expansion draft.
As for Jerry Bengtson, who’s on loan to Argentinian side Belgrano until June 2015, it’s clear the organization does not expect him to factor into the equation anytime soon.
Bottom line: As much as the Revolution would like to be able to count upon Davies to carry the load, it’s clear that the forward position remains the area of greatest need this winter. Look for the organization to address that concern by either scouring the international waters or through a trade. Of course, if Bunbury, who’s currently out of contract, decides to re-sign, don’t be surprised if Heaps contemplates returning him to his natural center forward’s position should all else fail.
In Part 3, we'll take a look at the midfielders: Teal Bunbury (unsigned), Scott Caldwell (signed), Andy Dorman (signed), Diego Fagundez (signed), Jermaine Jones (signed), Daigo Kobayashi (signed), Steve Neumann (signed), Lee Nguyen (signed), Kelyn Rowe (signed).
Overview: Few could've predicted the way the 2014 season unfolded for the Revolution in the middle of the park -- for a myriad of reasons.
For starters, there was the curious case of Diego Fagundez. The talented teenager led the team in scoring in 2013 but struggled with consistency in 2014. With Juan Agudelo gone, and coach Jay Heaps demanding more from his outside midfielders, Fagundez's minutes dwindled during the second half of the season.
As Fagundez's form regressed, the onus to get the job done fell on Lee Nguyen, whose previous scoring high was five goals in 2012. The veteran midfielder answered the call brilliantly by bagging a league-record 18 goals by a pure midfielder. Half of those tallies were game winners, and by season's end, Nguyen was shortlisted for MVP consideration.
Nguyen's breakthrough season wasn't the only surprise, of course. The late-summer signing of Jermaine Jones, a classic box-to-box midfielder, brought both bite and ambition to New England's midfield corps. With him on the pitch, the Revolution ripped off a 9-1-1 record down the stretch, and he became an influential figure on a team that reached the MLS Cup final.
Another unexpected development: Teal Bunbury, a striker by trade, was asked to switch to the wing. The move initially appeared to be a reach, but by season's end, the speedy and tireless Bunbury picked up a team-best six assists and scored twice in the postseason.
Two other surprises popped up in the middle of the park. Offseason signing Daigo Kobayashi played in every one of the team's 34 games, and played well whether he started or came off the bench. Rookie Steve Neumann was a valuable late-game option, as he often steadied the ship when called upon.
For all the twists and turns, two of the team's unheralded heroes continued to show their worth. Veteran Andy Dorman was a force at holding midfielder before an MCL injury sidelined him for much of the second half. In his place, Scott Caldwell was nothing short of superb at putting out fires and plugging the opponent's passing lanes.
Analysis: The Revolution weren't terribly impressive in terms of overall possession (48.6 percent -- 14th in MLS), but that didn't stop the midfielders from finding success.
Nguyen was virtually unstoppable during the second half, while Jones made opposing players think twice about bullying the likes of Caldwell and Kelyn Rowe. Bunbury's speed and work rate gave the Revolution much-needed width and grit on the right, while Rowe's form on set pieces gave the attack an added element of danger.
As a unit, they might not have dictated the game as often as they would've liked. But individually, each did enough to hit their adversaries where it hurt, and as a result, their contributions were able to make the Revolution offense potent down the stretch.
If there is one area of concern, the midfielders didn't help the club curb their turnovers. The Revolution's 76 percent passing accuracy was ranked 17th in the league.
Bottom line: With a full season of Jones ahead, and Nguyen's scoring touch evident, the Revolution boast one of the most talented midfields in the league going into 2015. Bunbury's successful transition to the wing has turned him into a must-sign talent going into the offseason, while Scott Caldwell's defensive work has made him virtually irreplaceable. But if the team wants to become truly dominant in the middle third, Fagundez and Rowe will have to step up their game. Should Bunbury return, the pieces are all in place for another year of attack-minded soccer.
In Part 2, we’ll take a look at the defenders: Kevin Alston (signed), Darrius Barnes (signed), Andrew Farrell (signed), Jose Goncalves (signed), A.J. Soares (unsigned), Chris Tierney (signed).
