Teal Bunbury

Teal Bunbury: Revolution want to do more than 'just make playoffs'

Teal Bunbury: Revolution want to do more than 'just make playoffs'

The New England Revolution are back in the MLS Playoffs for the first time since 2015, and they want to make a splash. 

Revolution midfielder/forward Teal Bunbury, in particular, is extremely proud of what New England has been able to accomplish since Bruce Arena was named head coach in May.

"I think we're very hungry. It's been an up-and-down season, guys have been putting in the work," Bunbury told revolutionsoccer.net earlier this week. "Really proud of how we've been able to kind of turn this season around. The support we've had. But now we're not satisfied with just making it into the playoffs. We know Atlanta's obviously the defending champions, they're a great team. We just played there recently but I think we're going to have a good game plan going into the game on Sunday and we're going to be motivated and we're going to be ready to go."

In their final game of the regular season, the Revolution fell to Atlanta United 3-1, but that game was a good primer for what's ahead in their playoff rematch in Atlanta on Saturday at 1 p.m. Bunbury noted the season finale helped New England figure out Atlanta's tendencies and what to expect in the playoffs. 

"Their tendencies. You know, their attacking tendencies. Josef Martinez is a goal scorer. So, obviously he's someone we're going to have to keep an eye on," Bunbury said. "But right now I think it's a lot about attention to detail. You'll probably hear that from a lot of the guys. In these moments it's about just who executes, who competes. Obviously tactics are going to play a huge role but you never know what's going to happen in these playoff games, and it's not going to be very high scoring, but we're all going to need to be one unit and working for each other and if someone makes a mistake you're picking that person up. So, that's what's going to be most important."

Bunbury knows that the Revs' are confident and will seize the opportunity, but they've never beaten Atlanta and are pegged as the underdogs. Although, he's not focused on that.

"I don't think we pay attention to that," Bunbury said. "I think we've done well enough to get ourselves in this position and we're a confident group, and I think we've been working hard all season long and I think it's going to come down to the little moments in this game and not messing up on little plays here and there. Four months ago we had no chance at making the playoffs and we did it so, it's okay if we have these people saying we're underdogs or whatever it might be. But I think we're a confident group and we have a great opportunity. We all love as athletes to be able to play in these situations, so I think everyone's going to be up for it."

It's going to be difficult, but as Bunbury told the media on Wednesday, "If you're a player and can't get up for games like this, moments like this, you're in the wrong business."

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Bruce Arena turns the Revolution from MLS bottom dwellers to playoff team in a few short months

Bruce Arena turns the Revolution from MLS bottom dwellers to playoff team in a few short months

You say you want a revolution?  Well, you got one. With Bruce Arena. In Foxboro. It started when the New England Revolution hired him as sporting director and head coach back in May.  At the time, no other MLS team was in a worse position. The Revs had the league's worst record (2W-8L-2D, 8 points), the league's worst goal differential (minus-19), and they were below an expansion side, FC Cincinnati, in the standings.  In its first year in the league this season, FC Cincinnati broke the MLS record for most goals given up in a single season.  Things were bad, bad, bad.  The club didn't want to see if it got worse. Enter Bruce Arena to save the day, well the season. 

Five months later, the Revs are preparing for an improbable MLS Cup Playoff appearance.  Their first-round matchup next Saturday, Oct. 19, won't be easy as they visit Atlanta United FC, defending MLS Cup Champions.  It'll be a tough team to play in a difficult environment.  Playing against defending MLS Cup Champions in front of 70,000-plus fans at Mercedes-Benz Stadium is a challenge, to say the least. Still, regardless of the outcome, the Revs have already won.  Their playoff berth marks an amazing turnaround for this team. 

