Did you know that the 2016 Major League Soccer regular season actually began last weekend?
Questionable scheduling decisions aside (why start in the shadow of March Madness and Spring Training not to mention that the NBA and NHL are a month away from the playoffs?), it promises to be an interesting campaign for the Revolution. New England opened with a wild 3-3 tie at Houston on Sunday. The Revs home opener is on Saturday (3 p.m., CSNNE) at Gillette Stadium vs. D.C. United (who lost 4-1 at the Galaxy on Sunday).
After reaching the 2014 MLS Cup (where they lost 2-1 in overtime to LA), New England took a major step back last season as they barely qualified for the postseason (finishing in fifth-place in the Eastern Conference) and they were bounced 2-1 in a one-game playoff by D.C. Midfielder Jermaine Jones revealed during the off-season that the front office had come up predictably short in their low-ball offer to keep him. Last week, they closed the book on the U.S. national team star’s brief but productive Revolution career as they traded him to Colorado for a 1st-round draft pick in 2017 and general allocation money. In a cruel twist, Jones’ last act as a Revolution player was receiving a red card (and subsequent 6-game suspension for bumping a referee) in that fateful loss.
Objective Revs fans have to be frustrated since it appears to be business as usual with the Krafts in terms of not paying top players (one of the main reasons why they’ve never won an MLS Cup even though they are one of the original franchises). There is no question that New England was a much better team with Jones in the starting lineup over the last two seasons. If you can get over that disappointment, the Revolution still have an appealing nucleus of midfielders Lee Nguyen and Diego Fagundez along with forwards Charlie Davies and Juan Agudelo who are all capable of playing at a very high level. In fact, Fagundez scored what will undoubtedly be one of the best goals of the season just three minutes into the match vs. the Dynamo. Davies had a goal early in the second half that tied it at two and substitute Diego Kobayashi scored the final tying goal in injury time. It’s clear that the Revs goalkeeper (the average Bobby Shuttlesworth) and decent back-line (captain Jose Goncalves is solid and Andrew Ferrell is the other bright spot) will be their biggest question marks all season-long.
New England should be fun to watch but other clubs like the Red Bulls, Toronto, Columbus and D.C. are predicted to finish ahead of them in the East.
“I really like the group we have in terms of guys rolling up their sleeves,” said Revolution head coach Jay Heaps after Sunday’s draw. “We’ve added some real grit to our group with Je-Vaughn Watson (midfielder that they got in a trade with Dallas) and Gershon Koffie (midfielder that came over in a trade from Vancouver). It allows guys like Diego and Daigo and Scott (Caldwell) and Lee to go and change the game.”
Follow Metro Boston sports writer Richard Slate on Twitter: @RichSlate