Overview: Bend, but don’t break. That was the name of the game for the Revolution defense in 2014.
Following a sterling 2013 season in which the Revolution pitched a club record 14 shutouts and Jose Goncalves earned MLS Defender of the Year honors, injuries and off-the-field issues prevented an encore performance from the back four.
The first sign of trouble appeared in the preseason, when Goncalves voiced his displeasure over his new contract. Matters only worsened in the Revolution’s season-opening matchup with the Dynamo, a game in which the reigning Defender of the Year looked like a shadow of his 2013 self. A week later, he was left off the game-day roster. At that juncture, it looked like 2014 would a long and trying season for all parties involved.
But Goncalves quickly put his grievances aside -- at least publicly. He returned to the field alongside A.J. Soares, and the team eventually found its rhythm. They racked up clean sheets against defending champion Sporting Kansas City, Houston and Seattle, and didn’t allow a goal at home until late-May.
Just when it looked like the Revolution were primed to ride their defensive success into the summer, injuries conspired against them. After holding midfielder Andy Dorman went down with an injury in July, Soares was called upon to briefly fill the void, while Andrew Farrell lined up opposite Goncalves. The results weren’t very inspiring. A 5-1 loss against the Galaxy, as well as a 2-1 loss at Salt Lake in which the defense conceded two penalties, appeared to spell doom for the rest of the season.
But the defense managed to piece together better performances down the stretch -- even with injuries to Chris Tierney and Kevin Alston. It wasn't perfect week in and week out, but winning close games showed that the defense had the resolve to keep pressing on. With the offense spearing the team’s late-season success, the defense simply did their job: keep the opponent from scoring too often.
Analysis: It didn’t take long for questions to emerge about the state of the Revolution defense going into 2015. Soares, who was voted the team’s best defender in 2014 by the media, announced his intention to play overseas earlier this week. With his contract set to expire at the end of the year, he may very well have played his last game in a Revolution uniform. Meanwhile, Goncalves, who looked strong in some games and cavalier in others, will presumably return. On the right, Farrell’s season was largely a mixed bag, as the sophomore fullback conceded a string of soft breakaway goals during the summer. Interestingly, Farrell actually looked more comfortable when filling in at center back, and there’s a sense that he may be better suited for that role. On the left, Tierney was his usual reliable self, and his crosses opened up the offense. Alston struggled to stay healthy, but his speed and attacking instincts gave Heaps the flexibility to mix and match his lineup accordingly.
Bottom line: Whether Soares stays or goes, the Revolution are going to need the 2013 version of Goncalves to make a full-time return. When the Portuguese center back is at his best, the rest of the defense often follows suit. Should Soares say goodbye, Farrell could very well fill the void. Alston’s injury history may prompt the Revolution to shop for another fullback during the offseason. Tierney appears to have the left back’s spot locked down, but depending upon matchups week to week, he may be asked to push up into the midfield against speedier wingers. With these issues at the forefront, the Revolution will need to make some moves to keep their defense in order going into 2015.
Their 17 wins matched the regular-season high originally set by the 2005 squad, while midfielder Lee Nguyen enjoyed a breakthrough season that nearly netted him an MVP award. And then, of course, was the arrival -- and immediate impact -- of Jermaine Jones.
But even though the Revolution came within a goal of lifting their first MLS Cup trophy in club history, there are still plenty of questions about how next year’s roster will shape up. After all, this is MLS, a league that sees an extraordinary amount of turnover during the winter months.
In order to tackle some of those questions, we’ll examine the roster position-by-position as the club looks to strengthen its roster going into 2015.
In the first of a four-part series, we’ll take a look at the team’s goalkeepers: Bobby Shuttleworth (signed) and Brad Knighton (unsigned for 2015).
Overview: For the first time in nearly a decade, a blimp-sized question mark hovered over the sticks for the Revolution entering the preseason. With Matt Reis retired, a pair of his former understudies -- incumbent Bobby Shuttleworth and the recently re-acquired Brad Knighton -- arrived in camp ready to battle for the starting goalkeeper’s spot.
