The New England Revolution lost for the third time in this young MLS season, this time 2-0 to perennial cellar dwellers D.C. United. A Jose Goncalves own goal right before half-time gave United something to hold onto and an injury time strike from new signing Chris Rolfe wrapped up all three points.
It has been a troubling start to the season for Jay Heaps side as they are having trouble at both ends of the pitch. Last season, Heaps had New England building possession from the back, getting the the ball quickly into the feet of Kelyn Rowe, Lee Nguyen and Scott Caldwell. That is a problem this season because Bobby Shuttleworth is a really poor passer of the ball. More than half the time that Shuttleworth passes the ball he finds someone in an opponents shirt, which immediately puts the Revs back line under pressure. Unless Shuttleworth can improve his passing accuracy, Heaps will have no choice but to change goalkeepers.
Last season the New England defense was the strength of the team, with MLS Defender of the Year Jose Goncalves the standout player. This season Goncalves is a shadow of the player he was a year ago, and was at fault for both DC United goals on Saturday. That is the third game (out of four) that mistakes by Goncalves have led directly to goals by the opposition. This is a big test of Jay Heaps man-management style as he needs to get Goncalves back playing the way he war last year.
The most noticeable difference between this New England team and the one that ended last season in the playoffs is the lack of goals. New England has scored two goals in five games, and one of them was an OG. One goal in five games is not going to get you in the playoffs.
When Juan Agudelo left to pursue a career in Europe I wondered where the goals would come from. It is clear that Teal Bunbury, Saer Sene, Charlie Davies, Dimitry Imbongo and Jerry Bengtson are not the answers. None of them are clinical goalscorers. It takes them four or five chances to score, where someone like Agudelo can score from two chances. That is a huge difference.
Last season the midfield also chipped in goals from Diego Fagundez, Rowe and Nguyen. This season Rowe has been injured while Fagundez is enduring the first slump of his young career.
If New England are to be a playoff team this year, Revs GM Mike Burns needs to sign a goalscorer as I don’t think there are enough goals in this roster to make the playoffs.