Juan Agudelo

New England Revolution 2019 Season Preview by ASA Staff

The New England Revolution began a new era in 2018. Former coach and legendary Revs player Jay Heaps had pushed the team all the way to the MLS Cup Final in 2014, but the team hit a multi-year slide from then on, ending with his dismissal in 2017. Brad Friedel, former Premier League and USMNT goalkeeper, was hired to start fresh and instill a new culture in the club. Friedel’s squads were able to get lots of results early in the year, but New England had a miserable summer, netting two draws and six losses in July and August.

Friedel’s first season in charge brought plenty of off-field stories as well, and for much of the season, the players that weren’t playing generated as many headlines as those who did. But after a year of roster changes and an infusion of attackers, this is 100% Friedel’s team, and the Revolution will look to make a statement that their brand of soccer can make an impact in a league that’s become a bit more top heavy than just a few years ago.

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Setting the Table Week 32: Lee Nguyen's new role, the rise of Ebobisse, and Mutch ado about nothing by Eric Walcott

Welcome to Setting the Table. Each week we take some time to focus on the best chance creators in MLS from the last weekend. If you want to see the best chances that were wasted, check out Lowered Expectations. Here we focus on chances that ended with the ball in the back of the net.

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The 22 Stats that Explain the MLS Season so far by Kevin Minkus

We’re a bit more than a month into the 2017 season. While that’s way too early to say anything definitive, it’s probably enough time to get a feel for where teams stand. Here are 22 stats (one per team), that explain something of each team’s season so far.

Eastern Conference

Columbus: $642,500 - combined guaranteed compensation due Ola Kamara and Justin Meram (as of September 2016’s salary release) 

For the money (equal to roughly one Nocerino), Kamara and Meram are the best attacking partnership in the league. Meram has looked good both out wide and in the middle, which bodes well for the Crew as Federico Higuain hits the wrong side of the age curve. And Ola Kamara has picked up exactly where he left off last year, with 3 goals in his first six games. 

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New England Revolution 2017 Season Preview by Coleman Larned

 It was a disappointing 2016 campaign for the New England Revolution, as they failed to make the playoffs for the first time in four seasons. Starting slow out of the gates with one win in their first 11 games, the Revs' instability was found at both ends of the pitch.

The back line was consistently unsettled, which resulted in the interchanging of central and wide defenders out of their native positions. Conceding 54 GA (6th worst in MLS) out of a predicted 55.5 xGA (3rd worst in MLS) was a product of a constant search for a comfortable, defensive mixture. Andrew Farrell, Jose Goncalves and London Woodberry all took their turns at CB, with Kelyn Rowe even taking a stab at the RB position.

Offensively, coach Jay Heaps struggled to find the right combination within their talented pool. Three of the Revs' attackers were in the bottom 25 players of G-xG (Teal Bunbury -3.96, Kei Kamara -2.3 and Juan Agudelo -1.68) representing almost eight goals unrepresented on the pitch. Although these numbers might incrementally be negligible, amassed as a whole eight goals could propel a team into the playoffs. It's hard to say if that was just a bit of unluckiness, or if it was a product of Heaps' system for attack.

The streaks of poor performances defined last season for the Revs. Not only were they slow to start, but in a crucial run in the middle of the competition saw the club post a record of 2-2-8. Although Agudelo and Kamara started firing toward the end of the season, the hole was too deep to dig themselves out of.

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2016 ASA PREVIEW: NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION by Sean Steffen

New England continues to thrive with a balanced attacking core which balances veterans with young talent.

Last year the Revs had an expected goal differential (xGD) of 0.11 but a GD of 0.03, which is why they finished lower in the table than many predicted. This was mainly to do with a shaky defense which unperformed their xGA by 0.16 goals a game.

This has a great deal to do with their attacking set-up with less emphasis on midfielders tracking back. New England's attacking posture continues to be most the most aggressive in the league, seeing more possession in the final third than any other team over the last two years. While such a style is fun to watch, it puts enormous amounts of pressure on their center midfielders to absorb pressure, which is partially why Jermaine Jones instantly transformed that team in 2014, providing both defensive cover, and a passing backstop which brought players back into the midfield more often to receive the ball. His importance to the team in 2015 was significantly less, however, and the addition of Gershon Koffie should help to bring back some of the magic of 2014.

