For the first time in their 25 year history, the Revs have three players with Designated Player contracts. Optimism among fans has never been higher. For a change, people are actually excited for the season to start. Even though the transfer window is still far from closing, Bruce Arena has already filled out his roster, something we haven’t seen from previous coaches. With the roster for the most part filled before pre-season starts, we can start to predict what we think the opening day lineup will look like. So without further ado, here is my pick for the New England Revolutions 2020 opening day starting XI.
Perhaps one of the only players on the roster who is already a lock for a starting position, Matt Turner is coming off a great season which earned him a USMNT January camp call up. Turner is the obvious choice to start in goal in Montreal.
Right Back: Brandon Bye
The 8th overall pick in the 2018 MLS Superdraft has become a big part of the Revs backline over the past 2 years. Although he started as an attacker, Bye seems to have really fit in with his new role at right-back. And with little to no competition at the position, Brandon is my pick to start opening day.
Left Back: Alex Büttner
Left-back has been one of the Revs biggest needs for almost three years. We thought our problems had been solved when the Revs signed Gabriel Somi in January of 2018, but that experiment failed. Then we again got excited when the Revs acquired MLS veteran Edgar Castillo in 2019, but the move ultimately failed. This time Bruce Arena has outsourced to Europe to get Alex Büttner, a man who has spent the last 12 years of his career playing in the top flights in Europe. Büttner is someone who has proven himself to be a worthy asset in the past, and now looks for a new challenge with the Revs in 2020. I have him starting on February 29th.
Centerbacks: Andrew Farrell and Toni Delamea
Here’s where things get interesting. Last year the Revs went a full year with only three natural center backs. However, Andrew Farrell took over halfway through the year and found his calling at the position. It seemed like Andrew had been made to play the position, because he looked like a natural center back. With Jalil Anibaba gone to Nashville, and Samba Camara’s contract being voided, there only remains three center backs on the team who played last year. Andrew, Toni and Michael Mancienne. And the two I pick to start,are the two players who together have taken home the Defender of the Year award in each of the last three years (Farrell two, Delamea one).
Defensive Midfielders: Luis Caicedo and Wilfried Zahibo
This one ultimately comes down to two of three players. Scott Caldwell, Luis Caicedo, and Wilfried Zahibo. Of the three, Luis Caicedo has been the most consistent in his play over the past two years. Based on his play in recent years, he should get the first of the two CDM spots in the starting XI. When you compare the stats from last year, Zahibo has a slight edge over Caldwell. Zahibo also gives the Revs a bigger presence with his height. Ultimately, the fast and agile Caicedo, and the big strong Zahibo seem to be the better pairing.
Attacking Midfield: Carles Gil
Do I even need to explain this one? The reigning MLS Newcomer of the year is the guy who commands this team’s offense, a true playmaker. Without Carles, the Revs offense doesn’t really have an identity.
Wingers: Cristian Penilla and Gustavo Bou
There are high expectations for Gustavo Bou this year. The Designated player who joined the Revs during the summer transfer window last year scored nine goals and two assists in 14 games, and a lot more is expected this year. As for the other wing, It’s still up in the air. The front runner, based in previous performances, is Cristian Penilla. However, as we learned last year players frequently drop in form and others rise. This could be a week to week change later on the year, and could rotate threw guys like Teal Bunbury, Diego Fagundez or maybe even one of the youngsters like Justin Rennicks or DeJuan Jones. However, for opening day, Penilla is my frontrunner.
Striker: Adam Buksa
And finally, another player that will come to the surprise of no one, at striker will be the Revs new DP Adam Buksa. This is another player who has very high expectations in the 2020 season. The Revs have lacked a goal scoring striker for a long long time now. Arguably, the last quality goal scoring striker the Revs had was Taylor Twellman, which was a long time ago. Buksa is going be expected to come in and score goals right away. However, Buksa is new to the league, so it’ll be interesting to see how and how fast he adjusts to the new league.