When the New England Revolution drafted Brandon Bye out of Western Michigan with the eighth pick in the 2018 MLS SuperDraft, Bye was a goal-scoring winger. Defending was not an afterthought for Bye, but in terms of position, it was not an instinctively active thought.
“I never played right back in college a day in my life,” Bye told SBI during a recent phone interview from the MLS is Back Tournament near Orlando, Florida.
Bye, now in his third professional season, is settled at right back for the Revolution and has earned the confidence of sporting director and head coach Bruce Arena. According to Arena, Bye has “grown considerably” ability-wise, and the veteran MLS coach added that he finds Bye “to be a very good right back now in our league.”
“Working with him last year through about a dozen games, I found him to be a really promising talent. In the offseason, through this year, he’s made a lot of progress,” Arena told SBI during a recent video conference call with reporters. “Today, I find him to be a real intelligent player with exceptional ability. We’re very anxious that he’s going to show very well for the remainder of this year.”
Bye has started at right back in all four matches and has started 50 of 58 regular-season games since entering MLS in 2018, including 30 last season. Bye has started at left back, center back and midfield in his short career, but it is playing right back where Bye, who signed a contract extension this past offseason, has grown comfortable and confident, which has not gone unnoticed by Arena or his teammates.
“Since I arrived here a little over a year ago, he’s improved a lot. He’s becoming a better player each and every day. He’s learning fast. He’s a very fast and strong player,” said Revolution captain Carles Gil of Bye during a recent video conference call with reporters. “He helps us a lot in the attack. He creates a lot of space. He’s a very important player for our team.”
Bye nearly helped produce the go-ahead goal during Friday’s Group C draw against D.C. United. After a controlled buildup, Bye crossed the ball to Adam Buksa at the far post, who then headed it back down to Gustavo Bou for a prime scoring chance that Bou ultimately slammed over the crossbar.
“It was a good run of play. We connected a lot of passes. The ball came out to me, I saw Adam [Buksa] hanging back on the back post, so I tried to lift it up to get it to him,” Bye told SBI in a video conference call with reporters following the game. “Yeah, I thought it was a good chance, but we created quite a few chances. I think we did a really good job of moving the ball side to side and waiting to attack.”
Bye and Buksa, the Polish center forward who signed as the Revs’ third Designated Player this offseason joining Gil and Bou, have developed a good connection in the attack. Bye recorded the assist on Buksa’s first goal in MLS, a swift pass into space that Buksa’s deftly turned into a goal.
Bye has also benefitted playing alongside Andrew Farrell, who moved from right back to center back last season. Farrell’s in-depth understanding of playing right back has made it easier for Bye “to do my job.”
“I think he’s always got tips and tricks for me,” said Bye of Farrell, who has missed the Revs’ last two games with a leg injury. “He has a great understanding of the position in terms of where I need to be, so that really helps us.”
New England, which is 1-0-1 at the MLS is Back Tournament, concludes Group C play against Toronto FC on Tuesday. A win would clinch the top spot in the group for the Revs.