2013 New England Preview: Year two of rebuild begins
2012 record: 9-17-8 (35 points); 39 GF / 44 GA (-5 GD)
Over the next two weeks, MLSsoccer.com will preview each of the 19 teams in Major League Soccer, beginning with the clubs that brought up the bottom of the table in 2012 and ending with the Supporters' Shield-winning San Jose Earthquakes. This is part one of two previewing New England's 2013 season. You can find Part 2 here.
Setting the Scene
The first year of the Jay Heaps era laid the groundwork for the future without yielding tangible dividends. A bright start wilted during the summer and rendered September and October essentially irrelevant.
Heaps retained the core players he identified last year and supplemented the squad with proven European veterans. Now the Revs must find a way to take a significant step forward and usher the typical three-year rebuilding process along a more accelerated path.
In and Out
IN: M Andy Dorman (11/15/12 - Right of first refusal signing – unattached), M Kalifa Cissé (11/19/12 - Discovery signing on free transfer from Bristol City), F Chad Barrett (12/14/12 - Re-Entry Draft Stage 2), M Scott Caldwell (12/21/12 - Homegrown), D José Gonçalves (01/04/13 - loan from FC Sion), D Andrew Farrell (1/17/13 - SuperDraft), F Matt Horth (1/25/13 - free), D Bilal Duckett (2/11/13 - free)
OUT: F Blake Brettschneider (11/19/12 - option declined), D Flo Lechner (11/19/12 - option declined), M Alec Purdie (11/19/12 - option declined), M Michael Roach (11/19/12 - option declined), M Fernando Cárdenas (11/30/12 - option declined), M Blair Gavin (11/30/12 - option declined), GK Tim Murray (11/30/12 - option declined), M Benny Feilhaber (12/11/12 - traded to Sporting KC)
Star Attraction: Jerry Bengtson
CONCACAF defenses understand all too well the threat posed by Bengtson inside the penalty area. The crafty striker drifts into the right spaces and polishes off chances regularly for Honduras. Similar opportunities eluded Bengtson last year as he scampered across the globe and settled into his new surroundings. He must find a way to reproduce his international form with the Revs to provide the necessary sharpness in front of goal.
Armchair Analyst: Revs a new kind of consistent these days
Unsung Hero: Clyde Simms
Former D.C. United midfielder Simms moved up I-95 prior to last season and established himself as a fixture in the starting XI. Simms will face more competition for his place this year after the offseason arrivals of Kalifa Cissé and Andy Dorman, but his earnest toil in the center of the park should ensure he receives plenty of reps again in 2013.
Ready for Primetime: Diego Fagundez
Cautious optimism surrounds Fagundez as he continues his development, but this year offers him a chance to take a significant step forward. The 18-year-old schemer could earn plenty of playing time early in the season with Heaps currently short of forward options.
Storylines to Watch
1. First pick to opening day starter? Heaps has showed plenty of faith in No. 1 SuperDraft pick Andrew Farrell during the preseason. Will the former Louisville man make the right back berth his own heading into the season or will he have to bide his time behind someone else?
2. Who will win the battle for No. 1? The open competition between Matt Reis and Bobby Shuttleworth could result in a changing of the guard between the sticks. Shuttleworth finished 2012 strongly to buttress his claims, but Heaps can always turn to his veteran goalkeeper if the aspiring starter slips up along the way.
3. Which players emerge from the midfield glut? There are a minimum of eight viable candidates to start in midfield. Heaps can only play four or five at a time. How he chooses to deploy them – and whether he can locate any natural width among the pack – could dictate whether this team succeeds or stumbles.
What He Said
“It’s really important [to identify and retain core players]. Especially, we as a staff know these players well, and these players know us well. It’s vital in this league to have those relationships for teams to grow. I know that some teams want to go in and re-vamp their entire team and bring in DPs, but we’re built under a different model. For us to be strong and good, we have to have core players back every year and understand each other and know each other better than any other team in the league.”
– Revolution coach Jay Heaps on building the core of his team
If Everything Goes Right
If everything goes right, the Revs should challenge for a playoff berth. There are enough interesting pieces in place to fuel a reasonable push for the postseason. If winter imports like Cissé, Dorman and José Gonçalves can help to pull everything together, then this side could lean on its anticipated cohesion to churn out results.