FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – When the pre-pandemic 2020 MLS schedule was unveiled last December the New England Revolution were slated to play 34 regular-season games in a 219-day span, averaging one game every 6.44 days.
But the Revs played just two games of that original schedule before the season took a sharp left turn in mid-March, and as the league has adjusted with the MLS is Back Tournament and now a condensed league schedule for the coming months, the Revs will play 18 regular-season games in an 80-day span, averaging one game every 4.44 days.
That means we’ll see a lot of soccer in a short period of time, and it also means Bruce Arena and the rest of the Revs’ coaching staff will need to navigate the busy calendar by rotating their lineup more often than usual, with no more than three days between any of the Revs’ five matches from Aug. 21 to Sept. 6.
“All the teams in the league over a two- or three-week period are going to be playing three times a week with the exception to the last game,” Arena said, noting the Revs will have five days between their games on Sept. 6 and Sept. 12. “It’s going to be very challenging with the travel, with the limited number of rest days between games. A lot of players are going to be called on. We have a little bit of that experience from the tournament (in Orlando), so hopefully that pays some dividends.”
The Revs played four games in 17 days at the MLS is Back Tournament – one game every 4.25 days – and used 19 different players during that competition, heavily rotating their squad for the final group stage match against Toronto FC and grinding out a result with a 0-0 draw.
Arena said we’ll see similar rotation in the coming weeks and months, noting that it’s unlikely the Revs will use an unchanged XI for any of their first five games on the schedule.
“I anticipate that we’re going to have to make changes each and every game along the way,” Arena said. “I think, from games one to five, it’s certainly a lot of games pushed together in a short period of time. Then we’ll have a week off before game six, so that’ll calm things down a little bit. The team can get a little bit of rest to prepare for the last game. It’s certainly going to be hectic the first five games.”
That will present opportunities for several players to step into starting roles at various stages, and in this most unique of seasons it may be the team with the best depth which climbs to the top of the mountain.
“I think Bruce is all about guys being prepared, being ready, because who knows what’s going to happen, especially with this condensed schedule,” said Teal Bunbury. “We’re going to need the whole team, and I think guys are going to be prepared for that.”