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Mexico at USMNT: Klinsmann stays the course by Jared Young

By Jared Young (@jaredeyoung)

The USMNT avoided their trademark collapse on Wednesday and easily defeated their arch-rival Mexico by the classic score of dos a cero. The final score was about the only stat that changed however for Jurgen Klinsmann’s team, as the USA continued the style of play that has characterized their post-World Cup friendlies. Klinsmann continued to experiment with new players and played a conservative style focused on getting good shots while limiting the opponents’ quality chances. He said that he was starting to hone in on the Gold Cup and so fans might have expected the US would come out of their shell. Perhaps the surprise of the match was that they stayed the course, in what could be Klinsmann’s preferred strategy for the next cycle.

Klinsmann went with a 4-4-2 diamond set up, while El Tri came out in a conservative 5-3-2 setup. Both teams offered very low defensive pressure to start the game before slowly opening up. Both teams combined for just 8 shots in the first half with only two being attempted inside the 18 yard box. There was just no space for either offense to operate.

In the second half as the teams opened up, it was brilliant play from Michael Bradley combined with a little luck and solid finishing that gave the US their only two goals of the game. Jordan Morris, a 20 year old, scored his first goal for the USMNT. Much will be made of Jordan being a college player but we need to remember that most of the best players in the world are not playing soccer in college. It’s simply not part of a good player’s development in any country but the US. Just over four years ago, the 2nd goal scorer of this match Juan Agudelo, scored a USMNT goal as a 17 year old. Did it matter that he was or was not in college? Heck, he wasn’t old enough to be in college. The media loves a good story but this country won’t show soccer maturity until we can bring that global perspective to the game. Celebrate a young player scoring and give that context, just please not that he’s choosing to play in college.

486 minutes from “newbies”: Klinsmann said his focus was turning to the Gold Cup, but he continued to experiment with new players. More than half of the minutes played were by players who did not play in the World Cup. This was the second highest minute total for the young guys in this series of friendlies, only exceeded by the Switzerland match.

72% pass completion percentage: Blame the poor field conditions but this pass completion percentage was the lowest from the US during this cycle. When a team is sitting deep, low completion percentages are expected, but at home this was perhaps too sloppy a number.

Four shots on target for USMNT to two for Mexico: Yet again, the USMNT gained the shot advantage despite giving up more shots. Mexico outshot the US 12-8 but eight of Mexico’s shots were hail Mary’s from outside the 18 yard box. The USMNT’s TSR (Total Shots Ratio) since the World Cup is 39%, but they make up for it by putting 44% of their shots on target and getting quality looks. That remained a key strength of the US team against Mexico.

Rough go for Garza. The only space in the attacking half that Mexico found in the first half was in Greg Garza’s area. Garza has been given a long look by Klinsmann in these friendlies. He’s earned the most caps of any non-World Cup player with seven. 

The circled passes above were attempted by Mexico in Garza’s area. There was clearly space to operate and Mexico was exploiting. Yes, it appears that El Tri was building more often down the right side, but the fact that they found so much space in that area is disturbing. Meanwhile DeAndre Yedlin was playing very aggressive defense and his area remained primarily clean. That is until the 2nd half.

Mexico, perhaps seeing that Yedlin was aggressively playing the ball, shifted their focus to his side. Luckily they didn't have enough success to score a goal. It should be noted that Brek Shea kept his area on Mexico’s right hand side clean in his second half shift.

A win over your arch-rival will always be good, and this team needed to finish off a match and get a good result. With difficult road friendlies at the Netherlands and Germany on the horizon, we should expect more of the same style from Klinsmann. His speeches about playing proactively with the rest of the world seem to have quieted, but he’s found a nice recipe over the last few friendlies. The US has allowed just four goals in the last four games, and just one in the first half. At the same time they’ve put 13 shots on target and limited their opponents to just 9. The US has converted seven of those 13 shots as well. Hard to complain where the US sits as they approach the Gold Cup in July.

2015 ASA Preview: New England Revolution by Drew Olsen

*xG = expected goals, xA = expected assists, xGD = expected goal differential. For more information see our xGoals by Team page.

