Midway through the USL League One season as of Wednesday night, Revolution II are 1-5-2 with its current run of form not so hot (four losses out of their last five played; to be fair, that series came via multiple quick turnarounds). Of the 24 points at stake, Los Revitos have only claimed five. Not only that, as we reported Wednesday night, New England has dropped four points late in three of those eight games: two of which in the 3-3 draw with North Texas which saw the defending champs pull level in second-half stoppage time, and they dropped a point each against Richmond and Chattanooga, the latter coming Wednesday, with late goals.
Any way you slice it, the record is not so good. Out of 11 teams in the league, Revs II sit dead last; had they not dropped those late points, they would be at nine points and as high as seventh in the League One table.
Even despite all of this, we have noted some pretty good performances from a few players night in and night out, regardless the overall record/fatigue/what have you. So with that, we present our midseason grades for Revs II:
Through six games and 630 minutes, Rice is far and above the better goalkeeper Revs II has on its roster — of course, when one looks at other factors, it’s easy to see that with the numbers he’s putting up that there is a breakdown in another area of the pitch; again, fatigue may have something to do with that. Rice made eight saves, a career high, in Wednesday’s 2-1 loss to Chattanooga, moving him up to 33 saves on the season. He currently leads the league in that category.
One of the things we like about Rice is his decision-making. Having played at Loudoun United with Richie Williams in the USL Championship a year ago, he has that year of experience in the professional ranks as a guide. Very rarely do we see Rice make mistakes in front of the onion bag that lead to goals. He did have one over the weekend with a lazy roller to Maciel that went back into the net, but given the rest of his season, it’s a forgivable mistake.
My Blue Level colleague in Tanner Rebelo noted Wednesday that Rice deserves an MLS look for the way he’s played thus far for Revs II, and we can’t disagree. However, we’re hoping that he doesn’t have to go far: with Matt Turner getting European looks and with Brad Knighton getting older — he’s 35, you guys — we’re hopeful we’re looking at the Revolution’s No. 1 of the future. Not the immediate future, of course, but somewhere down the line.
He may have tailed off in the last couple games, but Verfurth — on an MLS contract — is pretty darn good. With his size — 6-foot-3 — there’s not many that can stand toe to toe with him. He’s been clearing a lot of problems out of the box in order to keep Rice and Keegan Meyer safe, and at one point led the league in clearances. Again, when you have that many clearances, there are problems in other areas.
We like what Verfurth has to offer not only Revs II, but the first team in the future. The situation with the defending at the first team isn’t as critical as it has been in past years, and Verfurth is taking the time to further develop as a center back. We could see him in the mix in a year.
The Granite State teenager has, in my eyes, really stood out so far. He’s played in six of the eight games, starting five of them pretty much out of necessity. And like I said Wednesday, he has been sneaky good; almost too good. He is the right back of the future, and he is committed to Providence College.
One of the things the Revs like to do with their youngsters is to move them up a level, i.e. a U13 that has been excelling against his fellow U13s, move him up and see how he does against U15s, and so forth. They’re doing that with Quinones, playing him against some first- and second-year pros, and I think he has handled himself well. He is obviously still a few years away from becoming a Homegrown signing and should be one of the Revs’ first defensive-minded Homegrowns.
EXCEEDING EXPECTATIONS… TO A POINT
Having trained with the first team all of last year in his first full professional season, he’s showing what he learned. He’s capable of playing box-to-box, and his skill is pretty good. We’d like to see him be slightly more aggressive in the midfield and take more control of the match, because if he can do that with regularity, he can progress to the first team.
While we love Isaac on this team, he’s sidelined with an injury — which has been his pro career to date these last three seasons, hasn’t it? Like Firmino, he can play box-to-box and take control with his size. And he leads the team with a couple of goals as part of the 3-3 draw with North Texas. Those goals were both things of beauty, and right now just a smidgeon of what he can produce… you know, if he can stay healthy.
PLAYING FAIRLY WELL
The birthday boy on Thursday sat out of Wednesday’s match, and we’ll be honest: he’d been playing pretty much the whole season leading up to the midway point. Seven matches played with six starts. We like him more in the back than up front like he was at Chattanooga, and we’d like to see him use the physicality more.
When not under pressure, Maciel is smooth in the midfield. But he does have a habit of losing the ball, and we’d like to see that lessened.
Another teenaged Academy player who really gives his all for the shirt. We’d like to see him be a touch more composed on the ball, and maybe off it, too.
NEEDS TO BE BETTER
The strike corps: Orlando Sinclair, Damien Rivera, Mayele Malango, Conor Presley
We put Rivera up here as he has played up and in the midfield, and I like him more up top, to be honest; I think he loses focus playing back, and I’d like to see him have more chances to score. He can be dangerous when he gets into the box, and I’d like to see him pull the trigger quicker and be more aggressive with his shooting rather than try to win a penalty.
Until Wednesday, Sinclair hadn’t scored; whether or not that’s because he was an expectant first-time father I don’t believe is really germane to the discussion, since it took him almost two months to log his first tally. If he wants to be a pro, he needs to have better touches and a better nose for goal. Hopefully breaking the scoring seal will get him there.
Malango was the only striker to score prior to Sinclair, and we’ve noticed that he is hesitant in the attacking third. We know he can do better than what he’s given Revs II so far.
Presley is a good crosser, but those crosses need to connect.
In short, the strike corps need to get on the stick, or else the last two months of the season will be long indeed. And if it’s fatigue, Revs II needs better squad rotation, with more minutes for the Academy kids available: Only Michael Tsicoulias has seen extended time up top. The kids can’t influence the match on short run-outs.
The only other regular defender (720 minutes played, which is every single one this season) and the fulcrum of resetting the Revs II attack (look at his touches per match; he is always high up there), but he has a habit of playing flat — and other teams are noticing this and taking advantage. Go back and watch the Chattanooga horror show and see how the Red Wolves played him. Teams are attacking on his side now. He needs to strengthen up and stay focused — or he needs to sit and let one of the Academy defenders step in for a match. It could be that he’s tired; again, he’s played every single minute so far this season, and it would be fair to say he’s fatigued.
Rice’s backup has played twice and was in keep for the 4-0 shellacking against Chattanooga. Rice is obviously a tough act to follow, but Meyer hasn’t proven that he can maintain the onion bag in Rice’s stead with confidence.
He didn’t play on Wednesday, especially after how Paulo, Jr. treated him over the weekend. He also missed one match via red card suspension. He did, however, score the only match-winning goal. We want him to play smarter.
Peay can only work with what he has, and I think he’s doing what the organization wants him to do, which is to mix the Academy kids in with the pros and see how they react. He’s done that. We would have liked to see Spaulding moved over when Shimazaki couldn’t cut the mustard against Forward Madison this past weekend, but that didn’t happen; a coach needs to recognize what’s happening and adjust on the fly. We would also like to see the Academy kids get more minutes at this level, and we’d like Peay to settle them down: Meny Silva looked nervous on Wednesday, and we really don’t want to see another Zachary Herivaux situation where an Academy kid is nervous playing in the pros; go back and see how Herivaux looked so tentative out there under Jay Heaps, and we’re hoping this doesn’t happen again. More minutes for the Academy kids will help: with time comes confidence, and with confidence comes mastery.
He did light a fire under them recently, and we’d like to see them continue to play well for longer stretches than just spurts.