Strong preseason numbers appeared to give Knighton the edge, but Revolution coach Jay Heaps stuck with Shuttleworth. The decision was immediately met with criticism after the 26-year-old keeper conceded four goals in the season opener at Houston. Though Shuttleworth rebounded with stronger performances, Knighton briefly took the mantle in late-June after a pair of sterling starts during U.S. Open Cup competition.
But the second-time around Revolution keeper couldn’t hold onto the spot for long. After a shaky start against the Union on June 28, the reins were returned to Shuttleworth, who grabbed them and never let go. While the month of July was a punishing one for everyone on the squad, Shuttleworth emerged as the bona fide starting keeper down the homestretch.
Analysis: Despite a few bouts of inconsistency during the first half of the season, Shuttleworth all but etched his name on the lineup as the starting keeper during the second half. Fearless off his line and quick on his feet, the sixth-year keeper erased any doubts that he was a worthy successor to Reis.
Additionally, Knighton is a solid backup, not to mention close friend of Shuttleworth, and the dynamic fostered a fierce but civil competition for the spot.
Although former third- and fourth-stringers Luis Soffner and Larry Jackson had their options declined, the Revolution prefer to carry at least three keepers, so look for the front office to address that item during the later rounds of the SuperDraft and/or the waiver wire.
Bottom line: The Revolution are firm at goalkeeper going into 2015. Shuttleworth’s 2014 season wasn’t without bumps, but he emerged as one of the league’s better keepers by the end of it. His consistency will need to improve if he wishes to reach elite status, but at age 27 there’s no reason to believe that can’t happen down the road. Meanwhile, should Knighton return to fill the backup’s spot, look for him to do exactly what he did in 2014: test and sharpen Shuttleworth every week.
The Revolution broke preseason camp with soaring expectations after snapping a three-season playoff drought in 2013. But making a return trip to the postseason -- no matter how strong the collective ambition was in the locker room -- wasn’t necessarily a foregone conclusion.
Longtime goalkeeper Matt Reis retired during the offseason while talent striker Juan Agudelo departed for a chance to play in Europe. Matters took a turn for the worse when center back Jose Goncalves aired his contract frustration days after the team traded the rights to another center back -- Michael Parkhurst -- to Columbus for a first-round pick and allocation money.
It didn’t take long for the aforementioned concerns to bubble to the surface. In the season opener at Houston, Reis’ replacement -- Bobby Shuttleworth -- was beaten four times by a Dynamo side that exploited a puzzling performance by Goncalves. On the other end of the pitch, Teal Bunbury, who was brought in to replace Agudelo, looked out of sync with those around him. When all was said and done, the 4-0 shellacking marked the worst season-opening defeat in team history.
Though the loss unnerved plenty in New England, the Revolution were back in the saddle weeks later. After shaking off some early-season scoring struggles, the offense came alive as the temperatures in the region started to warm.
The locals went on a seven-game unbeaten streak (5-0-2) between early April and mid-May that included a 5-0 thumping to the eventual Supporters’ Shield winning-Sounders and a 5-3 shellacking of the Union less than a week later. By the time Memorial Day weekend arrived, first place was theirs. But storm clouds lay ahead on the horizon.
New England entered the World Cup break with back-to-back losses to last-place Montreal and an undermanned Red Bulls side. They returned to league action at the end of June and promptly dropped a humbling 3-1 defeat to Philadelphia. The following week, they conceded not one, but two penalties in a loss at Salt Lake. All told, the Revolution suffered eight straight defeats and sat below the red playoff line at the halfway point of the season. Something had to change.
While the team slowly rediscovered its identity in August, they received a major boost when MLS awarded the Revolution the rights to U.S. international Jermaine Jones, who joined the club just before Labor Day weekend. The move worked like a charm for a team that desperately craved Jones’ leadership and tactical awareness.
With Jones in the fold, the Revolution went 9-1-1 in their final 11, including a pair of impressive wins at Sporting Park, as well as BBVA Compass Stadium, where they were thumped during the first game of the season.