By Drew Olsen (@drewjolsen)

It is not an overstatement to say that New England had the most up and down season in MLS last year. Just take a moment to look at the season progression chart above. Seriously, I’ll wait.

Here’s another way of looking at it, taken from the league results map:

Let’s put that in perspective. After week 12, the Revs had the 2nd best record in MLS. They were on a five game winning streak that included some of the best teams in MLS. In order, they won 2-0 over Kansas City, 2-1 over Toronto FC, 5-0 (!!) over eventual Supporters’ Shield winners Seattle, 3-5 over Philadelphia, and 2-1 over eventual Eastern Conference winners DC United. That is maximum points over one of the most difficult stretches of their schedule. So what did the team do? It responded by losing eight consecutive games, including losses to lowly Montreal and Chicago. Montreal finished the season with 28 points in 34 games. New England had 22 points in week 12. 

But New England also had 22 points after week 21. Matthias wrote about their roller coaster ride while it was happening, and came to the conclusion that giving the Revolution a 60% chance of making the playoffs was probably too high. Presumably, he would have also said the odds of another five game winning streak were even lower than 60%, so that’s what they did. Twice. If you include the playoffs, the Revs went 12-2-3 over their last 17 games, with one of those two losses being in MLS Cup.

So how good was this team? Was it the explosive and creative team that started and ended the season, or the smoldering tire fire that played during the summer? The answer is somewhere in the middle. While the summer addition of Jermaine Jones may have coincided with their second winning streak, he was not the only reason for it. Our expected goals model showed New England with a 0.01 xGD and a -0.11xGD when the score is tied and both teams are even on players. In other words, based on where they and their opponents were taking shots from, this was an about average team on the whole for the season. But some other numbers suggest it was no fluke. No team possessed the ball in their opponent’s final third more than the Revs last year, (despite them averaging only 46% possession for the season) and no team in the East averaged more shots on goal per game.

Finishing 2nd in the East and making it to MLS Cup is a great accomplishment, one that will be difficult to repeat in 2015. That said, nearly the same team returns, and improvements have been made. The goal for this season is simple: bring some silverware back to Foxboro.

Defense

It starts in back with Bobby Shuttleworth between the sticks. Our xG for last season show he allowed about four fewer goals than the typical keeper would have expected based on the shots he faced, which was good for 6th best among keepers with at least 20 games played. His backup Brad Knighton saw limited time last season, but was about average in 2013 and doesn't figure to challenge for the starting job.

While Shuttleworth proved capable last season, it is the defense upon which Coach Jay Heaps’ system was built. It all starts with former Defender of the Year Jose Goncalves, who finished 7th in MLS with 219 clearances last season, despite playing in only 27 games. With A.J. Soares, who led the team in appearances last season gone to Norway, 2013 number one overall pick Andrew Farrell will transition from outside back to pair with Goncalves in the center. Still only 22, Farrell is loaded with potential. And while he saw some limited time in the middle last season, Heaps is now making the move permanent, and the ability of his defense to prevent goals may depend on it.

On the left will be Revs institution Chris Tierney, who had a phenomenal 2014 season which culminated with his goal in MLS Cup. On the other side, it looks like a competition between Kevin Alston and Jeremy Hall, who comes over from Toronto. Hall mostly played in the midfield for the last three seasons, but based on the preseason Heaps has him pegged at right back. With only two appearances for Toronto last season, Hall will be relied on to find his form again quickly if he starts. Alston is the more likely candidate, despite only 11 appearances last year as he made his inspirational return from Leukemia.

If Farrell can manage his move to the center and the new right back fits in seamlessly, we can continue to expect a lot from this defensive unit. But the loss of Soares and the question marks hovering over Hall and Alston suggest we’re likely to see a dip in quality on the backline.

Midfield

The center of the field is mostly credited for getting New England to MLS Cup last season, and it is unchanged for 2015. Jermaine Jones, coming of his successful World Cup, provided an important defensive cover when he came to the team towards the end of the season. With fewer than 1000 minutes played it is difficult to judge his quality in MLS, but he will undoubtedly be an important defensive piece in front of Heaps’ newly reformed backline. That said, Jones is 34 and doesn't figure to get any younger. He also didn't appear in the preseason after having sports-hernia surgery last month.

