New England Revolution
Gillette Stadium (MLS capacity: 20,000)
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2004 Record: 8-13-9, 4th in the Eastern Conference
GF: 42 (4th in MLS)
GA: 43 (7th in MLS)
Finish: Defeated Columbus in Conference Semifinal (2-1 on agg.); lost to D.C. United in Conference Final (3-3; 3-4 on penalty kicks)
Head Coach: Steve Nicol
Key Departures: Adin Brown, Rusty Pierce, Brian Kamler, Joe-Max Moore
Key Additions: Cassio
PROJECTED STARTING LINEUP
Matt Reis: Veteran backup earned starting slot last season and fared well.
Jay Heaps: More athlete than pure defender, Heaps must maintain composure to make backline work.
Michael Parkhurst: Wake Forest rookie has impressed in camp and has surpassed Avery John and the recovering Carlos Llamosa on the depth chart at center back.
Joey Franchino: Revs captain struggled with injuries and form throughout 2004, but should win battle with Marshall Leonard and John to start on the left of the three-man backline.
Clint Dempsey: Rookie of the Year last season, Dempsey is an exciting two-way player who has now entered Bruce Arena's mind as a viable national team candidate.
Shalrie Joseph: Dominant in the center of the park, Joseph combines tough tackling with adequate distribution.
Steve Ralston: An established veteran with guile, composure, and attacking flair, Ralston has broken into Bruce Arena's plans, which could see him miss vital parts of the season. Ralston provides the engine on offense, while his versatility allows him to cover at right back and central midfield.
Jose Cancela: Uruguayan's mentality of attack first, defend second conflicts with Nicol's mantra of solidity throughout the park, but he is a gifted playmaker who must be on the field when on form.
Cassio: The Brazilian will provide a more dynamic, attacking option down the left flank than the departed Brian Kamler.
Taylor Twellman: A constant threat in the Revolution attack with penetrating runs and predatory finishing.
Pat Noonan: Unheralded as Twellman's partner for the past two seasons, Noonan scores in bunches while playing in either midfield or attack.
With perhaps the best front seven in MLS, the key to the Revolution's success lies in the back. If Nicol can get a consistent and solid back three sorted, with indications during a piecemeal preseason campaign suggesting that the task will be difficult, the Revolution should contend for the Eastern Conference title.
NEWCOMER WITH THE BIGGEST IMPACT: Cassio
Opting to remain mostly stagnant in the transfer window, the Revolution brass surprised nearly all observers with the signing of Brazilian midfielder Cassio from Olimpia (Paraguay) in mid-February. The 25-year-old left-sided player can play either in the back or midfield, with the departure of Kamler suggesting that he will be deployed as a left winger. His ability to create balance on the left flank, with Nicol preferring his wide men to provide constant service into the box, would add yet another dimension to a potent attack.
Kyle McCarthy is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This article was not subject was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.