Tuesday, May 17

The key stats & stories behind New England Revolution’s Supporters’ Shield win

For the first time in their history, the New England Revolution are Supporters’ Shield champions.

It’s been a long time coming for one of Major League Soccer’s original and ever-present clubs.

More often than not, the Revs have been known as the nearly-men, losing in five MLS Cup finals – including three in a row between 2005 and 2007 – and topping the Eastern Conference twice without winning in the overall standings.

But they’ve blown away everything before them this season, cruising to victory with three games to spare.

Attention will soon turn to the playoffs as the Revs try to become only the fourth team in the last 19 years to win a Supporters’ Shield and MLS Cup double. But before then, let’s look at the key stats and stories behind their wonderful, table-topping season.

The Revs have scored more goals than any other team in MLS this season.The Revs have scored more goals than any other team in MLS this season.

The Revs have scored more goals than any other team in MLS this season. / David Kirouac-USA TODAY Sports

LAFC and NYCFC have generated higher xG than the Revs, but nobody can match them when it comes to actually putting the ball in the net.

With three games to go, New England have found the net 64 times so far – at least 13 more than any other Eastern Conference team and 10 more than the rest of MLS. That total is all the more impressive considering the Revs have scored just two penalties all season.

Adam Buksa and Gustavo Bou have led the charge, scoring 16 and 15 goals, respectively, leaving them well in the hunt for the Golden Boot – Ola Kamara is currently out in front with 17. Collectively, the pair are responsible for 48% of the Revs’ goals this season, while Bou has assisted Buksa six times so far – the most productive partnership in the league.

All of this is without mentioning the seven goals and five assists Tajon Buchanan has registered so far ahead of his big winter move to Club Brugge.

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They won’t catch LAFC’s 2019 total of 85 goals, but this has still been an attacking masterclass from the New England Revolution.

No player has provided more assists in MLS than Carles Gil this season.No player has provided more assists in MLS than Carles Gil this season.

No player has provided more assists in MLS than Carles Gil this season. / Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Without creative players, there would be no goals to celebrate but, oftentimes, those laying on assists don’t get anywhere near the credit they deserve. This year is a little different.

No MLS player has provided more assists than Carles Gil this season, whose total of 13 is all the more impressive considering he missed six games with a muscle injury in August.

Gil has created 119 chances so far this season – at least 33 more than any other player – and sits sixth in the league for successful dribbles (69). The Spaniard is at his best on the turn, driving at the opposition and splitting open defences with precision passes.

Gil has been the central hub to everything good about the Revs in 2021. He’s quite rightly the favourite to pick up the MVP award at the end of the season

The Revs have put more points on the board away from home than any other MLS team this season.The Revs have put more points on the board away from home than any other MLS team this season.

The Revs have put more points on the board away from home than any other MLS team this season. / Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

It goes without saying that if you’re to stand any chance of success, good home form is a must. What is often forgotten, though, is the difference strong away form can make.

The Revs have been the happiest of travellers this season, winning 10 and losing just three of their 17 road games so far. Their 34 points is twice as many as any other side in the Eastern Conference, while closest rivals Seattle Sounders have mustered 30 so far.

There is the slight caveat that the Sounders have played two fewer away games. But it matters very little, even within their own conference, New England have literally been twice the force of any other team on the road. When you also boast the best home record in MLS, success is inevitable.

There was a good amount of scepticism around Bruce Arena’s appointment at Gillette Stadium. After all, it’d been less than two years since he was burned by the USMNT’s failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, many claimed he wasn’t the right man to take the Revs forward.

But this is Bruce Arena. Literally the winningest coach in league history. Three Coach of the Year awards (and counting), five MLS Cups, four Supporters’ Shield. Nobody tops those numbers.

That experience has paid dividends and the improvement in New England has been there for all to see. In the 83 matches Arena has overseen so far, the Revs have taken 147 points at an average of 1.77 points per game, with 41 wins and a goal difference of +37. By comparison, predecessor Brad Friedel won just 12 of his 47 games in charge with a goal difference of -26.

At this point, it’s probably best to let the players do the talking about their head coach.

“He’s a legend here,” centre-back Henry Kessler told 90min in a recent exclusive interview. “I think he’s closing in on most MLS wins by a head coach, so it’s been really good to learn from him. His experience is invaluable, he’s been in the sport so long.

“So as a young guy, it’s valuable for me to learn from him, and just hear what he has to say, because he’s been through a lot more than I have. So from that perspective, it’s been really good individually.

“He’s really honest, that’s something that I appreciate. I’d always rather a coach be straight up with me than sugar-coated or something like that, so he’s been easy to work with and we get along pretty well. And he also has a good sense of humour so that helps.”

Of the 21 wins the Revs have managed this season, a massive 17 of them have come by just a single goal. In his typically blunt way, Arena has dismissed this as unimportant, merely a coincidence.

But as an outsider looking in, it feels much bigger than that.

The Revs have picked up those 17 one-goal victories in every way imaginable. Scoring early then digging in, grabbing a late winner, coming back from a couple of goals down. Each has showcased the immense durability and character of this side, who simply don’t know when they’re beat.

Having the quality to edge out a close encounter and being able to get back up no matter how many punches you take are both key ingredients to playoff success. They’ve certainly played their part in lifting the Shield.

The Revs are chasing the MLS regular-season points record.The Revs are chasing the MLS regular-season points record.

The Revs are chasing the MLS regular-season points record. / Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Sunday’s 2-2 draw with Orlando City left the Revs on 70 points with two games to go – just two short of LAFC’s record set in 2019.

That Black and Gold side arguably received much, much more acclaim than this New England cohort, but if they were to seal that next bit of history, there’d be no ignoring their brilliance.

Even at home, the Colorado Rapids will be no easy task in their next match – only three teams have allowed fewer goals than Robin Fraser’s men this season (32) and they’re an extremely well-drilled unit. But the Revs will be highly fancied in their final regular-season match against Inter Miami.

Just three points are needed from two games for New England to leave another legacy. Knowing Arena, he’ll probably demand six as his side look to break that dreaded Supporters’ Shield ‘curse’.

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