What happened in between their league-worst start/the hiring Arena, and their playoff-clinching win vs New York City FC on Sept. 29 is nothing short of remarkable.  The team went 9-2-10 in their next 21 games, including an 11-game unbeaten streak this summer.  In that span, they collected 37 points, behind only LAFC (42 points) and NYC FC (41 points).  They earned impressive points on the road against LA Galaxy, Seattle Sounders, and Portland Timbers.  They showed they can play with the top teams in the east (NYC, Philadelphia, D.C. United, and Toronto). They dominated the teams they were supposed to beat up (Vancouver and FC Cincinnati).  

The two losses in that 21-game stretch under Arena need some context.  I've excluded the regular-season finale loss because it really was a meaningless match.  The Eastern Conference playoff field was already set on Decision Day with just seedings left to be decided.  The 2-0 defeat to LAFC in August came against the league's best team who set the single-season record for points in a season (72).  There is no shame in losing to LAFC.  The Revs joined a long list of teams - 19 of 23 - who couldn't beat Los Angeles Football Club in 2019.

The other loss was a bitter one to swallow.  It goes down as a 2-1 defeat to New York City FC on paper but doesn't seem like a defeat to me. Toni Delamea, who was originally issued a yellow card for a challenge 9 minutes into the match, was sent off after VAR changed it to a red card.  The league's Independent Review panel rescinded the red card four days later and wiped it completely away.  But the damage was done. The Revs, leading for most of the game, played 80-plus minutes down a man and gave up two second-half goals.  The game-winning goal was a 96th-minute penalty.  

The "Bruce Bump" is real and spectacular and it goes beyond the standings, record and points.  What he's done with the roster is impressive. The group of players he inherited back in the spring is almost identical to what he has now.  Of course, they added Gustavo Bou this summer. La Pantera has been a game-changer since coming to the Revs in a reported club-record signing on July 17. In the past 14 games, he's buried nine goals, fourth-most in MLS in that span. 

Bou's strike rate (0.64 goals/game) is sixth-best this season.  But Arena started New England's revolution before Bou arrived.  He's gotten the most out of Teal Bunbury and Cristian Penilla while helping Carles Gil and Matt Turner elevate their games and name around the league.  Gil was already making an impact as a dynamic player in their attack but now he's in the conversation for MLS Best XI and a finalist for MLS Newcomer of the Year. Gil is one of two MLS players with at least 10 goals and 10 primary assists this season.  Turner, who showed flashes of National Team material before Arena arrived, has pushed his name into the conversation for Goalkeeper of the Year.  Before that regular-season finale, the Revs goalkeeper ranked third in save percentage. Arena has gotten the absolute most out of this roster.

Off the field, the club has made significant investments this season.  They are set to open up a new state-of-the-art $35 million training facility.  Just this week, the club announced they'll field a USL League One Team, Revolution II, in 2020. 

It's wasn't just a change for the Revs.  It's a revolution for the Revolution and you can count me in. 

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Highlights of the Revolution's 2-2 draw with D.C. United

Highlights of the Revolution's 2-2 draw with D.C. United

FINAL SCORE: D.C. United 2, Revolution 2

IN BRIEF: Quincy Amarikwa's goal in the 86th minute - when New England was playing with only 10 after Wilfried Zahibo was red-carded - gave D.C. United a 2-2 draw with the visiting Revolution. The tie extends the Revs' unbeaten streak under new coach Bruce Arena to eight matches (4-0-4). BOX SCORE

REVS RECORD: 6-8-6 (24 points, 7th in Eastern Conference)

HIGHLIGHTS:

TEAL BUNBURY GETS REVS ON BOARD IN 4TH MINUTE:

CARLES GIL WITH THE REBOUND OF JUAN AGUDELO'S HEADER:

LEONARDO JARA HALVES THE LEAD JUST BEFORE THE HALF:

QUINCY AMARIKWA'S HEADER TIES IT FOR D.C. IN THE 86TH MINUTE:

UP NEXT:
Vs. Vancouver Whitecaps, Wednesday, 7 p.m., NBC Sports Boston