What’s more, Lee Nguyen caught fire as he scored 12 goals in his final 14 games while Bunbury and Charlie Davies thrived in new roles as the regular season came to a close. Meanwhile, Shuttleworth overcame his early-season inconsistency to establish himself as the bona fide starter.
The strong finish assured the Revolution of the second seed in the Eastern Conference, and they wasted no time announcing their intentions when they tore through the Crew by an aggregate score of 7-3 in the conference semifinals. In the conference final, they edged New York’s high-powered attack 4-3 on aggregate. For the first time in seven years, the Revolution were en route to a Cup final.
Their championship dreams may have been dashed in the end, but with Jones, Nguyen and Shuttleworth all slated to return next year, the Revolution have to like their chances of getting another crack at their first MLS Cup title in 2015.
New York City FC selected Mullins with their second pick and Taylor with their fifth. Once Taylor was chosen, the remaining players on the Revolution's unprotected list were no longer eligible for selection as no club could lose more than two players.
Mullins' departure came less than four days after he assisted on Chris Tierney's 79th-minute goal during Sunday's MLS Cup final. The back-to-back Hermann Trophy winner was drafted by the Revolution with the 11th overall pick in the 2014 SuperDraft. He played in 21 games and became the first rookie in more than a decade to score in four straight games.
Taylor joined the Revolution via weighted lottery in August after spending four years plying his trade in Europe. He made his lone appearance for New England on Aug. 23 as a late-game substitute in a 1-0 win over Chivas USA.
Prior to the expansion draft, the Revolution sent allocation money to both New York City and Orlando City SC as part of an agreement that neither would select midfielder Diego Fagundez, who was among those on New England's unprotected list.
With the departures of Mullins and Taylor, Charlie Davies and Teal Bunbury are the only two forwards remaining on the Revolution roster. The club's current roster now stands at 19.
Shortly after the half-day trade window opened at 9 a.m. ET, the Revolution completed curious deal that sent promising Dutch striker Geoffrey Castillion, reserve forward Dmitry Imbongo and a 2015 second-round pick to the Colorado Rapids for backup goalkeeper Joe Nasco and a 2015 third-round pick. Nasco’s club option was subsequently declined.
Cutting ties with Imbongo was no surprise, as the 24-year-old forward was limited to a pair of substitute appearances in 2014, and he remained buried at the bottom of the forward depth chart. But Castillion’s inclusion in the deal probably raised more than a few eyebrows. The former Ajax academy product was signed in August to a rich deal that made him the third-highest paid player ($329,000) on the roster, according to the latest MLS players’ union salary list.
The exchange of draft picks means that the Revolution now have only one pick in the second round -- the 33rd overall pick -- which they acquired from Sporting Kansas City in the 2012 deal that sent Benny Feilhaber to Peter Vermes’ team.
While the trade with Colorado caught the attention of many, the Revolution front office continued to trim down the roster as the day progressed.
Nine players, in addition to the newly-acquired Nasco, had their contract options declined: goalkeepers Larry Jackson and Luis Soffner, defender Jossimar Sanchez, midfielders Shalrie Joseph, Donnie Smith and Alec Sundly, and forwards Andre Akpan and Tony Taylor. Jackson, Soffner, Sanchez, Joseph, Sundly and Akpan did not see first-team action in 2014, while Smith and Taylor each appeared in only one game.
Additionally, defender Stephen McCarthy, who only made one league appearance in 2014, has not been extended a bona fide contract offer, and is now out of contract.
The aforementioned moves currently leave the Revolution with 20 players on the roster. Included among the 20: goalkeeper Brad Knighton, defender A.J. Soares and forward Teal Bunbury, all of whom are currently negotiating new contracts for 2015.
The club also announced its protected list ahead of Wednesday’s expansion draft. The untouchables include goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth, defenders Kevin Alston, Andrew Farrell, Jose Goncalves and Chris Tierney, midfielders Jermaine Jones, Daigo Kobayashi, Lee Nguyen and Kelyn Rowe, and forwards Teal Bunbury and Charlie Davies.
