Ironman Heaps helps Revs keep up
New England Revolution defender Jay Heaps has seen the good and the bad this season. One of the few players to avoid the club's rampant injury bug, Heaps has started and finished every MLS match for Steve Nicol's team this season.
The injuries took their toll on his side, as the Revolution languish at the bottom of the table heading down the home stretch. However, the Revolution have picked things up as of late, going unbeaten in their last four matches.
Heaps believes that the recent form bodes well for success as the season winds to a close.
"We have 12 games left in the season," said Heaps. "In our last four games, we are unbeaten. We have played well in 80 percent of our games. Last time out, we played well against San Jose until the last five minutes. We hope the San Jose game is a repeat of last year, as we went on a great run after a similar result against D.C. United at home."
The improvement from earlier in the season is not just found in the results, Heaps said.
"In the last few games, we dominated most of the possession," said Heaps. "Even the games we have lost recently, they have been close matches. If we were losing earlier in the season, we were getting demolished. We are getting better by starting to attack teams. For a while there, injuries and such really took their toll. Now, we have managed to find our rhythm and our style."
Heaps believes Nicol's style, certainly honed during his lengthy career at Liverpool and with the Scotland national team, has contributed to the resurgence.
"Steve Nicol is really on an even keel," said Heaps. "He doesn't lose focus when the results go bad. You like to see a coach that doesn't abort ship when things get tough. It helps us."
League-wide parity could play a vital role in allowing the Revolution a chance back into the playoff picture. The Revolution has only managed four wins on the campaign, yet the Revs are only one point behind fourth-place Chicago with a match in hand.
"There is a lot of parity in this league," said Heaps. "We play Chicago, D.C. United, and the MetroStars a couple of more times before the season ends. Those are teams we are fighting with for playoff spots. Those games will be important."
Heaps has gone through a renaissance of sorts, as Nicol has shifted him to center back for the past four matches. The experiment has gone well, with Heaps partnering Avery John to a degree of success for the Revolution. Heaps maintains that his position on the field matters less than his contribution to a winning effort.
"I feel very good playing at center back," said Heaps. "I have played both right back and center back this year, and I think it has been a positive shift for me. I played a lot in the middle in college. I think we have solidified things back there. If I can be on the field and helping the team, I'll be happy."
Kyle McCarthy is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its teams.