3 takeaways as the Revolution end a turbulent week with a 2-1 defeat against the Rapids

New England Revolution

New England was unable to consistently generate chances in Clint Peay’s first game as interim head coach.

Carles Gil Revolution Colorado Rapids
Carles Gil stands over a free kick during the Revolution’s 2-1 defeat against the Colorado Rapids. Via New England Revolution/MLS

After a week in which the term “difficult circumstances” seemed to be permanently applicable, the Revolution suffered one more surprising turn of events on Saturday, falling 2-1 to the last place Colorado Rapids.

Clint Peay, who took over as interim head coach following the shocking news on Tuesday that former interim coach Richie Williams had been replaced, presided over a generally lackluster performance from a Revolution team that struggled to create a breakthrough.

Though the defeat could hardly be pinned on Peay — who barely had time to put together a coaching staff, let alone an effective game plan — it represents the continuation of a disturbing trend for New England, a team that is 1-2-2 since the end of the midseason Leagues Cup.

The Revolution now sit third in the Eastern Conference, and will face Chicago on the road next Saturday as they try to arrest the slight slide in the standings.

Here are a few takeaways:

Unable to end a difficult week on a high note.

A week ago, the Revolution dropped two points on the final kick of the ball in a 1-1 draw against Minnesota. Immediately afterward, the club announced that Bruce Arena had resigned following a weeks-long MLS investigation into “insensitive and inappropriate remarks” made by the former coach.

It turned out to only be the beginning of a dramatic period inside the team, with reports leaking out over internal strife between players and management over the transparency (or lack thereof) in the handling of the Arena investigation.

The fallout came to a head on Tuesday, when the team revealed that Williams was out as interim coach, and assistants Dave van den Bergh and Shalrie Joseph had also been dismissed.

Into the stormy seat as interim head coach came Peay, who arrived via Revolution II (where he had served as head coach since its creation in 2020).

Tasked with getting an immediate result in Colorado — a team that was also operating with an interim head coach after going through their own turmoil — Peay deployed his lineup in much the same way as Arena and Williams had.

Giacomo Vrioni started upfront as a lone striker with Nacho Gil and Tomás Chancalay on the wings. Carles Gil took up his usual place as a free-roaming No. 10 playmaker. Ian Harkes acted as a box-to-box central midfielder, with Mark-Anthony Kaye sitting deeper as a holding midfielder.

Defensively, DeJuan Jones returned from international action to play left back, with Dave Romney and Omar Gonzalez in the center. Andrew Farrell, filling in for the season-ending injury to Brandon Bye, moved over to right back. In goal, Earl Edwards Jr. got another starting nod.

While credit has to go to Colorado, who played with a certain level of freedom inherent in a team already eliminated from playoff contention, the Revolution produced a disjointed performance.

Despite accruing stats that, on the surface, appeared to be impressive — 84.5 percent team passing accuracy, a 61-39 percent possession advantage, and totaling a 17-8 shot advantage — it amounted to comparatively little in reality.

Isolated goal-scoring chances, including Kaye hitting the crossbar off a headed free kick, and Gil later grazing the bar again on a direct free kick, came mostly from set piece opportunities (the team’s goal later came from a corner kick). Positive moments in open play came mostly from individual creativity, with a distinct lack of team passing movements leading directly to shots on target.

Defensive losses clearly causing issues.

Regardless of the coaching changes, the Revolution are beset by a fundamental issue. Namely, the lack of depth on the back line.

With Bye out for the season (having gone down in late August with a torn right ACL), Farrell has proven the only viable replacement aside from Jones (who is adept at playing both on the left and right side). Yet when Jones is shifted over, it quickly reveals that New England is without proper cover at left back as well.

The result, combined with Henry Kessler’s ongoing absence, means that the Revolution have to move one of the only other starting-level defenders (Farrell) out of his usual position in order to field a potentially effective lineup.

The 31-year-old Farrell played admirably on the right, trying to burst forward to provide support for both Gil brothers in the attack, but he simply can’t replicate the offensive capability that Bye possesses.

Conversely, Farrell at right back leaves Gonzalez in a starting role at center back. The 34-year-old Gonzalez has had a mini-resurgence in 2023, proving many of his 2022 critics wrong that his MLS days might be over. He also scored the team’s only goal — coming as a late consolation in stoppage time — on a thunderous header from a corner kick.

Yet especially after the Revolution fell behind, the team pushed upfield more and more aggressively, leaving both Gonzalez and Romney increasingly exposed at the back. While both players did well to resist Colorado counters (and, in fact, neither goal resulted from a mistake made by the duo in that regard) it highlighted what could become an issue in future games.

Colorado entered the match on Saturday having not scored a regular season MLS goal since July. That the Revolution surrendered a pair of goals and fell to defeat could loom large as the playoff race heats up.

Nacho Gil is proving his worth.

One bright spot in the last few games has been the emergence of Nacho alongside his brother, Carles. The younger of the two Spaniards, Nacho was out for all of 2023 until the Leagues Cup.

Getting starts in recent games, he’d contributed a pair of assists heading into Saturday. Against Colorado, he showed his quality in keeping the ball despite facing furious defending from the Rapids.

While he might have walked off the field thinking he should have scored at least once — having been on the end of multiple chances — he was nonetheless one of the team’s better players throughout the game.