Robert Kraft’s Other Problem: Soccer

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Robert Ok. Kraft’s New England Patriots are an excellent soccer workforce, successful six Super Bowl championships the previous 19 years. They are 33-5 in opposition to the A.F.C. East division rival Buffalo Bills throughout that span.

In a merciless accident, Robert Kraft’s different workforce that performs at Gillette Stadium, the New England Revolution, may as effectively be the Buffalo Bills of Major League Soccer. There was a run of dominance — 4 M.L.S. Cup Finals appearances in six years — and not using a championship, and a largely fallow interval now occurring a decade. The workforce is beneath .500 (125-148-89) since 2008, the yr after they went to a few straight M.L.S. Cup Finals.

Kraft has larger issues in the mean time than the Revolution. He is dealing with two misdemeanor costs of soliciting prostitution at a therapeutic massage parlor in Jupiter, Fla. (Kraft denies criminality.) Kraft most certainly received’t face jail time, however the costs might end in a high-quality or a suspension or each from the National Football League, the place he has turn into some of the highly effective house owners, and from Major League Soccer, the place he additionally enjoys a protracted, shut relationship together with his commissioner.

If his consideration turns again to his soccer workforce, he’s prone to discover a home in the midst of a serious overhaul.

Brandon Bye of the Revolution heading a ball in the course of the house opener in opposition to the Columbus Crew.CreditAdam Glanzman for The New York Times

“One of our methods final yr was to instill a brand new tradition on the membership,” stated Brad Friedel, the previous United States nationwide workforce goalkeeper employed to show across the workforce final yr. He stated a tear down was vital. “We felt that there wanted to be a totally completely different work ethic.”

Friedel spoke earlier than the Revolution’s house opener final weekend, a 2-Zero loss to the Columbus Crew. He praised his workforce’s latest signings, however he didn’t hesitate to criticize the workforce he took over. “We wanted leaders,” he stated. “We didn’t have plenty of leaders final yr.”

There is not any Tom Brady right here.

The Revolution started play in 1996, as considered one of Major League Soccer’s unique 10 groups. Kraft, alongside Lamar Hunt and Philip Anschutz, recruited Don Garber from the N.F.L. to be the league’s commissioner, and that tight group helped hold M.L.S. afloat within the early 2000s, when it was on the snapping point.

But whereas Kraft has been capable of grasp the N.F.L., the soccer revolution in America has largely handed him by.

Photographs of Robert Kraft’s different workforce line a wall of the places of work at Gillette Stadium.CreditAdam Glanzman for The New York Times

The Revolution are considered one of three M.L.S. groups to nonetheless play in a cavernous soccer stadium. The two others, Atlanta United and the Seattle Sounders, justify it by drawing the biggest common attendances within the league, however solely 13,808 followers confirmed up for the Revolution’s house opener final weekend. The Revolution will draw higher when there isn’t snow on the bottom, in fact, however final yr’s common attendance ranked 16th within the league.

The workforce has been attempting to construct a soccer particular stadium someplace within the Boston space since 2006. In the 13 years since, websites have been mooted, thousands and thousands have been spent on architectural renderings and plots of land have virtually been bought, all to finally collapse for one purpose or one other. A brand new multimillion-dollar coaching facility will open this season, however that, too, might be in Foxborough, even because the Boston stadium search goes on.

“It’s about getting right into a stadium that may rework soccer in our area,” the workforce president Brian Bilello stated. “With that in thoughts, we now have been affected person, most likely to a fault, to try to get the correct venture achieved.”

In Garber’s thoughts, many of the Revolution’s issues can be mounted by a brand new stadium. “My view is their financial mannequin is difficult in Gillette,” he stated. “It has not been capable of faucet into the younger, millennial sports activities fan within the Boston metropolitan space as a result of it’s additional away.”

“One of our methods final yr was to instill a brand new tradition on the membership,” stated Brad Friedel, the previous United States nationwide workforce goalkeeper who’s in his second season because the Revolution coach.CreditAdam Glanzman for The New York Times

The couple hundred die-hard Revolution followers tailgating within the car parking zone earlier than the house opener weren’t so certain. The stadium search has gone on for therefore lengthy that they not often get their hope up anymore. A variety of them stated that it feels as if the Revolution are a distant precedence for the Krafts.

Both Bilello and Garber deny that’s the case. Still, the N.F.L. is a $15 billion-a-year league, and a social, monetary and cultural presence far larger than M.L.S. Kraft sits on a few of the N.F.L.’s strongest committees. His son, Jonathan Kraft, holds these roles on M.L.S. committees, and appears to deal with many of the workforce’s day-to-day enterprise.

Last yr, the Krafts spent $20 million to purchase their third workforce, the Boston Uprising, an e-sports workforce that competes within the Overwatch League. The sardonic joke amongst some Revolution supporters is that now they’re not even the uncared for second youngster, however one thing even worse: the ignored center youngster.

The workforce declined to make both Robert or Jonathan Kraft accessible for this text.

Over the years, the Revolution have dabbled in signing higher-priced gamers, however none have proved a very massive draw or game-changing addition on the sector. The workforce now desires to provide younger homegrown gamers, like Isaac Angking, Nicolas Firmino and Justin Rennicks, an actual pathway to first workforce minutes and success.

A sometimes sparse crowd confirmed up for the New England Revolution’s house opener final week at Gillette Stadium, considered one of solely three N.F.L. stadiums utilized by an M.L.S. workforce. The Revolution have been attempting for years to construct a stadium within the Boston space that might be tailor-made for soccer.CreditAdam Glanzman for The New York Times

This low season, the workforce additionally acquired Carles Gil, a Spanish midfielder Friedel hopes will jump-start the assault, together with different gamers who determine to make an affect like Edgar Castillo and Juan Fernando Caicedo. Bilello stated the workforce’s spending on gamers had been ramping up, and that the Krafts are giving the workforce all the cash they should compete; each Bilello and Friedel promised one other designated participant — the league’s highest wage classification — would arrive in both May or July, as soon as contractual points could be labored out. They wouldn’t reveal the participant’s identification.

The workforce can be constructing a brand new $35 million coaching heart adjoining to Gillette Stadium that may home each the primary workforce and the academy. The facility will characteristic various grass and synthetic turf coaching pitches — the workforce’s present coaching pitch is roofed in snow, so it has been training at Gillette Stadium — and the state-of-the-art amenities that, they hope, will assist persuade new gamers to affix.

Soccer is soccer, although, and constructing a successful workforce is usually the identical the world over. The factor that makes M.L.S. distinctive, in response to Friedel, who spent practically twenty years enjoying in England and different prime European leagues, is that it’s consistently evolving.

“Whether there’s a new rule, a brand new stadium, a brand new coaching floor, different new designated gamers, a brand new membership, a brand new franchise, a brand new second division, a brand new third division,” he stated, ticking off the checklist of potentialities, “all these items occurred on this nation as a result of the league is rising.”

The final 4 M.L.S. Cups have been received by groups that weren’t unique league members, and the previous few years have witnessed a gentle growth of the league. When M.L.S. followers consider essentially the most thrilling groups now, they’re usually pondering of shiny new groups with shiny new stadiums with shiny younger stars, golf equipment like Atlanta United and Los Angeles F.C.

“At instances it’s simpler to be new, and it’s simpler to be a brand new and improved, than it’s to be a legacy enterprise,” Garber stated.

In New England, they understand how true that is.

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