Two other players will be protected, as Scott Caldwell is not eligible to be taken in the expansion draft as a "homegrown player," while Diego Fagundez will not be available for selection after the Revolution completed trades with both expansion clubs -- New York City FC and Orlando City SC -- which will assure his return next spring.
The most notable names not protected: defenders A.J. Soares and Darrius Barnes, midfielders Andy Dorman and Steve Neumman, and forward Patrick Mullins. Soares was voted the team’s defender of the year in 2014, but is reportedly interested in taking his career overseas. Neumann and Mullins both were taken in the first round of the 2014 SuperDraft, while Dorman (16 games) and Barnes (22 games) were valuable contributors in a season that saw the Revolution reach their first MLS Cup appearance in seven years.
The MLS expansion draft will allow New York City FC and Orlando City SC to add to their rosters by each selecting 10 players from the other 18 MLS clubs. The draft will be held on Dec. 10 at 2 p.m. ET.
Teams cannot lose more than two players in the expansion draft, and once a team has a player claimed from its unprotected list, it can move another player from its unprotected to protected list.
But the stark reality is that one team will have that belief crushed at the final whistle, and that was the case for the New England Revolution on Sunday after the L.A. Galaxy edged them 2-1 in extra time at the StubHub Center.
“It’s tough,” Revolution midfielder Teal Bunbury told the media after the match. “You go the whole season pursuing a goal and a dream to win a championship. But at the end of it, the Galaxy are a great team. A lot of respect to them; they had a hell of a game.”
Bunbury’s assessment of the quality contained in L.A.’s lineup is spot-on, of course. A team that boasted three Best XI selections and one of the best Homegrown players in the league is sure to give any team fits. But as good as they looked on paper, the Galaxy were far from unbeatable on Sunday.
The tale of the tape shows that the Revolution outpossessed the high-octane Galaxy at a 56.3 percent clip, and matched the Galaxy on total shots (16-16) and shots on goal (5-5). Passing accuracy between the two was nearly identical, with the Revolution connecting slightly better on their passes (75 percent) than the Galaxy (73 percent).
“I really liked the way we came out, and had close to 60 percent possession,” Revolution coach Jay Heaps told the media after the match. “That was key; we wanted to take it away from them possessionwise. I really felt it wasn’t our best game in the final third, but I thought we dictated a lot of the game.”
Indeed, the final third turned out to be where the guests stumbled the most. The Revolution's pass completion rate dipped to 54 percent near L.A.’s net, and chances by Bunbury and Patrick Mullins fell by the wayside late in the match.
Although the Galaxy weren’t much better on their passes in the final third (56 percent), they did just enough to edge the Revolution. Gyasi Zardes opened the scoring after slipping past Andrew Farrell and blasting it through in the 52nd minute, while Robbie Keane toed the offside line and scored the winner in the 111th minute.
“You have to credit big-time players when they step up,” Heaps said. “I thought Zardes -- that move was a really good move to get him wide -- and I thought Robbie Keane’s finish from just the end part of it was pretty class.”
The Galaxy’s class and execution are ultimately what left the Revolution with a bitter taste when it was all said and done. Although they fell short on the scoreboard, Bunbury expressed pride in his team’s hard work throughout, which undoubtedly kept the match close from start to finish.
“It is devastating and disappointing for all the fans that came out, family members and all the people that have supported us the whole season,” Bunbury said. “They have to be proud as well. We gave everything we got.”
- ESPN FC’s Doug McIntyre writes on defiant Revs coach Jay Heaps, who in the wake of the heartbreaking loss vowed that his team would bounce back (as did his players). Heaps was on the field for each of the Revs’ first four losses in the MLS Cup and was on the sideline for the fifth.
"Even though we're a little bit heartbroken today, I think we're going to learn from this,” Revs midfielder and MVP finalist Lee Nguyen said after the game. “It's going to make us even hungrier for next year. We built a great foundation -- this is a team that can compete for the Cup for hopefully a couple more years. That's our goal going forward."
- Jeff Carlisle’s “Three Points” looks at the winning goal, scored by league MVP Robbie Keane, and the Revs’ familiar script in dropping their fifth title game.
