After weeks of playoff excitement, the 2020 season came to an end for the New England Revolution on Sunday. The Revs came up just short in Columbus, losing to a talented Crew team. The loss was the first time New England had tasted defeat at this stage of the competition since 2004. Prior to Sunday, the Revs had come out victorious in four straight Conference Finals.
The MLS Cup Final will be contested on Saturday, December 12th by the Columbus Crew and the Seattle Sounders. It should be a great matchup between two teams with a lot of offensive firepower.
Now that the 2020 campaign has come to an end for the Revs, let’s take a look back at the season that was.
Way back at the end of February, the great Grant Wahl predicted the Revs to finish the regular season as the third best team in the Eastern Conference. It is fair to say that preseason expectations were pretty high for this team. After Bruce Arena took over at the beginning of June, the Revs lost just two of their final 18 regular season games in 2019. The strong finish to the previous season, along with the offseason acquisition of a third Designated Player in striker Adam Buksa, suggested that big things were to come from the Revs in 2020.
In the end, the Revolution had a fairly pedestrian regular season. With star attackers Gustavo Bou and Carles Gil both missing significant time due to injuries, New England went 8-7-8 in the regular season. This was only good enough for eight in the East.
However, the playoffs were a whole different story. The Revs managed to get healthy at the perfect time, and were finally able to show exactly what they were capable of. The Revs started their playoff run by defeating the ninth seed, Montreal, 2-1 at home in the play-in round. In the first round, they shocked the MLS’ best regular season team, the Philadelphia Union, by a score of 2-0. They then survived a very physical game against Orlando before ultimately falling short in Columbus.
Despite the mediocre regular season, I would say the Revolution did live up to their expectations. They demonstrated that, when healthy, they are among the Eastern Conference’s elite. The fact that they did so in the playoffs just makes the statement more meaningful.
Players of the Season
Now that the season has come to an end, it is the perfect time to honor a few players who stood out from their peers in 2020.
My choice for the Revolution Team MVP in 2020 is none other than Matt Turner. After making his MLS debut in 2018, Turner has emerged as one of the MLS’ top backstops in the past two seasons. Turner played 2,430 minutes for the Revs in 2020 without making a single error leading to a goal (FotMob).
Turner saved his signature moment for when it mattered most. His save on Nani’s penalty late in the Conference Semifinal preserved the Revolution’s one goal cushion.
Glorious Matt Turner. Brick wall 🧱 pic.twitter.com/Hf6O6lf0vg
— New England Revolution (@NERevolution) November 29, 2020
It was a brilliant save from Turner, one that put his combination of size and athleticism on full display.
The 26-year-old was nearly ever-present for the Revs, starting all but one of their games in 2020. Turner’s contributions did not go unrecognized. Back in November, he won the fan vote for team MVP as well as the team vote for Players’ Player of the Year. Turner was also named the Midnight Riders Man of the Year for 2020.
Simply put, nobody else is as deserving of this honor.
Newcomer of the Year
22-year-old rookie Henry Kessler is my pick for the Revs Newcomer of the Year this season. Kessler was selected sixth overall in the 2020 MLS SuperDraft by the Revs. He wasted no time in establishing himself as a key part in Bruce Arena’s preferred center back pairing, alongside veteran teammate Andrew Farrell.
Kessler scored his first Revolution goal in September, heading home what would prove the be the game winner against Montreal.
Oh yes, Henry! Love when a centerback finishes like that 😍 pic.twitter.com/n9scNuJnyT
— New England Revolution (@NERevolution) September 23, 2020
The UVA product led the Revolution in clearances (83), interceptions (34), tackles won (21) and possessions won (123). He won the media vote to be named Defender of the Year, the first rookie to take the honor since A.J. Soares in 2011.
The Revolution proved in 2020 that financial investment in the right areas will continue to pay off with this team. The playoff run in particular has demonstrated that the Revs are capable of gaining traction in New England when they are winning games. The continued rumors of a soccer-specific stadium in Boston would be a great next step towards solidifying the fanbase and giving the team its own identity.
With a proven winner at the helm in the form of Bruce Arena, the future looks bright for the Revs. It certainly helps that New England has a legitimate MLS MVP candidate in Carles Gil. The Revolution should be looking to add a few pieces to the young, talented core this offseason. Rumors have already swirled about the potential addition of Bojan Krkić, a move that would definitely strengthen the Revs’ attack. Defensive midfield is another position that could potentially benefit from a fresh face.
There is room for improvement, but there is a real positive feeling around the Revolution right now. I’ll leave you with a great quote from Andrew Farrell, courtesy of Jeff Lemieux.
"The team is in good hands."
— Jeff Lemieux (@jeff_lemieux) December 6, 2020
For Revs fans, that confidence is great to see.
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