The New England Revolution won the Supporters’ Shield, setting an MLS points record in the process, in 2021. But a penalty-shootout exit to eventual champions NYCFC left a sour taste in the mouth of a team that appeared capable of much more.
This time around, coach Bruce Arena is injecting some veteran talent into the team, with Sebastian Lletget the club’s big addition in 2022. Plus, how much damage can Jozy Altidore do? The 32-year-old U.S. men’s national team mainstay joins a young core of players that proved in 2021 they can play well beyond their years.
The Revs return for 2022 with its squad mostly in place from last year. The loss of Tajon Buchanan, a Canadian international who was sold to Club Brugge for $7 million, leaves a massive hole on the right wing. Reigning MLS Goalkeeper of the Year Matt Turner is also set to leave at midseason to join Arsenal. Those are big losses, but there are few other question marks elsewhere on the field.
National team players such as Matt Turner, Sebastian Lletget and DeJuan Jones have also been in camp during the short offseason. Those players may need rest or limited minutes to last 34 MLS games, plus a potential CCL run.
The Revs’ attack thrived in 2021, with Adam Buksa and Gustavo Bou scoring 16 and 15 goals, respectively. Buksa will likely not stick around past the summer — Arena told reporters Buksa nearly completed a move to an unnamed team on deadline day in January — but that could give Altidore just enough time to reach full health and play a great deal of minutes. How many minutes Altidore will play remains to be seen; the 32-year-old hasn’t played more than 1,000 minutes since 2019. Playing home games on turf at Gillette Stadium will surely be a challenge for Altidore, who has had hamstring issues for much of his career.
A midfield one-two punch of Gil and Lletget could be one of the best combinations in the league if they complement one another. Lletget scored three goals and had five assists last season with the Galaxy while maintaining a place in Gregg Berhalter’s USMNT plans. Gil is looking to follow up a 22-assist season in which he won the league’s MVP award.
Arena has reunited many of his go-to players from his LA Galaxy days on this season’s Revs roster. Lletget, Omar Gonzalez, AJ DeLaGarza and Emmanuel Boateng each played for Arena in Los Angeles. That group includes plenty of experience and leadership to offer to a litany of young players who impressed last season.
2022 New England Revolution Season Preview
2021 finish: 1st place in East (22-7-5, 72 points, won Supporter’s Shield, lost to New York City FC in Eastern Conference semifinal)
Key Acquisitions: Sebastian Lletget, Jozy Altidore, Omar Gonzalez
Key Losses: Tajon Buchanan, Matt Turner (moving to Arsenal in the summer)
Newcomer to Watch: Sebastian Lletget
Lletget is the marquee signing of this offseason, arriving in a blockbuster trade from the LA Galaxy. Arena gave Lletget his first USMNT cap and oversaw his growth earlier in his career at the Galaxy, so things are set up for success for Lletget. Lletget should serve as another midfield threat alongside Carles Gil. If all goes well, Lletget will bring this team’s attack to an even higher level.
Pressure is On: DeJuan Jones
Jones felt like a bonus threat in 2021, overshadowed by the Revs’ league-leading attack and a beast on the other side of the field in Buchanan. But with Buchanan gone, Jones will be the team’s main threat coming into the attack from a wingback position. There’s no reason to think Jones won’t step up, either. He had three goals and five assists last season, then earned his first USMNT call-up over the winter.
Watch out for the Revolution’s attack in 2022. All the usual suspects — Carles Gil, Adam Buksa and Carles Gil — are back, but Arena fortified the team with much more firepower.
Buksa and Bou combined for 31 goals in 2021. Add Jozy Altidore and Sebastian Lletget to that level of production and the Revs could score even more than the league-leading 65 goals from last season.
Whether or not Omar Gonzalez starts at centerback, he offers veteran leadership and an aerial presence the Revs haven’t seen the past couple of seasons. Andrew Farrell and Henry Kessler started most games together in central defense.
“Omar fits in well. One advantage we have with him is his physical size,” Arena said. “He’s very good in the air. That’s something we haven’t been particularly strong in in the back, so that’s helpful there. He’s an experienced player as well and brings that experience into the team.”
However, the Revs’ defense gave up 41 goals in 2021. The additions of Gonzalez, plus another year of growth for strong contributors DeJuan Jones and Jon Bell bode well for the team’s back line. Brandon Bye will also look to take a step forward after signing a three-year extension after the 2021 season.
Multiple competitions will be a new hurdle for the squad this year. With the incredible Supporters’ Shield run of the previous year, you have to figure the Revs will challenge Liga MX teams strongly in search of the first CCL title for an MLS team.
Depth provided by the club’s new signings, plus the fact few players left this offseason, will surely help the Revs deal with a loaded schedule.
Still, some key questions are left unanswered. Who will step in for Tajon Buchanan? The club’s top additions came in the center of the park this season, plus top attacking threats such as Buksa, Gou and Gil are all geared toward central roles. That said, a formation change could be in the works.
“Certainly, we’re thinking about that,” Arena said of replacing Buchanan in a press conference call in January. “Obviously, in preseason we’ll utilize a few different formations and different personnel to see how we can make our team as good, if not better, in the attack than we were last year.”
Lletget’s arrival adds some versatility to the mix alongside the playmaking ability of Gil. He has played as a true central midfielder, attacking midfielder and winger. Arena is familiar with him from the LA Galaxy days, and Lletget is coming off an All-Star season in 2021.
“I’ve thankfully played everywhere so I know what every role consists of and what’s required of those roles,” Lletget said. “For me, my favorite position is in attacking midfield, predominantly on the left side. That side has kind of grown with me at the national team under Gregg (Berhalter.) He’s really taken me to the next level as far as that position goes.”
How will the team fare defensively once Matt Turner leaves in June? Brad Knighton stepped into the starting role last season, allowing six goals in six games while Turner was with the USMNT. Knighton will be counted on much more in the second half of the season, as things stand.
New England Revolution Roster
GOALKEEPERS: Matt Turner, Brad Knighton, Earl Edwards Jr., Jacob Jackson.
DEFENDERS: DeJuan Jones, Brandon Bye, Henry Kessler, Andrew Farrell, Jon Bell, Omar Gonzalez, Ben Reveno, AJ DeLaGarza.
MIDFIELDERS: Matt Polster, Carles Gil, Maciel, Noel Buck, Sebastian Lletget, Wilfrid Kaptoum, Arnor Ingvi Traustason, Tommy McNamara, Damian Rivera.
FORWARDS: Jozy Altidore, Adam Buksa, Gustavo Bou, Emmanuel Boateng, Justin Rennicks, Edward Kizza.