- McIntyre looks at “How The Cup Was Won” in this recap of some of the key points of the game.
It was another extra-time thriller for the New England Revolution and L.A. Galaxy in Sunday’s MLS Cup final. Similar to their two previous championship encounters, the locals fell in heartbreaking fashion.
A 111th-minute strike by Robbie Keane sent the Revolution to a stinging 2-1 defeat to the Galaxy, who claimed their MLS-best fifth championship at the StubHub Center.
Gyasi Zardes opened the scoring in the 52nd minute after bringing down a pass from Stefan Ishizaki and pounding it through from point-blank range. Chris Tierney punched back in the 79th minute when he struck a Patrick Mullins pass through Jaime Penedo’s legs to send the match into extra time.
After a largely sloppy and lackluster match on his part, Keane rose to the occasion when he chased down a long ball from Marcelo Sarvas to score the game winner.
The loss sent the Revolution to their fifth straight MLS Cup final defeat, while the Galaxy sent American legend Landon Donovan, who announced that he would call it quits at the end of the season, into retirement on a high note.
What it means: Simply put, an exciting season by the Revolution ends in heartache. But it wasn’t because the heavily favored Galaxy dominated the match. Zardes’ opening goal signaled that the Revolution couldn’t afford to make mistakes against the high-powered Galaxy attack, but the guests never backed down. Tierney’s late strike made it anyone’s game, while Teal Bunbury’s shot off the bar nearly sent the Revolution on their way to victory. Ultimately, it was Keane -- the league MVP -- who showed up at the right time and the right place to finish off the Revolution.
Yes, a fifth straight defeat in the MLS Cup final is a bitter pill to swallow for all involved on the Revolution end. But the local XI should be applauded for turning around a season that, at one point during the summer, seemed destined for failure. It’s unknown who will be leaving during the offseason -- especially with the expansion draft on tap -- but the good news is that Revolution coach Jay Heaps has developed a good core of young players who will have an entire season with Jermaine Jones at their disposal next year.
Stat of the match: Zardes’ opening goal ended an eight-game scoring drought for the Galaxy midfielder. His last strike came on Sept. 28 against the New York Red Bulls.
Heaps makes slight tweak to lineup: The only change made to the Revolution starting XI was an expected one, as Tierney dropped back to his left back spot while Kelyn Rowe returned to the lineup at left midfielder. The change forced Kevin Alston, who started at left back last week, to the bench.
Krafts on hand for Cup final: Revolution owners/operators Robert and Jonathan Kraft were on hand for Sunday’s final. The Krafts, who also own the New England Patriots, told the media that they would take a helicopter to journey south to San Diego after the match to make it to the 8:30 p.m. ET Patriots-Chargers game at Qualcomm Stadium.
Nguyen exits, Dorman enters: Revolution leading scorer Lee Nguyen was forced to exit the match in stoppage time after suffering from cramps. Veteran midfielder Andy Dorman, who played in the Revolution’s last MLS Cup final in 2007, came on to replace Nguyen in the midfield.
What’s next: A busy offseason for the front office and coaching staff. The half-day trade window runs on Monday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. ET, while the MLS expansion draft and waiver draft both are set for Wednesday. Phase 1 of the re-entry draft is on the calendar for Friday, with Phase 2 to follow Dec. 18. A brief breather will follow until the MLS combine, which will run from Jan. 9-13. The SuperDraft is set for Jan. 15, and shortly thereafter, the Revolution will kick off their training camp.
A chance to put past championship failures to rest and kick-start a new storyline awaits the New England Revolution in Sunday's MLS Cup final against the Los Angeles Galaxy at the StubHub Center. Kickoff is set for 3 p.m. ET.
The Revolution enter Sunday's final -- their fifth in club history -- hoping to finally lift the MLS Cup trophy after falling just short in each of their four previous appearances. The local XI have been edged by a single goal three times (2002, 2005, 2007) while falling in penalties in the other (2006). And after stomaching each of those defeats during his playing days, Revolution coach Jay Heaps is eager to put those disappointments in the rearview once and for all.