Next to Jones in front of the defense will be homegrown player Scott Caldwell, who nailed down his starting spot in the 2nd half of the season. He was dribbled past more than any other player on the team last season (1.2 times per game), so will need to continue to learn to keep attackers in front of him. Still, he was solid if unspectacular last season, and at 23 will only continue to improve. 

While Jones was the big name signing that got the headlines, it was MVP finalist Lee Nguyen that provided the heart and soul of the Revs. He had 18 goals, nine more than our model suggested he should expect, which was the biggest difference in the league. Did he just get lucky or is he just a better finisher than everyone else? The quality of some of his goals imply the latter, but this season may tell us. Like Jones, he hasn't appeared in preseason, but hopes to play in the season opener. If New England are to make another through the playoffs, Nguyen will need to again be at his best.

Teal Bunbury is back, and will again be the third wheel in the midfield. He’ll streak up the right, and create space for Nguyen to operate in the center. Leaving Kansas City seems to have been a good move for Bunbury, and he’ll hope to continue to improve on last year. Kelyn Rowe, the Revs’ 3rd pick in 2012, will slot in on the left side but has shown to be versatile; he played in every midfield position at some point last year.

Daigo Kobayashi, whose 86% pass completion rate was best on the team last year, and the once-touted Diego Fagundez, are the favorites to be Heaps’ first subs off the bench. Both players have impressed in the preseason, and will see their share of time.

Forwards

While Charlie Davies returns, his three goals last year were a disappointment. Heaps knew he needed an upgrade, and in comes familiar face Juan Agudelo. Still only 22, Agudelo will bring a new threat, and hopes to return to his goalscoring ways after playing only 14 competitive games in the last year. His nine goals in 2013 were 3.4 more than his 5.6 xG, so he will look to convert at a similar clip.

Prognosis

The Revolution are the preseason pick by many to return to MLS cup from the East, and it’s not an unreasonable expectation. If the realigned defense works out and this is the same Agudelo that averaged a goal every other game in 2013, then New England will be a force to be reckoned with. Still, they seemed to over-perform their expected goals last season, and a regression to the mean seems likely. The loss of Soares is certain to be felt, and we still don’t know how Farrell will fit into the middle of defense. A playoff spot seems certain, but another top two seed will be difficult to come by.

Show Down: Juan Agudelo vs. Diego Fagundez by Drew Olsen

During our podcast on Thursday night, a short side conversation was sparked between Drew and me. Who would you take in a situation where you are starting a new team: Juan Agudelo or Diego Fagundez. While the question and how it's presented matters (i.e. how many years of control do you have, salary cap situation, blah, blah, blah) because it gives us context, let's not go there. The discussion here is more about the general response. We've all, myself included, just generally assumed that the answer to any question between the two is: "Agudelo now, Fagundez later". But what makes us think that Fagundez isn't the better option right now? While doing our podcast I generally have between 9 and 15 browser tabs open with general bits of information. I'm sure my wife would argue that it's more like 50. Whatever. It's a lot. During that point in the podcast, I had Squawka up and quoted a total performance score of 452 for Fagundez, as opposed to Juan Agudelo and his shockingly low score of only 57.

So, the response then transforms itself from the answer that we thought we were sure of, to understanding what exactly Agudelo has done over the course of the season. Trust me, I get that numbers, especially in soccer, can't tell an entire story. But they can help see us things that our brains don't naturally keep track of.

Agudelo, in my mind, is a special case of a lot of talent doing one specific thing and being credited for far more than perhaps initially thought. I know the other side of that argument stresses his physical traits and goal-scoring ability. Sure, those are two HUGE things when it comes to this game. Speed kills and Agudelo knows how to turn it on.

Let's take a look below.

Mins Goals Shots Goals pSh Chances Created
Fagundez 2419 13 43 0.30 27
Agudelo 1019 7 17 0.41 4

First, we can see one thing. And it's quiet amazing. Together, the two players produced 20 goals on 60 shots. Take a second to think about that because that's major. The Revolution took 37 shots and scored just one goal over their first five matches of the season. These guys get thrown into the line-up and procure 20 goals on just 60 shots. That's special.

