2017 MLS SEASON PREVIEW
New England Revolution's streak of years making the playoffs came to an end at three in 2016, as a late run fell just short of snagging the last postseason spot in the Eastern Conference.
The Revolution struggled to score goals for most of the season until a formation change, ranking near the bottom of the league. Meanwhile, their 54 goals conceded was the sixth-worst in MLS — not a recipe for success.
But New England has pieces. The Revolution acquired Kei Kamara midseason and they will finally get Xavier Kouassi into the midfield after a season-ending injury prevented him from seeing the field for the team in 2016. New England also has a pair of new center backs and will feature a different starting goalkeeper than it began last season with. And the Revolution still have Juan Agudelo, Lee Nguyen and Kelyn Rowe — three dynamic offensive weapons in attack.
Coach Jay Heaps will have to integrate his new spine quickly in order to make sure his new back line and keeper get on the same page and hope to limit disruptions to the revitalized attack. But with the talent on hand, the Revolution figure to challenge for a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference once again.
How did the Revolution perform in 2016?
2016 finish: Seventh in Eastern Conference (11-14-9), missed the playoffs
The Revolution won five of their last seven games, following the implementation of the 4-4-2 formation. The run fell just short, however, as they lost out on the last playoff spot to the Philadelphia Union on goal difference.
The Revolution's key offseason losses
The Revolution overhauled the spine of the defense this winner, saying goodbye to veterans Jose Goncalves and Darrius Barnes along the back line, while goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth was traded to Minnesota. Defensive midfielder Gershon Koffie was also not brought back.
Steve Neumann and Jordan McCrary did not have their contracts renewed.
The Revolution's key offseason additions
Xavier Kouassi was a signing last season, but never got into a game with New England after he suffered a season-ending ACL injury while still with his previous team, FC Sion of the Swiss Super League. He'll slot in and hope to fill a void at one of the pivot spots that has not been adequately filled since Jermaine Jones' departure following the 2015 season.
The back line has been remade, with a pair of new center backs. Antonio Mlinar Delamea joins from the top division in Slovenia while Benjamin Angoua will spend the season on loan from Ligue 1 side Guingamp. Brian Wright was taken in the SuperDraft while Femi Hollinger-Janzen was reacquired after the team lost him in the expansion draft earlier this offseason.
How will the Revolution starting lineup look in 2017?
The Revolution finished the season on fire in the 4-4-2 diamond, scoring 15 goals in just seven games, and winning five of those contests. They'll stick with the formation this season, though the 4-3-3 will likely get some action as well.
Kouassi is in the mix to start, with one of the other midfielders dropping out, though the Revolution may ease him in after he missed all of last season. The 4-3-3 look will likely feature Teal Bunbury coming into the side as well.
The other battle is in goal. Former U.S. youth international Cody Cropper is certainly in the mix, but veteran Brad Knighton could end up starting when all is said and done.
Full Revolution roster entering 2017 season
Goalkeepers: Cody Cropper, Brad Knighton, Matt Turner
Defenders: Benjamin Angoua, Antonio Mlinar Delamea, Andrew Farrell, Chris Tierney, Je-Vaughn Watson, London Woodberry
Midfielders: Scott Caldwell, Diego Fagundez, Zachary Herivaux, Daigo Kobayashi, Xavier Kouassi, Lee Nguyen, Kelyn Rowe, Donnie Smith
Forwards: Juan Agudelo, Teal Bunbury, Femi Hollinger-Janzen, Kei Kamara, Brian Wright
The New England Revolution's national TV coverage schedule
Portland Timbers vs. New England Revolution - Sunday, April 2, at 9 p.m. ET on ESPN2
New England Revolution vs. Toronto FC - Saturday, June 3, at 7:30 p.m. ET on TSN
Toronto FC vs. New England Revolution - Friday, June 23, at 8 p.m. ET on TSN
Philadelphia Union vs. New England Revolution - Sunday, July 2, TBD on FS1
New England Revolution vs. Vancouver Whitecaps - Saturday, Aug. 12, at 8 p.m. on TSN
Montreal Impact vs. New England Revolution - Sunday, Oct. 22, at 4 p.m. on TVAS and TSN