New England Revolution

3 takeaways from the Revolution’s recent unbeaten run

The lead atop the Eastern Conference has expanded, but Carles Gil's injury adds a degree of concern.

Gustavo Bou Revolution
Gustavo Bou celebrates a Revolution goal during a 2-1 win over Montreal in July. AP Photo/Mary Schwalm

Having taken an early 1-0 lead against Eastern Conference rivals Philadelphia on Sunday evening, the Revolution were stung by an unexpected 31st minute equalizer scored by 17-year-old Union midfielder Paxten Aaronson.

In his first career start, Aaronson maneuvered his way through New England’s defense before curling a shot past Matt Turner into the upper corner of the net.

It was a goal that put the visitors back on equal footing, and came despite playing an understrength lineup (with several regular starters resting ahead of an upcoming CONCACAF Champions League semifinal).

But despite the demoralizing moment, New England struck right back. Bruce Arena’s team methodically created chances from both open play and set pieces. And it only took a few more minutes before Tajon Buchanan’s characteristically direct dribbling drew a penalty in the Union box.

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Though Gustavo Bou’s initial effort was saved, “La Pantera” pounced on the rebound and New England’s lead was restored.

It was the type of response to adversity that has partly defined the Revolution’s season so far in 2021.

In the end, New England — thanks also to multiple key saves from Turner — held on for the 2-1 win. It stretches the team’s current unbeaten run to six games, and takes the Revolution’s season record to an impressive 12-4-3.

Here are a few takeaways from New England’s recent run:

The lead atop the Eastern Conference has grown.

With Sunday’s win over the Union, the Revolution further entrenched the team’s lead in the Eastern Conference standings.

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New England has totaled 40 points through 19 games, averaging 2.11 points per game (best in MLS). Since Week 5 in May, the league’s tracker chart of the Eastern Conference has been a straight line of Revolution red across the top:

What’s impressive is that the unbeaten run has come even as the team has managed to keep winning without several key players at various points.

The CONCACAF Gold Cup in July meant that New England had to manage the month without the services of Turner, Buchanan, and (for the knockout round) central defender Henry Kessler.

But arguably the Revolution’s most challenging loss has been playing the last two games without midfield playmaker Carles Gil, an All-Star and MLS assist leader.

The latest on Carles Gil’s injury.

Anyone gauging the importance of Gil to New England needs only to look at his current dominance in multiple MLS statistics. More than simply leading the league in assists, Gil is lapping the field. His 15 assists are actually more than double the player currently sitting in second place (Orlando City’s Mauricio Pereyra, who has seven).

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The 28-year-old Spaniard also currently has 75 key passes, 24 more than the next closest person on the list, Emanuel Reynoso of Minnesota FC.

With that in mind, Gil’s absence could potentially be a devastating blow. In 2020, with Gil ruled out for most of the regular season due to an Achilles injury, the Revolution struggled to create goal-scoring opportunities. It accounted for much of the reason why New England entered the 2020 postseason as an eighth seed.

So when Bent Musket senior editor Seth Macomber reported on Aug. 3 that Gil would be out for at least three weeks, New England fans reacted with an appreciable level of concern.

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Arena has provided only a few updates on Gil’s injury status since the initial report. During an Aug. 4 interview on 98.5 The Sports Hub’s “Zolak & Bertrand,” the Revolution head coach noted that Gil had “a little bit of a muscle strain,” but that the time missed would be “short term.”

Still, Gil has not played in either of the two games — a 0-0 draw against Nashville on Aug. 4, and Sunday’s win over Philadelphia — since the report first emerged. Asked about the injury following the Union matchup, Arena remained vague in his description.

“He has a muscle tissue injury,” Arena told Revolution reporter Sam Minton. “However you want to define it. The timeline remains to be seen.”

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Arena answered a follow-up question by noting that Gil is “not having surgery as far as I know.”

The extent of the playmaker’s injury, and the duration of his absence, will have enormous implications for the rest of New England’s season.

Transfer speculation has come to New England.

The profile of MLS has raised in the eyes of European scouts over the last few years, with success stories like Alphonso Davies at Bayern Munich and Weston McKennie (now a regular midfielder for Juventus).

In 2021, it appears that serious attention is finally being paid to New England players.

Most prominently is Buchanan, the 22-year-old Canadian winger. After being named in the Gold Cup’s Best XI (and winning the tournament’s Best Young Player Award), overseas interest in him seems to have escalated.

According to MLS reporter Tom Bogert, the Revolution agreed in principle with Belgian team Club Brugge to a transfer worth $7 million. The deal is not done, however, as terms have yet to be completed. Two German Bundesliga teams are also still interested in Buchanan, as Bogert explained.

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Asked a day later about the report, Arena simply said that “when we have any news of that, we will make sure that the press is the first to know.”

“Why MLS puts out these stories, I don’t know,” Arena added. “But we will update everyone if there are going to be any moves. And if we finalize a move, we’ll let you know, and you’ll get accurate information.”

The other Revolution player currently involved in transfer rumors is left back DeJuan Jones. The 24-year-old, who New England selected 11th overall in the 2019 MLS SuperDraft (two spots behind when the team picked Buchanan) is reportedly on the radar of Belgian, German, and Greek teams, per SB Nation soccer reporter Ives Galarcep.

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Obviously, Arena will have to balance his team’s clear intentions to compete for MLS Cup in 2021 with the long-term goals of younger players who have aspirations to play in Europe.

In this regard, one potential example of what might happen is the case of Brendan Aaronson, older brother of Philadelphia’s teenage goalscorer from Sunday. When the Union struck a deal for him to transfer to Red Bull Salzburg in Austria in the fall of 2020, the agreement allowed for him to remain in Philadelphia for the remainder of the MLS season, leaving for his new team afterward. This might be how New England handles a potential deal, whether for Buchanan or anyone else, as Arena appeared to suggest when asked about transfer rumors in July.

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“We don’t expect to transfer any of our players out in 2021,” Arena replied. Yet if New England — fielding a talented cast of younger players — continues to excel in the 2021 season, that statement might be tested.

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