One of the clubs that denied the Revolution of championship glory in the past is none other than the Galaxy, who lifted the MLS Cup trophy twice at the expense of New England. Since their last championship encounter with the Revolution, the Galaxy have won two more titles (2011 and 2012), and are vying to become the first club in MLS history to win five championships. Additionally, they'll be looking to send MLS legend Landon Donovan -- who'll be playing his final match Sunday -- into retirement on a high note.
Here's what to watch for when the Revolution and Galaxy meet for the third time in the MLS Cup final:
Focus won't be on Keane ... or Donovan. At first blush, it appears that the best way to shut down the potent Galaxy attack is to contain Donovan and newly minted MVP Robbie Keane. Sounds reasonable -- until you consider that L.A.'s attacking success extends beyond the dynamic duo. Gyasi Zardes, Juninho and Marcelo Sarvas have all punished the Revolution in the past, and they are all capable of doing so again. In light of that, Revolution captain Jose Goncalves believes that a comprehensive approach to the game plan gives his squad the best chance at beating L.A.
"We cannot focus on only one or two players," Goncalves said, "because there are other players who can also decide the game, [so] that's what we will do: to prepare against a team, and not just one player."
Which areas will the Revs attempt to exploit? Look for the Revs to steer their offense to central channel, where the Galaxy were particularly soft in Sunday's second leg of the Western Conference final. Center back Leonardo has been prone to making inexplicable mistakes, while Omar Gonzalez didn't exactly register a strong performance against the Sounders on Sunday. Another area where the Galaxy could unravel: along the left, where fullback Dan Gargan has no qualms leaving space behind him when he pushes up. They may not be glaring weaknesses, but the Revolution have shown that they'll pounce on any opportunity to hit their opponent hard.
Revs won't be parking the bus. Faced against the prolific Galaxy offense, many teams might be tempted to drop numbers and rely solely on the counterattack. By now, it's clear that the Revolution aren't one of those teams. After slicing through Columbus and New York to the tune of 11 goals, rest assured that the Revolution won't be tempted to change their approach with the stakes as high as they are Sunday.
"We have one way of playing, and that's attacking soccer," Revolution defender/midfielder Chris Tierney said. "We're not going to change and all of a sudden become a team that just packs 11 guys behind the ball and bunkers. That's not our style, we don't know how to do that. We're going to go for it."
Can the Revs' defense keep the Galaxy at bay? If there was any benefit that stemmed from the 5-1 shellacking the Galaxy put on the Revolution on July 16, it was learning what not to do against the likes of Keane, Zardes and Stefan Ishizaki. With that teaching moment behind them, the Revolution defense will have to press Zardes, Ishizaki and Donovan while keeping the lines of communication open when Keane starts getting close to goal. It'll take considerable focus and discipline, without a doubt, to keep L.A.'s offense in check. But the Revolution showed themselves capable of rising to the occasion against the similarly stacked Red Bulls in the Eastern Conference final.
The past isn't prelude in Revs' view. The local XI is well-aware of the danger that the Galaxy pose. They know how impressive L.A.'s stats are, they've seen the highlight-reel goals, and they've studied the sensational passing sequences. The Galaxy are a great team by any measure. But according to Tierney, none of that will matter once referee Mark Geiger blows the opening whistle Sunday afternoon.
"It's just going to be about who brings it on the day [of the game]," Tierney said. "This is a league where anyone can beat anyone on any given day. When we have all of our players on the same page, performing at their highest levels, I don't think that we're beatable."
The Galaxy feature the highest-scoring offense (69 goals) in the league, and showed no signs of slowing down during the postseason. On the defensive end, they tied D.C. United for conceding the fewest goals (37), which allowed LA to finish with a stunning plus-32 goal differential this year. So it’s easy to see why many are predicting the Galaxy to crush the Revolution in Sunday’s MLS Cup clash.
But as strong as LA has shown itself this year, it is not a team without weakness. The first half of Sunday’s second leg of the Western Conference Final featured a Galaxy back line in complete disarray against the high-powered Sounders. They leaked two goals in quick succession, and flirted with disaster even though Juninho’s 54th minute long-distance blast ultimately put them through to the Cup final.
