ATLANTA – It was a one chance, do-or-die opportunity. Despite a full team effort, the New England Revolution ultimately fell at the defending MLS Cup champions Atlanta United FC, 1-0, in Round One of the Audi 2019 MLS Cup Playoffs on Saturday afternoon.
As the players headed into the locker room following the final whistle, they knew it was their last postgame walk together. It was a close game, but it came down to one key moment in which Atlanta’s Franco Escobar found the back of the net.
“I thought going toe-to-toe with the defending champs, and one play here and one play there could have changed the story tonight,” said veteran Andrew Farrell
“I’m proud of the effort we put in. It’s been a long time from four months where we were. We’ve come a long way.”
Four months prior to the playoffs New England were in last place in the Eastern Conference after they began the season 2-8-2. According to analysts at Sports Club Stats, the Revolution only had an 8% chance of qualifying for the playoffs at that point in mid-May.
However, the club made an impactful change bringing in new leadership under sporting director and head coach Bruce Arena that proved to be a difference maker for this group of players.
Since Arena was brought to the squad, the Revs had a resilient effort that paved their journey for a massive turnaround, going 9-3-10 through their final 22 games. Defying those 8% odds, the Revs punched a ticket directly to the Audi 2019 MLS Cup Playoffs as the No. 7 seed.
That was only the second half of the season. Imagine what Arena could do with an entire campaign.
“It’s kind of a tale of two halves in one year,” said Farrell. “We were in a really bad place. It was tough.
“Now we finally got ourselves out together and there’s a lot of optimism and I think there’s a lot of exciting stuff for the future. I think we have really good players here and depending on who’s going to be here next year, Bruce is going to bring in guys, and it’s going to be a good team going forward, whoever is here.”
Arena discovered a way to instill confidence in this group. It wasn’t a clear-cut formula that led to this comeback, but the team bought in to Arena’s coaching style and winning mentality to get the most out of every single player.
“[Arena’s] been tremendous in getting the best out of us,” echoed Scott Caldwell. “I think that says it itself. We’ll be ready to continue to learn and continue to play and battle for him, and we’re excited for a full season with him.”
It’s all eyes ahead now to the new campaign. With a full offseason for Arena to shape the squad he inherited midseason, he can finally make it his own for 2020.
“The team’s gotten much better, and it’s our job in the offseason to strengthen the roster,” said Arena. “We obviously only made one change to the team since I’ve been in charge, and we’re certainly going to make some changes in the offseason and hopefully build a stronger team next year.”