Second, what is most obviously the difference between the two is the number of chances created. You'll see in a second that Agudelo still made a fine amount of passes. The issue isn't that he's a ball hog, or that he just wants the chances for himself. The problem is those passes did not become chances on goal. You'd hope that a guy who gets plenty of attention from the defense has the ability to find open teammates that can create goals.

Mins Pass p90 TO p90 Pass pTO Avg Length Dribbles DisPos per 90
Fagundez 2419 22.17 2.08 10.65 14m 0.86 1.71
Agudelo 1019 28.52 3 9.51 13m 0.53 2.91

Alright, onto the possession-based stuff. There are some interesting thoughts here. Such as Agudelo taking less dribbles, making shorter passes, and making more of them. It's not something that I would have generally have thought of about him. I think of an individual who is looking to constantly run at defenders, but maybe that isn't the whole picture. That said, he's still losing the ball quiet a bit, and while Fagundez doesn't make as many passes, he's less error-prone and creates more pockets of space up the field with the ball at his feet.

Mins Fouls Cards Tackles Blocks Interceptions Clearances
Fagundez 2419 0.81 3 1.3 0.11 0.74 0.33
Agudelo 1019 3.53 2 1.4 0.09 0.35 0.71

The biggest number that stands out to me on this page is the number of fouls committed per 90 minutes by Agudelo. There is no way he makes that many fouls and continues to only pull about 6 cards over the course of a full season. That's impossible. Outside of that, you see that each of these players is rather close to one another. One is a bit more on top of clearances while the other interceptions.

Really, that's probably due to two random factors. 1) Agudelo is in the middle of the box more often for corner kicks, and 2) Fagundez works in the midfield where errant passes are more probable.

It's important to realize these players aren't like for like. Trying to compare them as apples to apples isn't going to work and makes this work less productive. I am willing to acknowledge that. Agudelo did have some opportunities in the midfield this season, however, he was primarily featured up top in the striker role. Likewise, Fagundez had some exciting moments playing center forward, but was primarily used out wide as a left midfielder.

Because they don't occupy the same space, certain statistical attributes that we associate with these players are going to be either more or less inflated. They have different responsibilities so they aren't going to be the same player statistically. We don't have a "Wins Above Replacement" calculator, as awesome as that would be.

There is no key that unlocks all events and makes them equal, as if to say this player is better than that player, regardless of position or team. Maybe this post was a complete waste because we should be comparing these two teammates to the rest of the league, rather than to each other. What I do know is that Fagundez is less a player of the future and more of an MLS standout now, but when Agudelo leaves for Stoke, he is still going to be missed by the Revs.

A Short Exercise in the Power of a Player: Mike Magee and Juan Agudelo Observed by Drew Olsen

I asked the question on Twitter, "how many teams have been better than Chicago since the arrival of Mike Magee?" Let's take a look at the results of games played since the acquisition of Magee on May 24th. PPG-sinceMay24

I think we knew that the Fire have been good since the arrival of Magee, but just how good is pretty surprising. Adding to the surprise are both the Whitecaps and Revolution with 1.6 points per game.  Looking to the bottom of the table we see how far FC Dallas has dropped since their hot start to the season.

I know that we all like to think that the results in March and April are vital, and to a degree they are---there is no way that FC Dallas is even considering a run at the playoffs if it wasn't for how they performed in Mar/Apr---however, the season is long; there are nearly 8 months and 34 games.

For now anyway...

I've long been of the belief that one player in soccer doesn't make that big of a difference on an entire season and it's table location. Sure, maybe Clint Dempsey takes Seattle from being an injury prone playoff-ish team to a contender for the Supporters Shield. But Chicago was, and is now, much better. Along with Chicago, New England's performance needs mention too.

Currently, the minute men have 17 points through 8 matches with Juan Agudelo in the line-up. Something pointed out to me by the folks over at Deep in the Fort.  It's also a conclusion that makes me question how much that's true and how much a really good player can impact a season for a club.

Obviously it needs a much closer observance than a single table of points over a time period. There are other factors to consider with both clubs. Regression, sample size, ect. But there is enough there to at least consider further research into the thought that some players can mean big things for the right club.