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Revolution 2018 Season Preview

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After a busy offseason with a lot of new faces arriving at the club, the New England Revolution begin their 2018 campaign Saturday against the Philadelphia Union.

This offseason and preseason were crucial times for the club, as new head coach Brad Friedel oversaw a lot of changes—players and coaches—to prepare himself for his first ever season at the helm of the club. The biggest storyline, however, came from who did not leave the team this offseason.

Star playmaker Lee Nguyen did not show up for training for the first few weeks of the preseason as he wanted to be traded elsewhere, believing that his time at New England was up. Friedel and general manager Michael Burns, however, refused to let the 31-year-old move, electing to keep him in the team and force him to regain his place in the starting XI.

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While the Nguyen saga gave the Revolution a lot of bad press, New England managed to make positive headlines with their signings over the offseason.

The Revolution kicked off their signing spree by signing 17-year-old midfielder Issac Angking to a homegrown contract. They followed this up by adding left back Gabriel Somi and defensive midfielder Wilfried Zahibo to bolster key areas of the squad that were thin. In an effort to bolster the attack, the Revolution brought in winger Cristian Penilla on a one-year loan deal from Pachuca.

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The remaining signings came after training camp, as they signed all of their three draft picks—right back Brandon Bye, right winger Mark Segbers, center back Nicolas Samayoa—and veteran trialist Jalil Anibaba. While none of these signings were big names, they all filled crucial depth spots in the Revolution lineup.

Players like Bye, Somi, and Penilla have all found themselves in the majority of Friedel’s starting lineups throughout the preseason and have proven that they deserve their selections. Penilla scored two goals and two assists, Bye scored one goal and one assist, and Somi established himself as Friedel’s go-to option at left back due to his speed.

Despite all the new faces brought in to the club this offseason, the lineup still looks similar to last year’s team which only managed one road win the entire season. Based off of who got the most playing time this offseason and who Friedel seems to prefer, this is what the Revolution’s starting XI should look like for most of the season.

Revs Lineup

Now, this lineup could easily change. If Nguyen is still exiled from the starting XI, Zahibo would most likely play in Scott Caldwell’s spot, moving him further up the field. Bye could also easily overtake Farrell in the starting lineup as he has shown a lot of promise and if Farrell shows any signs of inconsistency, expect Bye to take over.

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3 players to watch for

Cristian Penilla– The Ecuadorian winger was hyped up by the Revolution front office and through the preseason. Penilla is skillful, fast, and a strong finisher. He has already seemed to fit into this Revolution team well and it will be interesting to see how he holds up once he starts to face full strength MLS talent in the regular season.

Claude Dielna- The French veteran was signed by the Revolution late in the 2017 summer transfer window to help the Revolution’s league-worst defense and to help push for the playoffs. He found himself mostly playing as a left back and made minimal impact last season. This year, Dielna has emerged as a key face in not only the Revolution defense but in the team as a whole. Donning the captain’s armband multiple times, Dielna emerged as a leader in the team and was solid in his more natural central position in the defense throughout the preseason. As Dielna takes on new responsibilities in his first full season with New England, it will be worth to watch how he handles them and if he can help plug the holes in what was a very leaky defense last season.

Krisztian Nemeth– The Hungarian forward was brought in around the same time as Dielna was in an effort to add attacking options for a playoff push. Nemeth got off to a good start in New England, earning an assist in his first appearance off the bench. However, in his first ever start for the club, he was sent off after 11 minutes for elbowing a Sporting Kansas City player, which lead to the Revolution losing 3-1. He managed to bag his first goal against the Montreal Impact on the final day of the season.

Nemeth has a lot to prove this year after what was a lackluster start to his Revolution career and since returning from injury in the preseason has been the man leading the line. There is no doubt that Nemeth has the ability to be a goalscorer, but with Juan Agudelo behind him, he needs to prove this quickly if he wants to remain in the starting lineup for the Revolution.

While the Revolution made multiple strong additions to their squad, the teams around them also got better. It is unclear how the Revolution will play under Friedel and if it will be enough for them to secure a playoff spot for the first time since 2015. However, the Revolution do have more roster spots they could fill and could still make a big splash before the playoff race really kicks into gear.

Whether they make the playoffs or not, this Revolution team is well disciplined, well conditioned, and ready to fight until the end. Will it be enough? Only time willtell.

 

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