Caleb Porter’s Revolution are starting to grow into their post-Bruce Arena identity - The Boston Globe (2024)


The transition from Arena’s style turned out to be a slow process, and though the Revolution (4-10-1, 13 points) finally escaped the league cellar Saturday, they are on track to total only 29 points for the season. They will still have to vault six teams to earn a playoff spot.

Not that the Revolution are completely abandoning their former way of play. The offense continues to go through captain Carles Gil, working in a 4-2-3-1 alignment. Gil provided his usual highlight show, dribbling and passing in midfield against the Red Bulls. Gil set up substitute left winger Emmanuel Boateng for the 81st-minute goal to conclude a sequence that combined elements of old and new:

⋅ Goalkeeper Aljaz Ivacic started the action, calmly standing with his right foot on the ball at the top of the penalty area, directing teammates while also inviting pressure.

⋅ Eventually, central defender Xavier Arreaga faked his way past Red Bulls left back Kyle Duncan, who had overcommitted, leaving Gil unmarked on the right wing.

⋅ Gil then floated a right-foot cross for Boateng to volley from the left side of the penalty area. Boateng, too, was open on the play; left back DeJuan Jones had advanced into the penalty area ahead of him, drawing defenders, while Giacomo Vrioni drew two others with a near-post run.

Ema doing what Ema does best! 💪

— New England Revolution (@NERevolution) June 9, 2024

The goal provided examples of the rebooted Revolution — a goalkeeper calmly playing the ball out against a high-pressing opponent, plus a central defender dribbling his way past the halfway line. As for the spirit of the past, outside backs Jones and Nick Lima were both bombing forward, well past the halfway line.

Arena has been a tough act to follow — not just because of tactics, but also his larger-than-life status. Porter brings credibility with two MLS Cup titles, but the Revolution have proven to be a challenge. They have had difficulty reinforcing the attack because Dylan Borrero, Tomás Chancalay, and Bobby Wood sustained knee injuries, and Vrioni (two goals) has struggled.

As for goalkeeping, the Revolution should not have been expected to find another Premier League-caliber prospect after Matt Turner and Djordje Petrovic. But Ivacic, 30, who has not been on big clubs’ radar, exudes veteran composure and confidence, and is also exhibiting better foot skills than his predecessors. Ivacic has two shutouts in six starts, ahead of the pace of Turner (two in his first seven games) and Petrovic (none until his 11th start).

“For me, there was never a question, it was going to be a clean sheet today,” Porter said. “And I believe with the group we have that we will, if it’s a clean sheet, find a goal. There have been some games this year where it’s been 0-0 and we don’t find the goal and we give up the goal, so I was really proud of our defensive performance, and that’s not just the goalkeeper and the backline, it’s everybody. Everybody dug in, battled in a difficult game, so real proud of that.”

Related: Bruce Arena breaks silence, but doesn’t offer anything new about his Revolution resignation


Though Turner (2018-22) and Petrovic (2022-23) were often spectacular in net, the Revolution seldom went into matches certain of blanking opponents. The idea was the team would produce offense so they could win, even surrendering a goal or two.

The Red Bulls were missing several players on international duty, while the Revolution were missing Esmir Bajraktarevic, Noel Buck, and backup goalkeeper Henrich Ravas. Since the MLS schedule clashes with the international soccer calendar, national team players’ availability can be tricky, but it is really not a valid excuse for club teams to be considered under strength; nobody is forcing them to sign national teamers.

Red Bulls captain Emil Forsberg, who has proven to be an impact player, performed for Sweden in a friendly against Serbia Saturday. Meanwhile, Gil, who has not played for Spain since 2013, was a difference-maker for the Revolution. The Revolution might be considered fortunate that Gil is from a country loaded with skillful midfielders, but they also knew when recruiting him he was not in the national team picture.


They also are lucky not to be losing Borrero, who made his Colombia debut last year and had been in the plans for Copa America and World Cup qualifying. The combination of Borrero’s ACL injury and the Cafeteros’ recent success, including a 5-1 win Saturday over the United States, means the Revolution are likely to have him available, even should he be 100 percent recovered.

In any case, overcoming absences is part of the game. The Revolution improvised without four potential starters — Bajraktarevic, Buck, Chancalay, Nacho Gil — at right wing, going with midfielder Ian Harkes.

“I felt like Ian has been training really well, so in a lot of ways he was like the next guy in,” Porter said. “And I knew I had the Ema [Boateng] sub, and I like Ema off the bench. He’s a spark. I felt like Ian did the best job he could do. He’s not a winger, but he had some good moments on both sides of the ball.”

Lack of depth, especially up front, has been costly for the Revolution. But while Porter reiterated that they need pieces, he also believes his team is growing into a place where it can make a run this year.

“We know we’re in a hole, there’s no doubt about it,” he said. “We have to continue to fight our way out and it’s going to take every game and it’s going to take until the end of the season.

“It’s going to be a fight every single week until the end of the year based on the hole we’ve been in. Our guys are ready for that fight.”


Caleb Porter’s Revolution are starting to grow into their post-Bruce Arena identity - The Boston Globe (2024)
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