The Galaxy’s disheveled defense could prove to be their Achilles heel against the Revolution, whose 11 goals over the course of their playoff run led the field by a wide margin. And they didn’t just get it done at home, either. Six of those strikes came on the road, a remarkable stat considering how most MLS teams tend to button it up defensively on unfamiliar territory.
The Revolution are not only creating chances; they’re capitalizing on them, too.
That said, it’ll be interesting to see how it all shakes out between two of the league’s hottest offenses, with defense likely taking a back seat on Sunday. The Revolution may not have an arsenal of stars similar to the Galaxy's, but as they’ve shown countless times during the postseason, when the stakes are high they rise to the occasion. Expect that to continue on Sunday, as the Revolution position themselves to pull off the upset.
Prediction: New England 3, LA Galaxy 2.
Here’s a look at how the conference kings match up in Sunday’s winner-take-all affair:
Goalkeeper: LA’s Jaime Penedo had a sensational season, finishing with a sterling 1.14 GAA, the third best mark in MLS. But the Panama City native faced only 115 shots, and made a number of his saves more difficult than they had to be. Even so, his bold approach in the area is one reason why the Galaxy overtook the Supporters’ Shield-winning Sounders in the conference finals. Meanwhile, one player who had sure hands during the postseason was New England’s Bobby Shuttleworth, who made a playoff-high 18 saves and was strong off his line time after time. He may not have kept the sheet clean during the postseason, but his importance to the team’s success can’t be overstated. Edge: Even
Defenders: While the Revolution defensive corps didn’t exactly play lights-out soccer, they were strong enough to withstand a potent Red Bulls offense in the conference finals. A.J. Soares was a force on the back four, while Chris Tierney’s crosses have helped spur the offense. The Galaxy back line registered an impressive regular-season campaign by allowing a conference-low 37 goals. Omar Gonzalez and A.J. De La Garza have made the LA back four one of the toughest to beat in 2014, while fullback Dan Gargan never met an attacking run he didn’t like. Edge: Galaxy
Midfielders: Coach Bruce Arena’s midfield unit boasts one of the best to ever play in MLS in Landon Donovan and one of the brightest young stars in Gyasi Zardes. They collected a combined 26 goals and 21 assists to spear an offense that scored a whopping 69 goals in 2014. But the Revolution’s personnel in the middle of the park shouldn’t be overlooked. Lee Nguyen grabbed 18 goals and five assists, while the addition of Jermaine Jones solidified the team’s attack. Teal Bunbury scored twice during the postseason and gives the Revolution a strong presence out on the right. Edge: Even
Forwards: Charlie Davies wasn’t exactly a scoring machine during the regular season, but he’s kicked it up to fifth gear in the playoffs. He scored a team-best four goals during the postseason, and the grunt work he’s endured as a target man has opened space for Nguyen, Bunbury and Jones. As impressive as Davies has been, LA’s Robbie Keane is in a class of his own. The 2014 MVP collected 19 goals and 14 assists during the regular season, and has proven to be one of the toughest players to mark. His uncanny ability to find space between the center backs has made him one of the most feared forwards in MLS. Edge: Galaxy
Key Matchup: A.J. Soares vs. Robbie Keane. It’s not hyperbole to say that Soares is going to have to play the game of his career to contain Keane on Sunday. The Ireland International's attacking instincts are second to none, and he often exploits even the smallest defensive lapse to maximum effect. But Soares has raised his game in high-pressure situations, and will look to do so again with the stakes higher than ever.
Revolution coach Jay Heaps on the Galaxy: “It’s about team defending. It’s similar to what we did vs. New York where you have (to face) an excellent attack. It’s not just about Landon, because he feeds off of Robbie Keane, Gyasi Zardes and their two other midfielders (Marcelo) Sarvas and Juninho. They’re really a balanced-attack team so if you focus on Landon, someone else is going to beat you, and if you focus on Robbie Keane, then Landon is going to beat you. So you have to make sure you have a balanced defense across and it’s not just one guy shutting down one guy, it’s a group shutting down a group.”